It’s full steam ahead for the Texas 87th. With just under a month and a half left to go, both chambers are burning the midnight oil as bills fly out of committee, to the floors, and across the capitol. After a busy week at the legislature, we have all you need to know right here.
A future for Texas Gambling?
Las Vegas Sands, a gaming empire, has launched a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to build support for casinos in Texas. On Thursday, the company began airing TV and radio advertisements, the same day a state House committee was set to review legislation to expand gambling. The campaign highlights the “billions of tourism and gambling dollars” the state could retain within its borders, instead of seeing that money leave to neighboring states which allow more gambling. Proposed legislation would let Texans decide to permit special casino licenses for four “destination resorts” in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. A Senate version of the bill has been referred to committee but is not yet scheduled for a hearing.
Senator John Cornyn and Representative Eddie Johnson have worked together to create the “Power On Act,” a bipartisan bill to help weatherize the Texas energy grid. The legislation would set up a grant program in the U.S. Department of Energy to help states weatherize their power infrastructure. It would also authorize $500 million in seed money to secure and maintain existing infrastructure. States would be expected to match grants, and the Power On Act is modeled after the Weatherization Assistance Program designed in 1976. Governor Abbott appointed a chairman to the Public Utility Commission. Peter Lake, currently Chairman of the Texas Water Development Board, would serve through September 1, 2023. Governor Abbott said in a statement, “Peter’s expertise in the Texas energy industry and business management will make him an asset to the agency. I urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Peter’s appointment.” On Monday, the Senate committee unanimously recommended McAdams’ appointment to the commission. On Tuesday, temperatures and plant outages caused electricity supplies to be tighter than anticipated. As plants shut down for maintenance in preparation for the summer months, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) encourages Texans to conserve electricity. ERCOT expects to fully meet summer demand and emphasizes that the scheduled maintenance and outages are absolutely routine for such big, complex machines. Don’t worry, your power won’t be going anywhere!
The House Appropriations committee voted out its budget and supplemental budget on a nearly unanimous vote. Chair Bonnen assures compromises and revisions will continue to be made. Amendments must be prefiled by 10 a.m. Monday for the House Appropriations bill being heard on Thursday, April 22nd. Both SB 1 and HB 2, relating to the budget and appropriations, will be heard for their second readings on Thursday. The filing rules may shave a day or two off of the House Calendar when time left in the session is shortening.
Bills on the Radar
Certainly, all bills are worthy of noting, but these few caught our special attention this week. House Bill 5, the big broadband bill, passed unanimously through the House on Friday. The bill will prioritize access to schools and institutions of higher education. The Texas Senate passed a bill that could push the state’s primary to April 5, 2022, or if necessary, May 24, 2022, if redistricting maps aren’t in by November 22, 2021, and January 3, 2022, respectively. Governor Abbott made a special point to support bail reform through the Damon Allen Act, HJR 4 and HB 20. On a vote of 29 to 2, the Senate passed a constitutional amendment to force a special session during prolonged disaster. SB 1025 and SJR 45 would require the governor to call the legislature into a special session in order to shut down business amid a major emergency, essentially serving as a check on the governor’s powers during a crisis. The Senate also advanced the creation of a statewide appellate court. SB 1529 would establish the appellate court consisting of five justices elected statewide to deal with matters related to the state, its agencies, and its actors.
Covid-19 in Texas
About a quarter of all Texans older than 16 are fully vaccinated. Last week, the country hit a record 4.6 million doses administered in a single day. Texas has administered 11.8 million doses. The state has paused its distribution of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, out of an abundance of caution. The federal government will review 6 reported cases of rare blood clotting out of about 7 million total administered vaccines. About 500,000 Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccines have been administered in Texas, and none of the reported cases were in the state. The vaccination campaign is anything but slowing down, and the lone star state is making a Texas-sized effort to make sure Texans stay safe and Covid-19 cases stay low.
Helpful Resources and Countdown
There are six 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. Thursday was 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, over 250 bills were reported out of House and Senate Committees, and another 300 bills were voted out to go to the floor. The total number of bills passed by the Senate this session is 132, 84 of which passed just last week. The total number of bills passed by the House this session is 117, 91 of which passed last week.
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.