It keeps getting busier and better with 87 days left for the Texas 87th. With over 4,000 bills filed in both chambers combined, the Senate began referring bills to Committee on Wednesday, and the House is expected to do so next week. The House reconvenes at 2 p.m., Tuesday, March 9 pending the reading and referral of bills, and the Senate reconvenes at 3 p.m. that same day. There’s lots of news to cover, so let’s dive right in.
Governor Abbott lifted the mask mandate and reopened Texas 100% on Tuesday. Citing the successful and ongoing vaccination effort across the state and sharply declining Covid-19 cases, the Governor issued executive order GA-34 “restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans.” By next Wednesday, when the order takes full effect, over half of all senior Texans will have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and over 5.7 million doses administered. Simultaneously, the Biden Administration announced that there will be enough vaccine doses by the end of May for every adult American. The efforts by Governor Abbott and the Texas National Guard to further assist in the distribution of vaccines helps ensure that those who need and qualify it have access and are able to receive the vaccine. On Wednesday, health officials announced the eligibility of Texas educators, childcare staff, and school staff, expanding the group of Texans able to receive the vaccine. The directive from The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is here. The Governor’s executive order can be found here.
Last Friday, the Senate Business and Commerce Committee met to hear invited testimony from a number of energy providers from across the state, including CenterPoint Energy, Encore Electric, South Texas Electric Cooperative, and Austin Energy. Similarly, the House Joint Committee on State Affairs and Energy Resources met to discuss the oversight of natural gas and oil pipelines, the work and responsibilities of the Railroad Commission, and the appropriate and necessary weatherization of pipelines, generators, and storage facilities. In light of the winter storm, DeAnn Walker, chair of the Public Utility Commission, resigned. A number of energy companies have filed bankruptcy. The House Committee on Insurance met Tuesday to focus on winter storm recovery and scam prevention.
There are ongoing hearings for House Appropriations subcommittees on Article III (Education), Article II (Health and Human Services), and more as the legislature attempts to plan for a reduction in federal aid dollars with the end of the pandemic and a budget deficit from the last biennium. There is clear focus on bolstering Texas’ mental health infrastructure and ensuring the access to education for all students. For a complete schedule on upcoming House committee hearings, click here. For a complete schedule on upcoming Senate committee hearings, click here.
Next Friday, March 12, is the last day for unrestricted bill filing. After that there are 80 days left in the regular session. For a bill to have a legitimate chance to pass out of the House chamber, a House bill must be filed by Friday, March 12, and preferably much sooner. The bill must then be voted out of its House committee by Thursday, April 29 and then be scheduled for its “second reading” on the House general calendar by Monday, May 10. There are certainly lots of dates to remember, but April 29 is the date activists should burn into their minds. A House bill needs to be passed out of its House committee by that date if its supporters want any reasonable shot at passing it. So, the committee hearing on the bill needs to be scheduled by no later than mid-April if it is going to stay on track.
As always, for more information on bills filed and legislative details visit http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/
All the best,
Lara Laneri Keel
President, LLK, LLC.