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  HOU in ATX: Legislative Update – Week 19

Published May 19, 2023 by Taylor Landin


This week, the Senate Committee on Business & Commerce hears economic development incentive legislation, the state allocates dollars for flood mitigation, a bill to help renovate Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center inches closer to the finish line, and health care and energy bills move through the process. 

LATE BREAKING NEWS: Moments ago, House Bill 8, legislation to shift the state’s community college financing system toward an outcomes-based and industry-aligned model, passed the Senate 31-0. The House will need to concur with Senate amendments before it heads to the Governor’s desk. 

Economic Development Incentives Bill Heard in Senate Committee

On Thursday, the Senate Committee on Business & Commerce heard the Committee Substitute for House Bill 5, which would establish a new economic development incentive program for Texas. 

The Senate sponsor and Chairman of the Committee, Senator Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), made significant changes to the bill’s eligible projects and job requirement numbers, among other provisions, in his substitute. Over 90 witnesses signed up to testify on the bill, and the hearing went late into Thursday evening. 

  • Why it matters: Establishing a new economic development incentive program is critical for ensuring Texas can keep competing globally for large-scale, capital-intensive projects. 
  • What’s next: House Bill 5 was left pending in committee Thursday night. The bill could be voted out of committee at the next called committee meeting. If the bill clears the Senate floor, a conference committee will be necessary to work out differences between the House and Senate versions. 

Flood Mitigation Funding in Budget
This week, the legislature’s Senate and House budget conferees released their funding decisions for House Bill 1. The line items include a $350 million Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) allocation and a nearly $600 million appropriation to the Gulf Coast Protection District (GCPD).

The FIF is a statewide grant and loan program for flood mitigation projects. The Partnership advocated for establishing the FIF in 2019, and its replenishment has been an executive priority for the Partnership this legislative session.

  • By the numbers: As of February 2023, the greater Houston region received more than $159 million of the initial $793 million FIF appropriation, meaning Houston received 20% of the original fund dollars for flood mitigation projects.
  • What’s next: Senate Bill 30, the supplemental funding bill, which has yet to reach conference committee, includes additional funding for FIF through federal ARPA dollars. If FIF can capture its full funding potential, its replenishment amount could reach $1 billion or more.

The GCPD was created in 2021 by the Texas Legislature to become the non-federal sponsor of the Coastal Texas Program, a barrier flood gate and levee system along the Texas coastline. 

  • What’s next: the Texas Legislature’s investment in the GCPD will fund the state’s portion of the 35% state-local match requirement to begin constructing the Coastal Barrier project.

Houston in Focus: GRB Bill on the House Floor