Keeping Texas Working 2017 End of Session Report

Keeping Texas Working 2017 End of Session Report

Source: Texas Chamber of Commerce Executives Email Report

Keep Texas Working 2017 End of Session Report

While a few key controversial issues are receiving much of the media attention, there was so much more happening at the State Capitol to ensure that employers can provide jobs and paychecks to more Texans.

At the beginning of session, the Texas Association of Business (TAB) shared with you our top legislative priorities for the upcoming session. We focused on initiatives that encourage economic growth and opposed legislation that threatened the economy of this state.

It was a tough session, full of wins and losses, but overall business prevailed in many areas and was able to minimize other legislation that would have been a huge hit on business if TAB had not been involved.

**Session ended on May 31st. Gov. Abbot has called a special session starting on July 18th**

Support Transportation Infrastructure Funding

o   The final version of SB 1 (the state budget) spends $2 billion by delaying the funding transfer established by a 2015 constitutional amendment. This is only a slight decrease from the Senate's originally proposed $2.5 billion diversion.

o   HB 2961, which would extend comprehensive development agreements across the state, failed to pass. This is a significant blow to public-private partnerships' ability to work on future transportation projects.

Maintain a Fair Tax Environment

o   TAB successfully opposed SB 575, which would increase the small business franchise tax exemption but at the expense of further expanding the disparity between small and large tax payers.

o   TAB supported both SB 17 and HB 28, which would have gradually phased out the franchise tax based on availability of general revenue. Both bills passed the house of origin, but neither was reported from committee in the other chamber.

Oppose Discriminatory Legislation

o   TAB and the Keep Texas Open for Business Coalition defeated SB 6 and HB 2899 that would have hindered our members' ability to attract, recruit and retain top talent and tarnish Texas' reputation as open and friendly to businesses and families.

Protection of Businesses Proprietary Information

o   TAB successfully opposed SB 407 that would have required businesses to release proprietary information if they have contracts with governmental entities, thus placing trade secret information and their business at a disadvantage with competitors.

o   SB 408 was also defeated.  This would have reversed the exemption of nonprofits (that have government contracts) from state open records laws and could have imposed "governmental body" status on chambers of commerce (who have government contracts) as well as economic development corporations.

o   A joint House-Senate committee to study open-government laws during the Interim has been established, and TAB will lead a coalition to voice our members' collective concerns.

Maintain the State's Economic Development Programs

o   A measure to repeal Chapter 313 agreements, SB 600, was defeated.

o   The final version of SB 1 (the state budget) included $86 million for the Texas Enterprise Fund and $22 million for film and music incentives.

Oppose any Measures to Weaken A-F

o  HB 22, the school accountability reform bill, makes adjustments to last session's A-F system. The final version was a compromise between the House's weaker proposal and the Senate's stricter proposal, but overall, the bill can be considered a success. The bill now includes A-F ratings for both school districts and individual campuses, with district ratings to be issued in August 2018 and campus ratings delayed until August 2019. It is now awaiting the Governor's signature.

Reform the Criminal Justice System

o  SB 1584 passed and was signed by the Governor. It requires courts and probation departments to take into consideration the results of a validated risk and needs assessment prior to setting probation conditions. Thus, the requirements are targeted toward the factors that are most strongly associated with risk of re-arrest and appropriate type and level of treatment.

o   HB 2888 passed both chambers and is awaiting the Governor's signature. It requires the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to provide the inmate with a list of classes or programs and make reasonable efforts to provide an inmate the opportunity to complete any classes or programs included in the inmate's individual treatment plan in a timely manner so that the inmate's release on parole is not delayed due to any uncompleted classes or programs.

Create an Affordable and Accessible Health Care System

o A measure to better utilize Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, HB 1415, unfortunately died.

o   TAB supported utilizing and expanding current telemedicine technology. SB 1107 accomplishes this goal was signed by the Governor.

o   TAB also supported protecting consumers from balance billing, especially from freestanding emergency rooms. SB 507, which protects consumers from "balance bill shock" by expanding the current mediation statute to include all out-of-network hospital-based providers and freestanding ERs, was signed by the Governor.

Ban Ban-The-Box

o  HB 577 that disallows cities from dictating hiring practices, specifically in regarding to inquiring about criminal history, died on the House Calendar. It was revived as an amendment to HB 91 in the Senate Business and Commerce Committee and was heard on the Senate floor, but it died with a point of order.

Oppose the Repeal of In-State Tuition

o  Legislation (HB 39 and HB 573) that would have mandated public universities and community colleges charge undocumented students out-of-state tuition rates was never heard in committee.

Support Funding of Health Care Services

o   TAB supported several bills that passed that would help communities draw down additional 1115 waiver funds through Intergovernmental Transfers (IGTs).

Support Outcomes-Based Formula Funding

o  SB 19, which would have established performance-based tuition and included a four-year tuition rate freeze, passed the Senate but was not well received in the House.

Support Full-day Pre-K

o   The final version of SB 1 maintains the High-Quality Prekindergarten Program established last session but removes all special funding. The program will instead be funded through Foundation School Program formula funding.

o   Multiple bills expanding the program were never considered. The only exception was HB 357, which expands the program to include children of first responders.

Oppose State Comprehensive Immigration Reform

o   SB 4, the Sanctuary City bill passed and was signed by the Governor. The House Committee Substitute was a great improvement over the version that passed the Senate. However, an amendment by Rep. Schaefer, touted as the "show me your papers" amendment, directed officers to inquire about legal status at the point of detainment instead of arrest. It expanded the bill beyond its intent and potentially creates a climate for discriminatory behavior and could negatively impact public safety. 

Support Hailstorm Lawsuit Reform

o   Legislation (HB 1774) to remove the incentive for trial lawyers to manufacture lawsuits, while still allowing consumer protections, passed and was signed by the Governor.

Incentivize Free-Market Water Conservation

o   HB 2005, which requires the Texas Water Development Board to study and report on aquifer storage and recovery efforts, passed the House but died in the Senate.

o   HB 2377, which supports the development of brackish groundwater resources, passed and is on the Governor's desk.

o   Legislation (SB 1430) that supports desalination efforts and expedited water right amendments was sent to the Governor.

Support Statewide Regulation of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs)

o   HB 100, which establishes statewide regulation for TNCs, passed with wide support and was signed by the Governor.

Preserve the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP)

o  SB 26, the bill that would extend the TERP program and ensure ongoing funding, died on the House Calendar, but the House version of the bill was amended into SB 1731 and passed both chambers. The bill makes important improvements to the TERP program but does not extend the funding sources beyond 2019.

Oppose Eminent Domain Reforms that Endanger Infrastructure Investment

o  During the session, stakeholder coalitions representing both business interests and landowners attempted to negotiate mutually agreeable reforms to the eminent domain process in Texas. Despite significant offers by the business coalition that would have benefited landowners, agreement was not reached and authors of relevant legislation decided not to proceed with their bills. Legislation that would have negatively affected businesses died.