After a record-breaking week across the state, we have our sights set on springing forward with the Texas 87th.
While many are still “digging out” from last weeks storm events, the Legislature has little time to stall in getting back to business. And they are poised to do so this week. Keep in mind that this Session has been very different than past Sessions, largely due to navigating around a world-wide pandemic. The storm events of last week are adding another layer of challenges the Legislature will face in getting their work done. While the focus of this Session has been about the Budget, Emergency Items, and the regular day to day work of legislation and organization, we are set to add this huge weather event to an already complicated time for the Legislature and it’s leadership.
In a quick response to the winter events of the past week, House Speaker Dade Phelan called on House State Affairs and Energy Resources Committees to hold a joint hearing. The purpose of the hearing is to review the electric generation dropped off by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) system and the resulting statewide blackouts.
Last Tuesday, Governor Abbott declared ERCOT Reform an emergency item for the session. The Governor expressed his gratitude for the responsiveness of the lawmakers in the House and Senate and looks forward to ensuring that outages like those experienced never happen again. Governor Abbott has also added to his list of emergency action items the winterization of power generators – ensuring that necessary funding is obtained to winterize generators appropriately and prevent outages on such a scale from happening in the future.
The Senate Committee on Jurisprudence and the Senate B&C Committee will also hold hearings on the legal responsibilities of ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission (PUC). Watch for details regarding the hearings from Chair Huffman’s office. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is working with the United States Environmental Protection Agency to ensure the quality of Texans’ water. Governor Abbott is issuing a number of waivers, actions, and orders to provide increased support across the state.
Prior to the weather event – Governor Dan Patrick outlined a few of his own priorities for the session. To address the deficit in the state’s unemployment insurance fund, Patrick plans to earmark $6 billion in federal aid. The aim is to replenish the fund without needing an increase in unemployment insurance taxes. Covid-19 liability protection is another top priority for the Lieutenant Governor, a priority also shared by Governor Abbott. Patrick aims to restrict local governments from dictating employment practices (like leave, schedules, and ban the box) while protecting the transportation industry from lawsuits. Now he adds the Great Storm to the agenda..
In other news…..
Chairman Greg Bonnen released subcommittee assignments for the House Appropriations Committee, which you can find here. The Legislative Council also extended the deadline for drafting language to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, February 24.
Saturday, Governor Abbott held an emergency meeting with legislators to discuss spikes in fluctuating energy bills resulting from the events of last week.
The Census Bureau announced on February 16th that the release of census data has been delayed to September of this year. This means that the legislators will not receive the data necessary to draw legislative maps until then, and legislators cannot take up redistricting until the fall during a special session. Originally it was thought we’d be back in the summer taking up Redistricting, as well as any other issues the Governor deems important for our state to take up.
Both the House and Senate will reconvene on February 23. Remember, there are just three weeks left before the priority bill filing deadline (March 12), and we are sure to see a number of new bills filed between now and then.
There never seems to be a dull moment around here!
As always, for more information on bills filed and legislative details visit http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/
I hope this update find you and your families recovering, warm and safe from last week’s events. Sending warmest regards,
Lara Laneri Keel
President, LLK, LLC