News from the 84th Texas Legislature

During this legislative session, Community Impact Newspaper has been reporting on bills and funding for the state regarding the budget, economy and small business, transportation, public education, higher education, health care and more. All information on this page is as of June 3.



Lawmakers wrap up Texas’ 84th legislative session


On June 1 the 84th Texas Legislature adjourned “sine die.” The Latin phrase, meaning without a specific date to reconvene, is used to end every Texas regular session after its 140 days conclude.


This session will be remembered for its balanced budget that included tax relief for citizens and funds for border security, passage of an open-carry handgun law in public and a concealed-carry law on state universities, legalization of marijuana extracts to be used for epileptic patients, funding for prekindergarten programs and a resolution for voters to decide whether to use sales tax revenue to improve state highways.


The governor has until June 21 to sign into law or veto bills passed during the session. Bills without specific effective dates become law Aug. 31.



Budget



  • The Legislature passed a $209 billion budget that includes funding for public education, health care and $800 million for border security;

  • Approved tax cuts that would raise residents’ homestead exemption from $15,000 to $25,000;

  • Approved decreasing the state franchise tax by
    25 percent;

  • Approved incentives to fund prekindergarten programs in public schools;

  • Approved about $3 billion in bonds to build new public college campus facilities; and

  • Left it to voters to decide on Nov. 3 if the state should transfer up to $2.5 billion annually from its general sales tax revenue to the State Highway Fund to improve transportation.


Economy and Small Business



  • On May 18, Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 40, a bill that gives the state, and not local authorities, the jurisdiction to regulate oil and gas operation. Prior to the bill’s passage, local laws had created “a patchwork of inconsistent regulation that undermines the safe and efficient production of oil and gas,” according to the bill’s analysis.

  • Abbott signed SB 293 on April 8. The bill allows ESPN, NASCAR and Ultimate Fighting Championship events to be considered eligible for the Major Events Trust Fund.

  • The governor signed SB 97, which regulates the sale, distribution, possession, use and advertising of e-cigarettes, cigarettes and tobacco products. The law will take effect this fall.


Health care



  • Gov. Greg Abbott on June 1 signed a bill legalizing the growth of cannabis plants high in cannabidiol and low in tetrahydrocannabinol in Texas. SB 339 is effective immediately and allows patients access to cannabis as medicine upon the recommendation of two board-certified medical specialists.

  • SB 1889 was sent to the governor to be signed
    May 21. The bill, which was heavily advocated for by its author, Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, amends the current law relating to the disclosure and use of information included in Texas’ abuse and neglect registry at the Department of Family and Protective Services and the report of the information regarding those cases to the Legislature, according to the bill’s
    analysis.


Higher education



  • Legislation passed allowing concealed handguns on college campuses. If signed into law, publicly funded universities must put the policy in place by Aug. 1, 2016, while private universities may choose to opt out.

  • The House and Senate approved about $3 billion in funding for projects at 64 Texas universities.

  • Colleges and universities still have control of setting their own tuition because legislation that would put the power in legislators’ hands failed to pass.

  • An attempt to repeal a state law allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition failed.


Public Education



  • Filed by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, HB 4 will implement high-quality standards for prekindergarten education. Gov. Greg Abbott, who signed the bill May 28, issued a statement saying the legislation will help strengthen the foundation for student success.

  • On May 11, Abbott signed SB 149. The new law establishes committees to determine if students who pass classes and meet other requirements but fail standardized tests can graduate.

  • Lawmakers did not pass HB 1759, which aimed to add $3 billion in per-student funding and eliminate adjustments that were once intended to protect districts from short-term funding losses. Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, the bill’s co-author, moved to postpone consideration of the bill on the House floor.


Transportation



  • Beginning in fiscal year 2017-18 the state will divert $2.5 billion of sales and use taxes to the State Highway Fund, which helps fund the Texas Department of Transportation, after revenue exceeds
    $28 billion per fiscal year. Starting in FY 2019-20 the state will divert 35 percent of motor vehicle sales tax revenue to the SHF after revenue exceeds $5 billion. Voters will need to give the bill, Senate Joint Resolution 5, final approval in November during a constitutional amendment election.

  • For a third time lawmakers failed to pass a statewide texting-while-driving ban. HB 80 was
    approved by the House on March 26 but failed to gain enough votes for consideration in the Senate by the end of session.



MOST RECENT

The city of Georgetown has organized tree limb cleanup services for residents. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Tree limb pickup update, plus more Georgetown winter storm recovery news

Limb pickup is available for those who reside within city limits.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

Jo's Coffee opened a North Austin location in January. (Courtesy Chad Wadsworth)
Jo's Coffee opens in Central Austin; new restaurant coming to Georgetown Square and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

New restaurant District Six coming to the Georgetown Square. (Courtesy District Six)
New restaurant District Six coming to Georgetown Square

The restaurant plans to open March 5.

Here is everything you need to know about Williamson County’s COVID-19 vaccine plan. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Here is everything you need to know about Williamson County’s COVID-19 vaccine plan

Here is a breakdown of what happened, how decisions were made and how vaccine distribution is moving forward in Williamson County.

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic. (Courtesy Qygen, Wikimedia Commons)
Fry's Electronics calls it quits after nearly 36 years in business

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic.

A lone runner jogs on a snow-covered road in Austin. Transportation projects across the city were briefly paused due to Winter Storm Uri. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
ERCOT: Texas power system was less than 5 minutes from collapse during winter storm

ERCOT's CEO offered details into what led to the massive blackouts that left millions of Texans in the cold last week.

If approved, the bill would also establish goals for emissions reductions by 2030, 2040 and 2050. (Courtesy James Talarico)
After Winter Storm Uri, Rep. James Talarico files climate action plan in Texas House

The Texas Climate Action Act would require the development of a climate action plan to help alleviate future climate-related disasters and establish goals for reducing emissions for 2030, 2040 and 2050.

Georgetown ISD sees an improved dropout rate and a higher graduation rate in a state report. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Georgetown ISD sees improved dropout rate, higher graduation rate in state report

The full report can be viewed online on the TEA website or via a print copy at each campus and the Hammerlun Center for Leadership and Learning building.

Georgetown ISD prepares for an uncertain budget cycle. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Georgetown ISD preps for uncertain budget cycle

The board must adopt a budget by June 30. The new budget cycle begins July 1.

Georgetown ISD was one of the few Central Texas districts that was able to open every campus following a week of record-breaking freezes from a series of winter storms. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Georgetown ISD emerges from Texas storm largely unscathed

Georgetown ISD was one of the few Central Texas districts that was able to open every campus following a week of record-breaking freezes from a series of winter storms.