This week, economic development items move forward, the CCUS bill gets an overhaul, our state’s annual appropriations bills head to conference committee, and bills related to the Partnership’s executive priorities progress through the legislative process.
Economic Development Initiatives
Economic Development Incentive Program:
- House Bill 5, the Texas Jobs & Security Act, establishes a much-needed state economic development incentive program to attract investment and create jobs in Texas. The legislation has bipartisan support from 76 lawmakers and has been made a priority by Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont). We are hopeful the House Ways & Means Committee will vote the bill out of committee in the coming days.
- The Houston Chronicle recently published an op-ed piece by the Partnership’s President & CEO, Bob Harvey, in support of House Bill 5, urging the Legislature to pass the bill to “keep Texas in the economic development game at this critical time when companies are ‘reshoring’ overseas manufacturing and embracing new technologies that require large-scale manufacturing facilities.”
Texas CHIPS Act:
- This week, the House Committee and State Affairs heard testimony on House Bill 5174, the Texas CHIPS Act, by Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood). The bill creates the Texas Semiconductor Innovation Consortium and the Texas Semiconductor Innovation Fund to help spur semiconductor projects in Texas.
- What’s next: The Senate companion legislation, Senate Bill 2288 by Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston), is expected to be heard in Senate Finance in the coming weeks.
Statewide CCUS Bill Gets an Overhaul
In a somewhat surprising move, Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) introduced a new version of the statewide carbon capture storage legislation, Senate Bill 2107. The committee’s substitute language addresses concerns from the opposition and simplifies the bill only to only address pore space ownership.
Why it matters: Without statewide action to reduce regulatory roadblocks, Texas risks losing its opportunity to lead the trillion-dollar carbon storage industry. Twelve other states, including Louisiana, have already passed legislation to facilitate this emerging industry. A recent piece published in Forbes provides an in-depth overview of the pressing need for legislative action.
What’s next: The bill still needs to be voted out of the Senate committee, and Chairman Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) has asked for more time to review the changes. The earliest the committee can vote on Senate Bill 2107 would be next week. A social media toolkit is available to mobilize support for the bill as moves through the process.
Flood Mitigation Funding Moves Forward
The House and Senate have passed their respective versions of House Bill 1, the general appropriations act. The House version of the budget includes $350 million for the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) while the Senate version includes a lower amount of funding for FIF.
What’s next: The two different versions of House Bill 1 will now be reconciled through the conference committee process.
- The House conferees: Chairman Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), Vice-Chairman Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint), Representatives Jacey Jetton (R-Richmond), Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston), and Armando Walle (D-Houston).
- The Senate conferees: Chairman Joan Huffman (R-Houston), Senators Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), and Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown).
Go deeper: Senate Bill 30, the supplemental budget, is also working its way through the process. Senate Bill 30 appropriates $400 million in federal ARPA dollars to the Texas Water Development Board for FIF as well as other water infrastructure programs.
The bottom line: If the House version of House Bill 1 is adopted, FIF could be replenished near its original funding level of $750 million.
Update: Higher Education and Workforce Development Bills Move Forward
Texas University Fund
- The Texas University Fund (TUF) legislation passed the House on Tuesday with overwhelming support. House Bill 1595 creates a multibillion-dollar research endowment to significantly boost the research capabilities of four Texas universities: the University of Houston, the University of North Texas, Texas Tech University, and Texas State University.
- What’s next: Both the House and Senate versions of this proposal have cleared their respective chambers, and it looks likely that Legislature will enact the TUF this session. This new funding stream for the University of Houston will enable the university to reach its goal of becoming a national Top 50 university.
- House Bill 1755 by Representative Angie Chen Button (R-Richardson), would create the Lone Star Workforce Future Fund (LSWFF) to provide funding for skills training and education programs for middle-skill jobs in high-demand industries while also providing support for internships, apprenticeships, work-based experiences, and online instruction.
- Why it matters: As technology advances and further drives how work gets done, certain skills are becoming obsolete quicker than ever before. It is critical that the state reskill and upskill its workforce to meet the new demands of the changing industry landscape.
- What’s Next: The bill will be up on the House floor next week. The Senate version, Senate Bill 592 by Senator Carol Alvarado (D-Houston), was recently heard in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development, and a vote is expected next week.
On the Move: Infrastructure Bills to Watch
This week, several infrastructure bills moved through the legislative process that will improve state resiliency, fortify water systems, and ensure sufficient funding for transportation projects.
- House Bill 2416, by Representatives Dennis Paul (R-Houston) and Ed Thompson (R-Pearland), creating the Gulf Coast Protection District Trust Fund, passed the House and is heading to the Senate. The Partnership supports the effort as good governance to manage billions of dollars over decades-long projects, including the Coastal Texas Program/Ike Dike.
- Senate Bill 28, by Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), invests $3 billion to support water infrastructure across the state by providing access to funding to replace, repair, or build new water systems. The bill was heard in the House Committee on Natural Resources and is expected to be voted out next week.
- Senate Concurrent Resolution 2, by Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), allows for the extension of the sunset provision for Proposition 7, which provides funds from certain state revenue streams to the state highway fund. The legislation was voted out of the House Appropriations Committee this week.
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