HOU in ATX: Legislative Update – Week 20
During the final days of the session, House Bill 5 passes off the Senate floor and heads to conference, the budget moves one step closer to the Governor’s desk, and we take a look at Houston-specific bills passing the legislature.
Economic Development Bill Clears the Senate Floor
House Bill 5 was voted out of the Senate Committee on Business & Commerce on Sunday, paving the way for a vote on the Senate floor on Wednesday. The bill author, Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), accepted five amendments and the final measure passed with a decisive 27-4 vote.
What’s next: The Senate made significant changes to the version that passed the House earlier this month. We expect a conference committee to be named to work out the two versions. Following the work of the conference committee, each chamber must accept the conference committee report before the bill can head to the Governor’s desk.
The bottom line: Stakeholders have raised concerns about the changes made to the legislation, but all parties recognize the importance of creating a new school property tax abatement program. Without a new program, Texas will fall behind other states in landing large-scale, capital-intensive projects.
What they’re saying: During the committee hearing on Sunday, Senator Creighton (R-Conroe) emphasized the transformational change that comes when new and emerging industries decide to locate in local Texas communities: “If we’re going launch into a new phase of new economic development incentives… [we need to think about] the culture we want to create to really land these companies that will change lives forever for Texans.”
House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 30 - The State’s Budget
The budget bill is the only bill the Texas Legislature must pass each session. This week, the two chambers struck a deal on a two-year budget for the State of Texas totaling $321.3 billion.
The Legislature entered this session with an unprecedented budget surplus. However, due to constitutionally mandated restrictions on spending, the Legislature had more money available than it could spend. The budget prioritized spending on tax cuts, colleges and universities, grid resiliency, broadband, and water infrastructure.
Houston in Focus: The budget deal includes $1.25 billion for flood mitigation and storm surge protection.
$625 million for the Flood Infrastructure Fund out of one-time General Revenue Funding.
$550 million for the Gulf Coast Protection District, with $350 million of the appropriation allocated to be used as state matching funds for the Coastal Texas Program.
$50 million for the Lake Houston Dam Improvement Project.
What’s next: After the Legislature passes House Bill 1, the General Appropriation Act, and Senate Bill 30, the Supplemental Appropriations Act, both bills head to the Governor’s desk, where the Governor has line-item veto power for budget items. The Governor’s veto period ends 20 days after the last day of the legislative session.
Houston in Focus: Bills Impacting the Region
Here is a look at several bills that have passed that will directly impact the Houston region:
Senate Bill 1057, by Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston), allows the City of Houston and Houston First access to funds for much-needed renovations to the George R. Brown Convention Center.
House Bill 3474, by Representative Jeff Leach (R-Plano), the state’s omnibus courts bill, establishes six new criminal courts for Harris County.
House Bill 2416, by Representative Dennis Paul (R-Houston), creates the Gulf Coast Protection Trust Fund. The funding will be used for flood infrastructure developments within the Gulf Coast Protection District (GCPD), including the Texas Coastal Program, better known as the Coastal Spine or the Ike Dike.
House Bill 1595 and House Joint Resolution 3, by Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), establishes the Texas University Fund (TUF), a permanent endowment fund investing in four Texas public university systems. The University of Houston will receive as much as $50 million dollars annually from the Fund.
What’s Next: End-of-Session Report
Upon final adjournment, the Partnership’s Public Policy Division will send one final update with a link to a comprehensive end-of-session report.
The overview of outcomes will provide insight into key policy issues facing the greater Houston region and how the Partnership advocated for these priority areas during the 88th Legislative Session. We look forward to sharing our work with you.
During the 88th Legislative Session, the Greater Houston Partnership will provide a weekly update on newsworthy items from Austin. You can view more policy news and archives of our weekly updates here. Subscribe here to get our weekly legislative updates