There’s no rest for the Texas 87th as session deadlines quickly approach. Lawmakers returned to the Capitol after the holiday weekend to buckle down for a week full of committee hearings, bill readings, and ongoing work on the Texas power grid, election integrity, and so much more!
Lawmakers continue their hard work and consideration of the Texas power grid and events resulting from Winter Storm Uri. Following the resignation of all members on the Public Utilities Commission, Governor Abbott has appointed Will McAdams to sit on the commission. McAdams must be confirmed by the Senate before taking the position. He has worked as an aide to three state senators and is the president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas. Governor Abbott said in a statement, “Will’s wealth of experience in public service and state government make him the ideal leader to carry out the PUC’s mission to protect customers, foster competition, and promote high quality infrastructure across Texas.” The Electric Reliability Council of Texas released a report Tuesday. Although it did not address major discrepancies between estimates for outages caused by natural gas shortages, it did reveal the importance and necessity for power plant and infrastructure weatherization. This comes ten years after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission urged the state’s power plants to prepare for cold weather and winterize. Of course, February’s events call for the examination of all power sources and we continue to see our elected officials committed to find solutions for Texans.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted on SB 1, the Senate Budget Bill. It passed unanimously, and despite the small deficit in revenue funds, the bill demonstrates the continued dedication to fund the historic commitment to education made last session. The budget maintains funding to other priorities, including mental health and border security. Other state programs saw a slight decrease in funding as the legislature anticipated a decrease in federal stimulus money on the other side of the Covid-19 pandemic. The House Appropriations Bill, HB 1, remains in committee.
Covid-19 in Texas
On Thursday, the Senate heard SB 6, The Pandemic Liability Protection Act, a bill designed to protect businesses which have acted in good faith during the pandemic from litigation. As an action item declared by Governor Abbott, the legislation is sure to pass quickly through the House and Senate. The state quickly approaches 5 million fully vaccinated Texans. Across the country, more than three million people are receiving a vaccine on an average day. Texas is expected to receive 20,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one dose and is authorized for those ages 18 and above. As the vaccination effort becomes increasingly widespread, a new discussion emerges regarding vaccination cards and passports. Governor Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting state agencies or political subdivisions from creating vaccine passports for entry to a place or to receive a service. A link to the Governor’s executive order is attached below for your reference. He also announced that there are 46 counties in Texas participating in the Save Our Seniors Initiative as the program rolls into its sixth week. To date, 107 counties have participated in the program.
The Latest on Elections
Heated debate has erupted over the past week as various state legislatures pass new election and voting laws. The Texas Senate passed SB 7, and HB 6, the House companion, is pending in committee. The Senate bill addresses a number of things, including voting hours, drive-through voting, and voting-by-mail. Major corporations like Microsoft and American Airlines, with heavy influence in the state, express concerns about the election integrity laws as legislators maintain efforts to secure the voting process in Texas. On the local, state, and national level, it’s without a doubt a hot-button issue this session.
HJR 152 by Rep. John Raney proposes a constitutional amendment for the Texas Legislature to get to work faster. The resolution maintains that the legislature would start its work with a brief “organizational session” lasting no more than two days in December of even numbered years, preceding the legislative session. During the period, new members could be sworn in, the speaker could be elected, House rules would be adopted, and the Speaker would then have until the start of the new session to make committee assignments. HJR 152 would allow lawmakers to get to work sooner, removing a provision that prevents action on legislation during the first 60 days of the regular session, or approximately 40% of the session’s duration.
Helpful Resources and Countdown
There are seven weeks left in the session. Preferably, a House bill should be voted out of committee by Monday, April 19, to ensure ample time for passage. Realistically, a bill should be out of committee by Thursday, April 29, to make it to the floor on time. However, a bill could be voted out of committee as late as Friday, May 7, and still be reported to the Calendars Committee in time to be scheduled for a vote on the general calendar. April 15 marks the first day that a senator may place up to five bills or resolutions on the Senate Notice of Intent Calendar. This website provides a comprehensive overview of important dates and deadlines this session.
Last week, the total number of bills reported out of Senate Committees was 116. The total number of bills passed by the Senate was 33. The total number of bills passed by the Senate this session is 48, out of 2,496 filed bills. The total number of bills reported out of House Committees last week was 117. The total number of bills passed by the House was 21. The total number of bills passed by the House this session is 26, out of 5,400 filed bills.
To view Governor Abbott’s executive order, refer to this website.
For House and Senate calendars (these can change daily), refer to the link here.
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 TLO.
Until next week,
Lara Laneri Keel
President, LLK, LLC.