The Texas 87th is in full swing this week as unrestricted bill filing wraps up on Friday, March 12. To date, there are over 4,000 bills filed in the House and about 1,500 bills filed in the Senate. Amid Texas reopening 100%, approximately 7 million Covid-19 vaccines have been distributed across the state, committees meet in both chambers to hear testimony on a number of bills, and Governor Abbott has named another emergency action item for the session. Alongside the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for distribution by the Food and Drug Administration, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week that small groups of fully vaccinated people may now gather indoors without masks. You can find the complete Covid-19 recommendations from the CDC here. Beginning March 15, all Texans ages 50 and older are eligible to receive the vaccine. Find the complete announcement here.
Tuesday evening, Governor Abbott declared the correction of any billing errors related to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas an emergency item for the session, essentially asking the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to recalculate $3.2 billion in electricity overcharges. This “includes any inaccurate excessive charges and any issues regarding ancillary service prices,” according to the press release. Governor Abbott named Arthur D’Andrea chair of the PUC for a term at the pleasure of the Governor in light of DeAnn Walker’s resignation. Chair D’Andrea has previously served in the Office of the Attorney General and as Assistant General Counsel for the Office of Governor Abbott. Shelley Botkin has also stepped down from the PUC Board.
House Speaker Dade Phelan unveiled the House Priority Electricity Reforms on Monday. The following bills have been and will be filed by members of the Texas House to protect consumers and strengthen the state’s electric grid after a whirlwind of hearings last week. They are: HB 10 to reform the Energy Reliability Council of Texas leadership; HB 11 to protect consumers and hardening facilities for extreme weather; HB 12 to alert Texans during emergencies; HB 13 to improve coordination during disasters; HB 14 to weatherize natural gas infrastructure; HB 16 to defend ratepayers; and HB 17 to protect homeowner rights. A link to Speaker Phelan’s press release is here. Collectively, the bills make up the first phase of the House’s legislative reforms to protect the electric grid, infrastructure, and ratepayers.
With over 2,300 bills referred to committees, bipartisan legislation is filed to legalize casino gambling and sports betting in Texas. The bills would allow four casino resorts to be built and legalize sports wagering. Texas’ three federally-recognized Native American tribes could also expand gambling and slot machines on their land. The bills do require a two-thirds vote of lawmakers, because they hope to overturn an amendment in the Texas Constitution. If they do pass the Legislature, Texas voters would have the final say on approving the expansion on gambling and sports wagering.
The Senate Committee on Finance has been hard at work, and Chair Nelson announced the workgroups this week. The workgroup on Articles I, IV, and V is chaired by Senator Huffman, working with Senators Campbell, Schwertner, and Whitmire. The workgroup on Article II is chaired by Senator Kolkhorst, working with Senators Buckingham, Schwertner, and Lucio. The workgroup on Article III – Public Education is chaired by Senator Taylor, working with Senators Bettencourt, Lucio, and Perry. The workgroup on Article III – Higher Education is chaired by Senator Creighton, working with Senators Bettencourt, Buckingham, and West. Lastly, the workgroup on Articles VI, VII, and VIII is chaired by Senator Nichols, working with Senators Hancock, Perry, and Whitmire. Committee Chair Nelson aims to complete markup and vote SB 1 out of committee before Easter weekend.
Chair Bonnen of the House Appropriations Committee has announced that next week, March 15 through March 19, will be open to the submission of budget riders. The House meets Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of next week, and Speaker Phelan has asked that members arrive in Austin by 4 p.m. on Monday, March 15. After March 12, the next important date to keep on your calendar is Thursday, April 15. April 15 is the first day a senator may place up to 5 bills or resolutions on the Senate Notice of Intent Calendar. For a complete schedule on upcoming House committee hearings, click here. For a complete schedule on upcoming Senate committee hearings, click here. 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.