News from the 84th Texas Legislature

Economy and Small Business


HB 40, a bill clarifying that the state—not local authorities—regulates oil and gas activity, was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on May 18. It took effect immediately.

News from the 84th Texas Legislature Representatives discuss a bill May 5.[/caption]

HB 931, a bill that would change how unemployment insurance benefits are allocated, was sent to Abbott on May 20. According to the bill’s analysis, current law “incentivizes unemployed individuals to remain out of work for at least four weeks because they will be paid double for the fourth week of unemployment.” The bill amends how individuals would be eligible for benefits.

Transportation


The status of additional state funding for the Texas Department of Transportation is up in the air as the House and Senate will discuss their differences on approving a bill designed to divert money to the State Highway Fund that helps fund TxDOT.

On April 30 the House approved Senate Joint Resolution 5, which would dedicate $3 billion of revenue from the state sales and use tax to the SHF each fiscal year. However, the bill differs from the Senate’s version, approved March 4. The Senate’s version of the bill would dedicate the first $2.5 billion of motor vehicle sales tax revenue to the state’s general revenue fund and the second $2.5 billion to the SHF. The Senate declined to accept the House’s version of the bill May 4, requiring both chambers to hash out differences in a conference committee.

Budget


As the 84th regular session of the Texas Legislature winds down, the House and Senate are coming to terms over proposed bills affecting state budget considerations including tax relief for homeowners and businesses.

On May 20 the Senate Finance Committee passed HB 32 that cuts $2.5 billion in franchise taxes, with a franchise tax rate decrease from 1 percent to 0.75 percent over the next two years. The bill raises the tax threshold for small businesses from $10 million to $20 million.

The House and Senate chambers are at odds as to how to cut taxes for residents, with the Senate touting a property tax cut and the House promoting a sales tax reduction.

The House of Representatives unanimously passed SB 20 on May 19. The bill, proposed by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, increases the disclosure and reporting of state contracts.

“Texas citizens rely on state contracts to receive services they need, and we must ensure that those contracts are awarded fairly and transparently,” Nelson said.

Public Education


At a May 14 House meeting, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, moved to postpone consideration of HB 1759—the school finance bill he co-authored—until July 4. As a result, any school finance changes would have to come from general appropriations bill HB 1, according to Aycock’s staff.

News from the 84th Texas Legislature Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, moved to postpone consideration of HB 1759 at a May 14 meeting at the Capitol.[/caption]

On May 11 Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 149 into law. The legislation will establish committees to determine if students who pass classes but fail state tests can graduate.

On May 7 the Senate passed HB 4. Filed by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, the bill aims to implement high-quality standards for prekindergarten education. In a statement, Abbott said he thinks HB 4 will help strengthen the foundation for student success. At press time he had not signed the bill.

Health care


On May 19 the House passed SB 339, which legalizes and regulates the growth of cannabis plants high in cannabidiol and low in tetrahydrocannabinol in Texas.

Gov. Greg Abbott can veto SB 339, sign the bill or take no action.

SB 339 would allow patients access to cannabis as medicine upon the recommendation of two board-certified medical specialists. According to the bill’s analysis, cannabidiol oil has been shown to “dramatically decrease” the number of seizures in people with intractable epilepsy, or people with a higher risk of a shortened life span, bodily injury or mental health impairment. Cannabidiol oil is an extract from the cannabis plant.

Higher education


Many bills slated to bring various changes to higher education establishments are still waiting for passage.

News from the 84th Texas Legislature University presidents Bill Powers and Mark Hussey joined forces earlier in the legislative session, asking lawmakers for funding.[/caption]

SB 11, which would allow licensed concealed weapon owners to carry a firearm on public college campuses, was approved by the Senate but still has not been heard on the House floor.

SB 1819, a bill repealing current law allowing undocumented students—referred to as “Dreamers”—to pay in-state tuition rates, is waiting to be heard by the Senate. Other bills currently in limbo include those that would issue revenue bonds to help higher education institutions fund capital projects, such as new facilities, on campuses.


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