774 new Texas laws go into effect Friday. Here are some that might affect you.

More than 770 new laws passed by the Texas Legislature this year will go into effect Friday, impacting everything from health care and education to public safety.

Sept. 1 is the traditional start day for laws passed during a regular legislative session, though some can have their effective date delayed in order to be fully implemented and bills passed by a two-thirds margin can go into effect immediately.

You can view a full list of the new laws here. And here’s a look at some of the big ones:

A $321.3 billion budget: The General Appropriations Act, House Bill 1, directs the spending of state and federal tax dollars for the next two years, including $144 billion in state general revenue taxes. It spends more than half of a historic $32.7 billion surplus that was available to lawmakers this cycle, and it leaves more than $12 billion unspent in Texas coffers. It fills the state’s emergency and highway funds and makes payments toward stabilizing the state’s retirement investment fund. It includes pay raises for employees of state agencies and for retired teachers. Voters will be asked to approve several measures, including $12 billion in property tax cuts and a $1.5 billion effort to expand broadband internet access.

New school safety requirements: House Bill 3 requires an armed officer at every school campus in Texas and mental health training for school staff that interact with children. The armed person can be either a peace officer, a school resource officer, a school marshal or a school district employee, according to the law. School districts that can’t meet this requirement can claim a “good cause exception” but must find an alternative plan. The law, passed in the first legislative session after the school shooting in Uvalde, also gives the Texas Education Agency more authority over school districts to establish robust active-shooter protocols. Those that fail to meet the agency’s standards could be put under the state’s supervision. The state will give each school district $15,000 per campus and $10 per student, a figure that many school officials say isn’t enough. In addition, lawmakers have allocated $1.1 billion to the TEA to administer school safety grants to the state’s more than 1,000 school districts.

Redefining fentanyl deaths: House Bill 6 classifies overdoses from fentanyl as "poisonings," which means any Texan who provides someone with a fatal overdose of the opioid could face a murder charge. The measure is part of a series of new laws aimed at the opioid crisis in the state, many of which seek to get tough on people who are selling or illegally importing fentanyl.

Addressing the power grid: House Bill 1500 changes aspects of how electricity can be bought and sold on the state's main power grid, with an aim toward getting more on-demand power such as natural gas-fueled power plants built. Changes include creating a financial tool, known as an ancillary service, that will pay power generators that can produce power within two hours and run for at least four hours to help smooth out supply during high-demand times; requiring new power producers that connect to the grid starting in 2027 to be prepared to produce a set amount of power during times of high demand; and requiring companies to pick up the tab for building new transmission lines that connect power generators to the grid if costs go above a certain amount.

Targeting “rogue” district attorneys: House Bill 17 allows the courts to remove district attorneys for official misconduct if they choose not to pursue certain types of crimes. The Republican priority legislation was pushed as a way to rein in progressive prosecutors who had spoken out against pursuing abortion-related or election crimes. The law will also likely restart marijuana prosecutions in several counties.

Restricting trans athletes in college sports: Senate Bill 15 prohibits transgender athletes from competing on college teams that match their gender identity. The law extends an existing restriction on K-12 athletes that requires students to play on a team that matches their sex assigned at birth.

Regulating sexually explicit performances: Senate Bill 12 restricts certain drag shows and other performances from being shown in front of children. The law criminalizes businesses that host sexually explicit shows and performers who wear certain prosthetics and dance suggestively in the presence of minors. This new law faces a legal challenge from advocates who argue that such performances are protected by the First Amendment, but so far that lawsuit hasn’t prevented the law from taking effect.

Restrictions on transition-related care for children: Senate Bill 14 prohibits transgender youth from receiving puberty blockers and hormone therapy. Medical professionals who prescribe these two transition-related treatments, used to treat gender dysphoria and alleviate associated mental health issues, will lose their license to practice.

Changes to university tenure policy: Senate Bill 18 solidifies university tenure policies into state law, placing more power over tenure approval and dismissal policies into the hands of lawmakers rather than individual university systems. The law does not go as far as the original legislation, proposed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, to eliminate tenure at all public universities.

Assistance to rural sheriff’s offices: A priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Senate Bill 22 allocates $330 million in support for rural sheriffs, in return for hiking the pay for sheriffs, deputies and prosecutors. A grant-based system monitored by Texas' comptroller will determine eligibility by a county's population size.

Banning COVID-19 mandates: Senate Bill 29 bans the state from enacting mask mandates, vaccine mandates or business and school closures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In 2020 and 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott imposed these restrictions at the urging of U.S. and world health officials as a way to rein in the deadly COVID-19 pandemic and protect particularly vulnerable Texans from contacting the virus. Many conservatives opposed the restrictions, saying they were needless or overused. The new law makes exceptions for certain entities, such as prisons, hospitals and assisted living centers or nursing homes.

Creating a new business court: House Bill 19 will create a new judicial district with jurisdiction to hear cases involving businesses across the state, as long as the value for actions being disputed exceeds $10 million. The judges for the district will be appointed by the governor and serve two-year terms. Supporters of the bill said it would help reduce court backlogs, ensure that judges hearing business cases have expertise on complex civil business litigation and help Texas maintain its economic strength. Opponents argued that the Republicans who dominate the Legislature passed the bill as a way to allow businesses to avoid having their cases heard by judges in big cities who are elected by Democrats. The bill becomes law on Sept. 1, but it will take another year for the court to get started.

Speeding up housing developments: House Bill 14 allows third-party review of building applications if cities and counties fail to issue building permits within 15 days. The law is intended to speed up the local development process to build homes and apartments more quickly. Studies show that longer regulatory processes for housing permits drive up home prices and rents.

LINK: Texas Tribune

There is good news on children's mental health

Austin American-Statesman (Sunday, 8/20/2023)

Jill Cook and Will Johnson - Guest columnists

Sebastian Ponder-Freeman is a rising senior in Chicago Public Schools with plans to go to a small liberal arts college next year. His future seemed more tentative a couple of years ago, when all his interactions with his teachers, counselors and classmates were virtual.

“More in-person time with teachers and peers, more in-person college advising and test support, more support to talk and think about next steps, more rigorous classes, just getting back into school – all those have been good,” says his mother, Paige Ponder. “He’s ready to launch.”

Three and a half years after the pandemic halted in-classroom education, scrambling the worlds of students throughout the country, parents are seeing a rebound in their children’s mental health. As the new school year starts, parents are reporting that their kids are improving academically, too.

This is encouraging news, given the youth mental health crisis our nation has experienced this decade. Although the pandemic clearly set students back, the scars might not be permanent. Kids, it turns out, are resilient.

It’s likely, however, that the nation’s 55 million K-12 public and private school students could be doing even better if every school was able to provide them sufficient mental health and academic support.

COVID-19’s “seismic effect on communities across the country” especially affected our young people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey, an ongoing data collection. “More than 1 in 3 high school students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic and nearly half of students felt persistently sad or hopeless.”

In 2021, in fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health.

A new Harris Poll of parents and legal guardians of school-age children confirms the pandemic’s widespread impact. Roughly a third of respondents say their child’s emotional health and behavioral health suffered because of the pandemic, while 43% say it hurt their child’s social development.

At the same time, though, almost half of all parents say their child’s emotional, behavioral, social and physical health has improved over the past year. Despite startling declines in standardized test scores, almost half also say their child’s academic health is better, while only 6% say it’s worse.

The recovery is more profound among students of color, with more than half of these parents judging their child’s mental (e.g., emotional, behavioral) and academic health to be better today across the board than it was a year ago. That’s fully 9 to 13 percentage points greater than white parents’ assessments.

Before we take a victory lap, we need to note that 1 in 10 parents say their school-age children are worse off today – emotionally, behaviorally and socially – than they were at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year. The percentages were slightly higher for students of color.

Kara Korte is the mother of three children. She says that during depths of the pandemic, when they were in kindergarten, third grade and sixth grade in Chicago Public Schools, all three were affected, academically and socially, by their isolation.

“They’ve definitely recovered,” she says, “though I think they’re in a different place.”

Parents deserve credit for being there for their kids. School counselors do, too. School counselors often are the Xrst line of defense when students experience mental health needs, which pose barriers to learning and development.

Without planned intervention for students exhibiting early- warning signs, setbacks in academic, career and social/emotional development can result during later school years and even into adulthood.

Parents and caregivers agree children need support at school. Overall, 86% at least somewhat agree that schools should be a resource for parents, families and students, and almost 60% are at least somewhat satisfied with the level of support related to emotional or behavioral health their child receives at school versus the 1 in 6 who are dissatisfied.

Further, three-quarters at least somewhat agree that they trust their child’s school to share information about concerning behaviors displayed by their child.

Unfortunately, significant portions of Harris Poll respondents indicate that mental and physical wellness resources are lacking at their child’s school: Half report that their schools provide neither academic/career counseling nor mental health counseling.

The American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of 250 students per one school counselor. The national ratio, while inching closer to that level, was 408 to 1 in the 2021-22 academic year (the most recent for which data is available) and can be as high as 787 to 1 for K-8 students.

Families and school counselors know what kids need to succeed. Let’s let both do their jobs. The wounds of the pandemic are healing as students return to their classrooms, but children still require care.

Jill Cook is the executive director of the American School Counselor Association. Will Johnson is the chief executive of The Harris Poll.

Texas Voters Decide: Constitutional Amendments & Generational Investments

Setting the stage: During the legislative session, Texas 2036 supported legislation establishing new, constitutionally-dedicated funds for water infrastructure, state parks and broadband.

  • These pieces of legislation made their way through the 88th Legislature and will be up for a vote on Nov. 7, 2023. Early voting kicks off Oct. 23.
  • Voters will decide on a total of 14 proposed amendments—also known as propositions in an election—to the Texas Constitution.

By the numbers: The Texas Constitution is one of the longest in the nation and still growing.

  • It has been amended 517 times since its adoption in 1876.
  • As of 2022, the Texas Legislature has proposed 700 amendments.
  • 180 have been defeated by Texas voters.

What's next? Drawing for the ballot order of proposed amendments takes place on Friday, Aug. 4 at 10 a.m. in the Texas Capitol.

Keep reading: We break down three of these major generational investments in the state's infrastructure below.

Preparing for Water Needs 💦

Years of neglect, underinvestment and an aging infrastructure have adversely affected the reliability, sustainability and resiliency for many of Texas’ 10,000 plus water and wastewater systems.

Projected water demand is expected to increase 9% by 2070 while the state's projected water supply is expected to decrease 18%.

To address these challenges, the Texas Water Fund will help repair deteriorating water systems and create new water supplies to provide long-term solutions.

A $1 billion investment for a new dedicated water fund can become law. This is thanks to legislation by Sen. Perry, R-Lubbock, and Rep. T. King, D-Batesville.

Want to learn more? See what Senior Policy Advisor Jeremy Mazur has to say about what's next for Texas' water infrastructure.

Creating & Maintaining State Parks 🌳

Texans will have the opportunity now to ensure they have access to public parklands for generations to come with the constitutional amendment.

$1 in public money spent on state parks can generate between $4 and $12 in economic return. This is particularly relevant for rural counties with parks as they experience greater growth in employment, GDP and population than rural counties without parks.

To safeguard, improve and create new state parks as the state's population continues to grow, the Centennial Parks Conservation Fund holds the potential to preserve and expand our natural landscapes for future generations.

A $1 billion investment for a dedicated parkland fund can be administered by Texas Parks and Wildlife if passed by voters. This follows legislative efforts by Sen. Parker, R-Flower Mound, and Rep. Walle, D-Houston.

Interested in state parks? Policy Advisor Rahul Sreenivasan offers insights into state parks and other budget items.

Bridging the Digital Divide

The legislative session’s most important policy addressing broadband internet expansion would broaden the opportunity for all Texans to participate in the 21st century economy.

Nearly 3 million Texas households and over 7 million Texans still lack access to broadband internet today.

To help close the existing digital divide in Texas, the Broadband Infrastructure Fund will also allow the state to pull down billions of additional federal dollars.

A $1.5 billion investment to support the expansion of broadband internet service to underserved and unserved areas of the state through a dedicated fund can become law. This is due to efforts by Rep. Ashby, R-Lufkin, and Sen. Huffman, R-Houston.

Got questions about broadband? Policy Analyst Mitrah Avini has answers about broadband and the digital divide.

Bonus Read: Supporting Higher Education

In addition to the constitutional amendments aimed at making needed investments in vital infrastructure, the Texas University Fund is on the ballot and, if passed, would provide funding to certain institutions of higher education.

  • It would establish a permanent higher education research endowment for emerging research universities looking to expand their research activity and graduate more doctoral students.

Brought forward by Rep. Bonnen, R-Friendswood, and Sen. Huffman, R-Houston, the fund would help schools achieve national prominence as top-tier research universities and drive the state economy.

  • The first four universities eligible would be: Texas State University, Texas Tech University, University of Houston and University of North Texas. Other institutions would become eligible once they spend above a certain amount in federal and private research expenditures.

88th Texas Legislative Update Week 18

  • The environment at the Texas Legislature was especially tense this week, and the Texas House was rife with member’s anticipation of the House’s consideration of controversial bills. It was a high stakes week for the House – the first two major end of session deadlines determined the fate of many members’ bills; and then, the findings of misconduct and inappropriate behavior by Rep. Bryan Slaton further amplified tensions in the building.
  • In a historic move, the Texas House unanimously voted on Tuesday to expel Rep. Slaton following a formal investigation into inappropriate conduct with a legislative aide. Prior to the vote of expulsion, Rep. Slaton resigned his office, but the expulsion vote still took place because pending replacement, a member who has resigned technically still draws a per diem benefit, is eligible to serve on committees, and retains other benefits of office. This marked the first time a member was expelled from the House since 1927. Governor Greg Abbott will soon call a special election to fill the remaining term of the open seat in House District 2.

    Thursday night was the last day the House could consider House Bills and House Joint Resolutions, and with the midnight deadline having come and gone, we saw the demise of over 140 House bills that had been calendared and many more that had not. Throughout the week, Democrats employed a technique called 'chubbing' (asking rambling questions of every bill author to draw out debate) as well as calling points of order on numerous bills to slow down the calendar. However, this delay tactic was not without collateral damage, as several Democratic bills were also derailed. These included proposals to prevent employers from inquiring about a job applicant's criminal history, to protect hospital staff from liability when responding to an attack, and a bill aiming to end greyhound dog racing in the state.

    Other controversies of the week included school vouchers, as the House voted to prohibit Public Education Committee Chairman, Rep. Brad Buckley from suspending the House rules to consider a new 80-page version of Senate Bill 8 by Sen. Brandon Creighton without a formal public hearing. The Committee has now scheduled a public hearing on SB 8 for Monday, May 15th. Additionally, HB 2744 by Rep. Tracey King, which raised the age for purchasing semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21, was voted out of committee with bipartisan support. House Speaker Phelan received a letter from several House Democrats encouraging him to set the bill after it was voted out of committee, but despite these efforts, the legislation died as did not make it onto the calendar in time.

    For a moment, conflicts and tensions were forgotten when the House erupted into cheers after a bill to legalize online sports betting narrowly secured the necessary votes to move forward to the Senate. Casino gaming did not, however, and that issue is dead for the session.

    Both chambers adjourned for the weekend and will resume work on Monday.

88th Texas Legislative Update Week 17

This week electricity reliability and grid management were major themes this week for the Legislature. ERCOT released its Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy (SARA) report, which predicts tight grid conditions this summer if electricity demand reaches a new record. Regulators warned of scenarios where there might not be enough "on-demand dispatchable power" to meet energy needs. Last year, Texas saw peak demand hit 80,000 megawatts, a historical number, but in 2023, the state could see peak demand hit over 82,000 megawatts. Texas population grew 24% from 2008 to 2022, but the on-demand dispatchable power supply has only grown by 1.5%. This let to regulators warning Texas may experience outages.

In response to the growing need for greater grid reliability, Sen. Charles Schwertner filed on May 1st, Senate Bill 2627 and Senate Joint Resolution 93. The legislation incentivizes the construction of more power plants and proposes a new state-backed fund offering zero-interest 20-year loans to companies building new dispatchable power plants, and millions in bonuses for those completing construction and connecting new power to the grid by the end of 2026. Both measures were quickly considered in the Business & Commerce Committee and have already passed out of the Senate by a vote of 27-4. The legislation will be considered in the House State Affairs Committee on May 10th.

Mid-week, the House took up another important bill to the state, House Bill 5 by Rep. Todd Hunter, a new economic development tool for Texas to attract industry to the state. Eligible projects include national or state security infrastructure, manufacturing facilities, grid reliability projects, and major projects with over $1 billion in investment in a school district. The bill includes an audit provision from the state auditor's office, an expiration date of 2036, and several reporting rules that must be created by the applicant, the independent school district, and the Comptroller's Office. The bill also includes a clawback provision if the applicant fails to meet job and wage number thresholds. Ten amendments were adopted, and the bill passed on the House Floor with a 120-24 vote. It will now be sent to the Senate for debate.

Finally, the Texas Senate passed a landmark energy efficiency bill, S.B. 258, requiring Texas transmission and distribution utilities to achieve energy efficiency savings equal to 1% of their customers' annual electric use. The bill aims to quadruple investments in energy efficiency by 2030 and now moves to the House for further consideration.

The House had a full schedule this week which included a Saturday calendar. The House attempted to take up S.B. 14, related to gender affirming care practices, but the bill’s progress was stalled twice due to points of order, noting technical issues in the bill analysis. S.B. 14 has been sent back to the House Committee on Public Health and should be on a House calendar this coming week. Unruly protestors both for and against the bill clashed in the House gallery, forcing Speaker Dade Phelan to take the rare step of clearing the gallery for the remainder of the day.

On Saturday, pursuant to allegations of sexual misconduct of a subordinate, the House General Investigating Committee recommended that Rep. Bryan Slaton be expelled from the House. This may be an entirely unprecedented step, but certainly not within the last 50+ years has the House voted to expel a member. Committee Chairman Rep. Andrew Murr expects to ask the full House to act on the Committee’s recommendation on Tuesday.

88th Texas Legislative Update Week 16

As the legislative session enters its final month, fatigue and tension are increasing. Frequent points of order and differing approaches to significant state issues intensify the friction between the House and Senate leadership. Major disagreements include using public funds for private education, strategies for managing rising property taxes and resolving problems with the ERCOT electric grid. Despite some shared priorities, critical issue negotiations may persist until the session's conclusion, prompting speculation about a potential special session.

The Texas House recently approved House Bill 18, a priority for Speaker Dade Phelan, which mandates digital service providers, including social media platforms, to obtain parental consent for minors under 18 to create accounts or enter agreements. In addition, the bill permits parents to request access to their children's social media data and requires companies to disclose specific information when displaying ads to minors. State agencies, small businesses, and higher education institutions are exempt from the bill's protocols. The bill now proceeds to the Senate.

An electric vehicle registration fee bill finally passed this week. Sen. Robert Nichols and Rep. Terry Canales worked together on S.B. 505 which imposes an additional registration fee on electric vehicles of $400 for two-year initial inspections and $200 for annual reviews. This comes after the past two legislative sessions of trying to push a registration fee on electric vehicles, which avoids the gasoline tax and thus the state’s major highway construction funding mechanism.

The Texas House reapproved the redistricting map of House districts on Wednesday, satisfying the constitutional requirement for ratifying legislative districts following the decennial census results, which were delayed due in 2021 due to the pandemic. The House and Senate maps are subjects of federal lawsuits alleging discrimination against Texans of color. Critics argue that the map inadequately represents the role of people of color in the state's population gains, as 95% of the four million new residents in the 2020 census were people of color.

Two bills, H.B. 11 and H.B. 100, support Texas schools by increasing per-student funding and enhancing teacher training and retention, and setting aside $4.5 billion to public education. These bills create a more robust education system, benefiting Texas's students, teachers, and communities.

Another important bill passed the House this week, H.B. 9 by Rep. Trent Ashby and its corresponding constitutional amendment H.J.R. 125. H.B. 9 establishes an infrastructure fund to expand broadband efforts and close the gap that exists in communities across Texas without a reliable internet connection or no internet connectivity at all. The House invested $5 billion to create the fund, and position Texas to take advantage of the federal funds available from the passage of the Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act. Voters will have the final say in November when they go to the polls to vote on the constitutional amendment that allows the state to spend the dollars and create the fund.

The House will be working next Saturday, May 6th. The first end of session deadline is May 8th, which is the last day for the House Committees to report House Bills and House Joint Resolutions.

The House will reconvene on Monday at 1 p.m., and the Senate at 11:00 a.m.


Texas General Election Results - November 9, 2022

Most statewide offices, including Governor and Lt. Governor, and all State Representative seats were on the ballot, as well as every state Senate district because of recent redistricting. Five State Senators and 25 State Representatives chose not to run for re-election, meaning a third of offices in each chamber will have new lawmakers. Every seat in the U.S. House of Representatives was also on the ballot, as well as a third of U.S. Senators, but neither Senator from Texas was facing the voters.


Senate Committee on Local Government

The Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, hosted a discussion on the lack of affordable housing in Texas and looked at possible remedies. Read a summary of their conversation through the link below.


House Select Committee on Health Care Reform

The House Select Committee, chaired by Rep. Sam Harless, is taking a comprehensive look at the costs of health care and how the state can drive down the cost to consumer while improving outcomes. Read summaries of their discussion through the links below.

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87th Texas Legislature-End of Session Report

As we pull our minds out of Session Mode and review the last five months, we’re caught somewhere between astonishment and relief. At the close of the interim, Texas was staring down one of the most challenging social, economic, and political periods in modern American history. We watched COVID-19 rage around the globe and a controversial Presidential election play out, and anxiously waited to determine the capacity of the 87thLegislature. Our mid-2020 revenue update from Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts (CPA) Glenn Hegar was grim, projecting a fiscal 2021 ending shortfall of almost $5B and a severe reduction in General Revenue-Related (GR-R) funds. State agencies and higher education institutions were directed to identify savings within their budgets that would reduce total GR and GR-R appropriations by five percent, and budget writers were charged with leveraging every available dollar to help Texans facing a global pandemic, a recession, and mass unemployment.

Amidst all of this, the 87th Texas Legislature got to work. House District 21 Rep. Dade Phelan was sworn in as Speaker of the House with broad support, and his endorsement from Gov. Greg Abbott suggested some much-needed harmony among state leadership. January’s revenue estimates from the Comptroller were surprisingly optimistic, projecting a much smaller shortfall and a little more flexibility in GR-R. We were reminded to be cautious, but able to exhale and enjoy Texas’ economic resilience. The Governor announced his priorities for the session and the Senate lowered the threshold of votes required to bring bills to the floor in a way that (almost magically) extended precedence to Republican legislative priorities. House and Senate committee assignments mitigated possible discord between the chambers by establishing Republicans as Chairs of nearly every powerful committee. Really, the biggest uncertainty (COVID-19 aside) was when we would receive updated Census numbers. Redistricting committees scheduled hearings and sought stakeholder feedback with little more than a hypothetical to work with. It was uncomfortable and hectic, but “Better the devil you know…”.

February’s winter storm was the devil we hadn’t met. The grief visited upon Texas homes and the realization that our carefully designed system didn’t protect them inspired grief in everyone else. We all wanted accountability, but no one seemed to know who was in charge. Finger-pointing was executed so freely we thought someone would lose an eye. The Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) were both—voluntarily or otherwise—gutted of their leadership. A flurry of bills was drafted and debated, and we appeared on the verge of dramatically changing Texas’ energy market structure. From a strictly logistical perspective, we were already short on time—bills were still awaiting committee referrals when Winter Storm Uri swept through Texas. Legislators, many of whom experienced the consequences of the storm firsthand, became consumed with finding a fix. For about a month Uri was the lead in every story, and you were an energy expert whether or not you’d ever intended to be. Between the infrastructural damage, grid-wide debt incurred by the emergency pricing protocol, the funds lost due to load-shed, and more, the storm created so much financial devastation that a recovery seemed impossible. The crises of the day expanded and multiplied, delaying the legislative process and further taxing a budget process that was already filled with difficult decisions.

Though seemingly impossible, by the end of April—we had House and Senate versions of a two-year budget in hand. Both documents incorporated the five percent reduction to agency budgets, stayed within constitutional spending limits, and honored last session’s commitments to education and public health in addition to prioritizing public safety. The chambers’ symbiosis was enhanced by a May revenue estimate from the CPA projecting increased ending balances for this biennium and the next, as well as improved conditions for the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF or “Rainy Day Fund”) for 2022-23. The Conference Committee’s work was accepted by both chambers in the final week of May, and but for the contention regarding distribution of federal funds, it was a conflict-free process. HB 2, the supplemental appropriations bill, was also passed without a hitch.

Elections, abortion, bail reform, broadband, public safety, religious and second amendment freedoms, etc. have dominated the last few weeks of session. While a few of those priorities have crossed the finish line, we’re not going to be able to tie this session up with a bow and lay it to rest. Though we’ve received new census numbers (and with them, two new U.S. Congressional seats), there will still be a special session required to finalize redistricting. Sixteen billion dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds are on their way, and the Governor and Legislature have been playing tug-of-war with federal monies since well before the session started. The Lieutenant Governor recently called for another special session after several of his priorities died on the House floor; and in the last 48 hours of session, Democratic House Members organized a walk-out to prevent a final vote on SB 7—this session’s highly controversial elections bill and one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s priorities. The Governor shortly thereafter responded by promising that the issue would be taken up during a special session (without specifying when that would take place) and expressing his intent to veto state budget appropriations for the legislative branch. “No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities. Stay tuned.”

In recent days since Sine Die, the Governor spoke to the estimated timing of a special session or two, stating there will be two special sessions: one on redistricting and COVID relief funds in September or October, and the other occurring before the Fall 2nd called Special. The 2nd called Special Session agenda will include SB 7, bail reform, and other issues yet to be determined. In other words… we’ll see you soon for the 87th First and Second Called Special Sessions.

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Week Ending May 22 , 2021

This week seemed like a game show wherein the focus was less about winning than it was about making a point… and winning. The House and Senate took turns letting each other’s priority bills either die or get incredibly close. They then exchanged reassurances seemingly contingent on the other chamber’s conduct. The Conferees on the budget, SB1, announced that they reached a compromise, but removed an amendment that guaranteed the Legislature some oversight over the allocation of federal COVID-19 funds - an amendment which had unanimous support in the House. Gov. Greg Abbott followed the announcement by reassuring the Legislature that it will have a role in that process during a special session in the fall. But with just seven days left in the Regular Session, the tension between the two chambers is reaching critical mass, and any issues left unresolved during the final week could be deferred to an incredibly tense, fast-paced special session.

Thankfully, we are seeing movement on some of the big priority bills. CSHB 2, the Supplemental Appropriations bill, was voted out of the Senate Finance Committee on Saturday. Finance Chair Sen. Jane Nelson stated that among other things, the substitute:

  • reflects a savings of $3.2 B in All Funds for the current biennium;
  • assumes that federal COVID-19 funds can be used to cover salaries and benefits for state employees involved in the pandemic under certain conditions;
  • reflects updated projections for the Foundation School Program and addresses shortfalls at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice;
  • includes resources for public safety and border security; and
  • provides funding to address IT needs across state government.

The Legislative Budget Board has provided an infographic further detailing the provisions in the substitute.

The Senate was unwilling to accept the House version of SB 7, the omnibus elections bill, and both chambers have appointed conferees to resolve the differences between the two versions of the bill. Senate conferees are Sens. Bryan Hughes (Chair), Dawn Buckingham, Paul Bettencourt, Lois Kolkhorst, and Beverly Powell. House conferees are Reps. Briscoe Cain (Chair), Terry Canales, Travis Clardy, Nicole Collier, and Jacey Jetton.

Rep. Matt Schaefer, House Chair of the Conference Committee on HB 1927, (or the “Constitutional Carry” bill) announced this week that the committee reached a decision. Pending approval by both chambers, the bill will be sent to the Governor’s desk where he has already committed his signature.

Wednesday, the House Committee on State Affairs passed their substitute to SB 3, the Senate’s omnibus energy bill. Some key differences include: 1) a requirement that the Public Utility Commission (PUC) and Railroad Commission (RRC) collaborate on weatherization plans for pipelines; 2) a substantive change to provide for a holistic approach to ancillary services; 3) a modification to require the PUC and RRC to collaborate in the process of designating which natural gas facilities are critical and for that information to be shared with certain entities; and 4) a removal of the prohibition on the sale of wholesale index pricing plans. The bill was placed on the major state calendar for a vote today.

In other news, Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughes will be stepping down on May 31st. Secretaries of State that are appointed between regular sessions are required to resign if the Senate does not confirm them during the regular session. Nominations Committee Chair Sen. Dawn Buckingham never took up Hughs’ nomination.

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Week Ending May 14, 2021

With just 21 days left of the 87th Legislative Session, collective fatigue and the race to the finish line are creating their usual confusion. Some committees have restricted their upcoming meetings to referred or pending business, and others are working through only two or three bills. Monday, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Glenn Hegar issued a revised Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE), projecting significantly more positive estimates for 2020-21 and 2022-23 ending balances ($113.88 B and $115.65 B, respectively) as well as the Economic Stabilization Fund’s 2022-23 ending balance ($12.12 B). Though uncertainty remains, Comptroller Hegar said Texas is well-positioned to recover from COVID-19 and its accompanying economic crisis. Though we’ve heard no updates from the Conference Committee for SB1, a little extra change can’t hurt, given the relative symbiosis with which they entered deliberations.

Following a debate that stretched roughly eight hours, the Senate passed HB 1927 (referred to as the constitutional carry bill) out of the chamber on party lines. Unless the House approves the Senate changes, the bill will travel next to a Conference Committee and then to the Governor’s desk, where Gov. Greg Abbott has already committed his signature.

Likely also heading to a Conference Committee is SB 7, the omnibus elections bill. After multiple postponements, another near-fatal Point of Order, and a plethora of amendments, the bill passed out of the full House Friday on a vote of 78-64. At this point it heads back to the Senate, where Senators may concur in House amendments and send the bill to the Governor, or object to House amendments and request a conference committee be appointed.

In other news, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas has taken the first steps towards making changes in scarcity pricing following the financial turmoil created by Winter Storm Uri. In proposed amendments to Texas Administrative Code Title 16, Ch. 25, the PUC recommends modifying the value of the low system-wide offer cap (LCAP) by eliminating a provision that ties the value of LCAP to the natural gas price index and replacing it with a provision that ensures resource entities are able to recover their actual marginal costs in scarcity pricing situations. This change follows the enrollment of SR 342, which was passed out of the Senate on a vote of 30-0 and urges the PUC “… to significantly reduce the high system-wide offer cap and evaluate changes to the market structure”.

Lastly, with more than a quarter of Texans fully vaccinated, the Texas Senate on Monday joined the House in relaxing COVID-19 restrictions, lifting the mask mandate and increasing the number of staff allowed on the floor.

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Week Ending May 8, 2021

With just 21 days left of the 87th Legislative Session, collective fatigue and the race to the finish line are creating their usual confusion. Some committees have restricted their upcoming meetings to referred or pending business, and others are working through only two or three bills. Monday, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Glenn Hegar issued a revised Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE), projecting significantly more positive estimates for 2020-21 and 2022-23 ending balances ($113.88 B and $115.65 B, respectively) as well as the Economic Stabilization Fund’s 2022-23 ending balance ($12.12 B). Though uncertainty remains, Comptroller Hegar said Texas is well-positioned to recover from COVID-19 and its accompanying economic crisis. Though we’ve heard no updates from the Conference Committee for SB1, a little extra change can’t hurt, given the relative symbiosis with which they entered deliberations.

Following a debate that stretched roughly eight hours, the Senate passed HB 1927 (referred to as the constitutional carry bill) out of the chamber on party lines. Unless the House approves the Senate changes, the bill will travel next to a Conference Committee and then to the Governor’s desk, where Gov. Greg Abbott has already committed his signature.

Likely also heading to a Conference Committee is SB 7, the omnibus elections bill. After multiple postponements, another near-fatal Point of Order, and a plethora of amendments, the bill passed out of the full House Friday on a vote of 78-64. At this point it heads back to the Senate, where Senators may concur in House amendments and send the bill to the Governor, or object to House amendments and request a conference committee be appointed.

In other news, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas has taken the first steps towards making changes in scarcity pricing following the financial turmoil created by Winter Storm Uri. In proposed amendments to Texas Administrative Code Title 16, Ch. 25, the PUC recommends modifying the value of the low system-wide offer cap (LCAP) by eliminating a provision that ties the value of LCAP to the natural gas price index and replacing it with a provision that ensures resource entities are able to recover their actual marginal costs in scarcity pricing situations. This change follows the enrollment of SR 342, which was passed out of the Senate on a vote of 30-0 and urges the PUC “… to significantly reduce the high system-wide offer cap and evaluate changes to the market structure”.

Lastly, with more than a quarter of Texans fully vaccinated, the Texas Senate on Monday joined the House in relaxing COVID-19 restrictions, lifting the mask mandate and increasing the number of staff allowed on the floor.

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Week Ending April 30, 2021

The Conference Committee for the House and Senate committee substitutes to Senate Bill 1 convened this week to hear a brief overview from the Legislative Budget Board on the differences in the two bills before recessing to get to work. Senate conferees are Sens. Jane Nelson (Chair), Joan Huffman (Articles I, IV and V), Lois Kolkhorst (Article II), Larry Taylor (Article III), and Robert Nichols (Articles VI, VII, and VIII). On the House side, Rep. Greg Bonnen serves as Chair, and the remaining conferees are Reps. Mary Gonzalez (Articles I, IV and V), Giovanni Capriglione (Article II), Terry Wilson (Article III), and Armando Walle (Articles VI, VII, VIII).

Hopefully lending optimism to the Conference Committee’s proceedings, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Glenn Hegar announced that he will issue a revised Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE) next week. He will hold a virtual press conference at 2:00 PM on Monday, May 3, 2021 to discuss the estimate. Details can be found here.

Another significant piece of legislation that moved this week was SB 7, the Senate’s leading elections bill. After being emptied of many of its original provisions and refilled with the language in HB 6, it was voted out of the House Elections Committee on party lines. The inevitable tension this will create between the House and Senate could exacerbate the conflict surrounding one of this session’s most controversial issues.

Thursday, the House voted 99 to 46 to remove the requirement to that Members must wear masks in Committee meetings and on the House floor. The Senate has not indicated that it will vote on a similar measure.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced the delivery of the 2020 Census Apportionment results to the President, finally giving Redistricting committees some current information to work with. Texas’ new resident population is 29,145,505, up from 3,999,944 in 2010. As a result, Texas will gain two new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Earlier this week, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) announced the Board’s selection of Brad Jones as Interim President and CEO, effective May 4, 2021. Jones previously served as former ERCOT Vice President of Commercial Operations and later as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.

Last night’s special election in Congressional District 6 to fill the unexpired term of recently deceased U.S. Rep. Ron Wright resulted in a runoff election between Republicans Susan Wright (19.21%) and State Rep. Jake Ellzey (13.85%). Wright is the widow of the former Congressman and Rep. Ellzey currently represents Texas House District 10.

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Week Ending April 23, 2021

The highlight of this week was the full House marking up the biennial budget - House Committee Substitute to SB 1. There were 240 amendments filed ahead of the hearing. Those withdrawn or rejected included an attempt to expand the state’s Medicaid program, and an amendment to prohibit the Attorney General from using taxpayer dollars to contest election results in other states. Those adopted included an amendment requiring the Legislature to meet in a special session to appropriate incoming federal funds, an amendment prohibiting the use of state dollars on school vouchers, and an amendment liquidating the Texas Enterprise Fund and moving those dollars to the property tax relief fund. At this point, both chambers’ substitutes will go to a Conference Committee to work out the differences between the bills.

Other key House bills that moved this week included HB 2021 and HB 1525. HB 2021 would create a Board of Administration of Federal Funds, comprising the presiding officers of the House and Senate and the chairs and vice chairs of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees. The Committee Substitute to HB 1525 is a $330M clean-up bill to HB 3, the sweeping school finance legislation passed in 2019. The bill would resolve outstanding issues related to local taxation and revenue, charter school funding, the fast growth allotment, and the teacher incentive allotment, among others. CSHB 1525 was received in the Senate on Friday.

On the Senate side, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick this week created a Special Committee on Constitutional Issues. The Committee is chaired by Republican Sens. Charles Schwertner and Brian Birdwell, and only one bill has been referred—HB 1927, the permitless carry bill passed out of the House on April 19th. The bill has not yet been set for a hearing. Additionally, Lt. Gov. Patrick issued a release commending the Senate on passing legislation for 25 of the 30 issues enumerated in his list of priorities for the 87th Session. Bills passed include the state budget, the power grid omnibus bill, and the Star Spangled Banner Protection Act, among others.

The Department of State Health Services announced this week that Texas will receive more than 1.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for Week 20 of vaccine distribution. The federal government is expected to distribute an estimated 470,000 first and second doses to pharmacy locations, federally qualified health centers, and dialysis centers.

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Week Ending April 16, 2021

The Senate’s Committee Substitute to SB 1 was passed out of the House Appropriations Committee on Monday and the House has since released its substitute. While more compromises will be made moving forward, HAC Chair Rep. Greg Bonnen indicated that the bill will likely be taken up by the full House on April 22nd. An important spending item to watch will be Medicaid, as in a surprise development, the Biden administration on Friday rescinded approval for the roughly $100B 1115 Medicaid Waiver. Texas budget-writers will have to consider the implications to health and human services programs under the waiver for the 2022-23 biennium.

CSSB 10 was received in the House on Thursday after the Senate voted it out 17-13. The bill prohibits cities and counties from using taxpayer dollars to hire lobbyists. They would still be able to send city council members or full-time staff to advocate with the Legislature, but could no longer retain registered lobbyists. Pursuant to an amendment by Sen. Roland Gutierrez, an exception will be made for military issues.

CSSJR 45 passed the Senate 29-2, and has since been received in the House and referred to State Affairs. The legislation sets certain thresholds to trigger a special session in the event that a disaster or emergency lasts more than 30 days (or in a nuclear or radiological event, 90 days). If the crisis affects half of the state’s population in a disaster area, two-fifths of Texas counties, or two-thirds of the counties in Texas’ trauma service regions, the Legislature will be automatically convened to weigh in.

In other news, Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest appointment to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas is Peter Lake, currently serving on the Texas Water Development Board. Pending Senate confirmation, the Governor will designate him as Chairman of the PUC. The Senate Committee on Nominations recommended Monday that the full Senate confirm Will McAdams, Gov. Abbott’s previous appointment to the PUC.

The Department of State Health Services announced this week that Texas will receive nearly two million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for Week 19 of vaccine distribution. The federal government is expected to distribute an estimated 500,000 first and second doses to pharmacy locations, federally qualified health centers, and dialysis centers.

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Week Ending April 9, 2021

As part of an ongoing discussion regarding state administration of federal relief funds, Rep. Greg Bonnen’s CSHB 2021was debated at length in House Appropriations on Thursday, which creates a Board of Administration of Federal Funds to advise the Governor when the Legislature is not in session. The board would consist of 10 members, including House and Senate presiding officers, the Chairs and Vice Chairs of each chamber’s budget committee, and an additional two members from each chamber. The debate centers on the constitutionality and efficacy of this particular mechanism, as opposed to other collaborative solutions. Education stakeholders have expressed concern that the Legislature will not come to an agreement within this budget cycle and will instead punt the issue to an interim study, rejecting by default the billions of federal dollars currently available for Texas schools. Alternative solutions discussed by members included contingency riders for funding not-yet appropriated, and simply having a special session so that the budget-writers can officially convene to receive and appropriate the funds.

Speaking of insufficient time, Rep. John Raney filed HJR 152 in mid-March, and has since been working to build support among his House colleagues. The constitutional amendment would allow for a two-day “organizational session” in the month prior to each legislative session, during which time the Legislature would elect the House Speaker, swear in new members, and vote on the House rules for the session. Committee assignments could then be made in the weeks leading up to the regular session. Rep. Raney argues that the change would save the Legislature critical days, leaving more room for policymaking. The bill has been referred to the House State Affairs Committee but not yet scheduled for a hearing.

Some big priority bills moved this week. Tuesday, the Texas Senate passed SB 1 out of the full chamber and it is scheduled for a hearing in House Appropriations on Monday; the Committee Substitute to SB 6, the COVID-19 liability bill was passed and reported engrossed on Thursday. Additionally, the Committee Substitute to HB 5, the statewide broadband bill, passed to engrossment on Friday.

At the federal level, U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R) rolled out a bill, which, if passed, would authorize the federal government to offer grants to states to support weatherization efforts. The authors stated that this will be a complementary to the efforts currently being made at the State level, and U.S. Rep. Johnson suggested that states “will have some responsibility to match the grants.”

The Department of State Health Services announced this week that Texas will receive 1.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for Week 18 of vaccine distribution. The federal government is expected to distribute 500,000 first and second doses to pharmacy locations, federally qualified health centers, and dialysis centers.

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Week Ending April 2, 2021

Both the House and Senate advanced legislative responses to Winter Storm Uri this week, with the Senate’s SB3, and a six-bill package in the House: HB10, HB11, HB12, HB13, HB16, and HB17. The cumulative total of the legislation from both chambers would provide for a new energy alert system, prohibit variable-rate plans, mandate weatherization, require Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) Board members to be based in Texas, create a Texas Energy Reliability Council to assist in fuel delivery during disasters, require mapping of the energy supply system, and more.

It’s important to note that none of these bills directly address the spike in wholesale electricity prices during the storm, as the chambers still diverge on the right solution for the market volatility created by that decision and subsequent debt incurred by many ERCOT participants. SB 2142, the Senate’s repricing bill, has not yet been set for a hearing in House State Affairs. Rather, the House appears to be seriously considering securitization. Securitization is a financing instrument that would allow entities or groups to issue debt over several decades through highly rated bonds without the debt expressing on the entities’ balance sheets and damaging their credit ratings. A key sticking point is allocating that debt as fairly as possible, while acknowledging that it’s impossible to find a perfect solution for everyone. Another issue is time—the Legislature only has so many days to intervene before the market settles and participants are fixed as either winners or (possibly fatally) losers.

Thursday, Governor Greg Abbott named Will McAdams as his nominee to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas. McAdams is currently President of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas and previously served as an aide to multiple state senators as well as former Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. His appointment will require Senate confirmation. Additionally, the PUC announced this week that Davida Dwyer will serve as deputy director of the agency’s Legal Division and head of the agency’s enforcement efforts.

In other news, the Senate made progress on another one of Governor Greg Abbott’s Emergency Items through unanimous passage of SB 5, the statewide broadband bill. This legislation would create a State Broadband Development Office charged with identifying gaps in broadband access throughout the state, and incentivizing expanded access and affordability. Additionally, both the. House and Senate advanced their elections security bills, SB 7 and HB 6. HB 6 received its second attempt in a public hearing on Thursday after narrowly avoiding a fatal point of order last week. SB 7 was finally passed out of the Senate on a party-line vote after a debate that stretched into the early morning.

Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed the Committee Substitute to Senate Bill 1, and it has been placed on the intent calendar. CSSB1 appropriates $250.7 billion in All Funds (AF) and $117.9 billion in General Revenue (GR) for FY 2022-23, representing a 2.6% growth in GR. Highlights include additional staff resources to enhance PUC oversight of ERCOT activities; $34.4 M to support Rape Crisis Centers to provide mental health counseling and to address waitlists; $30 M for new rural and urban community mental health beds; and $3.1 B to fund enrollment growth for public education. House Bill 1 has yet to leave the Appropriations Committee.

The House and Senate are adjourned until Tuesday, April 6th, due to the Easter holiday.

The Texas Department of State Health Services announced that the state will receive more than 2.5 million doses of COVID-19 for Week 17 of distribution. The federal government is expected to directly distribute 900,000 doses to pharmacy locations, dialysis centers, and federally qualified health centers. Additionally, DSHS launched the Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler, allowing people to sign up for a vaccine through multiple public health departments across the state.

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Week Ending March 26, 2021

Legislative focus shifted this week to the other priorities enumerated in Governor Greg Abbott’s list of emergency items. Logistical scuffles resulted in the delay of House Bill 6 and Senate Bill 7, two controversial elections bills filed in accordance with Gov. Abbott’s emergency item regarding “elections integrity.” Monday, Democrats pushed back against SB 7 by “tagging” the bill, meaning they delayed the hearing for 48 hours. However, the bill has since passed out of the Senate State Affairs Committee and is headed to the full Senate. HB 6 was caught up in a procedural error when Rep. Briscoe Cain, Chair of the House Elections Committee, recessed for lunch without officially declaring that they were doing so or setting a certain time for them to return. This could generate a “point of order” or violation of the chamber rules, requiring him to cancel the hearing and start the process for this bill over. Currently, the bill is scheduled for a hearing in the House Elections Committee on April 1st.

The Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 6, the COVID-19 liability bill, was heard in a meeting of the Senate Committee on Business & Commerce on Tuesday, generating extensive stakeholder input before it was left pending. Author Sen. Kelly Hancock’s expressed intent “… is to protect the well-meaning health care providers, first responders, large and small businesses, religious institutions and non-profit entities and education institutes from frivolous lawsuits related to COVID-19.” The bill protects individuals and entities unless they knowingly or maliciously acted in a manner that would compromise health and safety. Support for the bill is extensive and diverse, including entities such as the Texas Assisted Living Association, the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association, the Texas Oil and Gas Association, and more. Given its scope, this is a bill to watch.

Thursday, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) released its final Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy (SARA) for the spring season and its preliminary assessment for the summer season. The preliminary summer SARA holds that they are well prepared for the summer. However, “with continued economic growth across the state, ERCOT anticipates… a new system-wide peak demand record.” After Uri, ERCOT has developed additional steps to ensure the protection of the system during the summer’s extreme heat. These include: coordination with transmission companies to limit planned outages, requesting generators to contact gas suppliers to identify any pipeline activities that would affect gas availability, and communications coordination with market participants.

The U.S. House Committee on Energy & Commerce this week conducted a hearing on Texas’ energy grid failure. Witnesses included Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, ERCOT’s Bill Magness, and Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick. Find their written testimony to the Committee here.

The Texas Department of State Health Services announced that on Monday, March 29th, Texas will expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults in Texas. Additionally, the state will receive more than 1 million first doses of COVID-19 for Week 16 of distribution. The federal government is expected to directly distribute more than 200,000 first doses to pharmacy locations and federally qualified health centers.

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Week Ending March 19, 2021

Following last week’s testimony from then-Public Utility Commission (PUC) Chair Arthur D’Andrea that any action to retroactively change the price of wholesale electricity must come from the Legislature, the Texas State Senate filed and passed SB 2142 within a day. As introduced, the bill would reset electricity prices to pre-storm market levels for the period beginning 11:55 p.m. on February 17th and ending 9 a.m. on February 19th. SB 2142 has been sent to the House and referred to the Committee on State Affairs, but no companion legislation has been filed.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has urged the House to move the bill as quickly as possible, referencing an opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that the PUC has the jurisdiction and authority to reprice, as well as the closing window for settling or contesting ERCOT contracts.

Both legislative chambers have indicated that any action on their part will have unintended consequences. However, they appear to diverge on which strategic approach will yield the most whole-making results for the state relative to the damage caused by the storm. The House has relied on a more deliberative process from the beginning, and their reluctance to quickly advance SB 2142 seems influenced in part by testimony from Chris Edmonds, global head of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE)—the clearinghouse that manages futures and options on the ERCOT wholesale electric market.

During a meeting of the House State Affairs Committee, Edmonds stated that “Retroactively modifying prices is not the way to resolve the issues from February… Making a decision to reset the rules after the fact with have profound and detrimental consequences for economic activity within Texas.” Members floated alternative solutions such as securitizing debts incurred by the storm or utilizing a windfall tax to tax entities that generated excess profits through the emergency price hikes. The Lt. Governor has again sought direct intervention from the Governor, stating during a press conference that he should use his emergency powers to reprice the electricity charges. Gov. Greg Abbott has yet to respond.

On Tuesday, Gov. Abbott requested and received the resignation of Comm. Arthur D’Andrea. The Governor has statedthat he will appoint a replacement “within the coming days” but we have no more specifics at this time.

In other news, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) announced Texas will receive more than 900,000 first doses of COVID-19 vaccine for Week 15 of vaccine distribution. DSHS will allocate 685,470 doses to at least 481 providers in 183 counties. The federal government is expected to distribute more than 230,000 additional first doses to pharmacy locations and federally qualified health centers.

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Week Ending March 12, 2021

Following Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to lift the statewide mask mandate, the State Preservation Board (SPB) this week amended the Capitol guidelines for visitors to say that masks are “strongly encouraged” rather than “required.” This recommendation applies to public areas of the building; visitors must adhere to House and Senate COVID-19 rules when in the chambers. Neither the House nor the Senate have taken any official steps towards revising their rules, so previously established COVID-19 restrictions still stand.

In the latest round of Texas vs Winter Storm Uri, a second Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas Commissioner, Shelly Botkin, resigned on Tuesday, leaving the newly appointed Chairman Arthur D’Andrea as the sole remaining Commissioner of the PUC. Additionally, the PUC announced that Adrianne Brandt will be the new Director of Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) Accountability, working to enhance PUC oversight of ERCOT. Brandt will be assisted by former ERCOT COO, Brad Jones.

In response to the PUC’s announcement last week that they would not reverse ERCOT’s $16 billion overcharge, state leadership and the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction have made it clear that will not be the end of the discussion. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued a release to that effect; a bipartisan group of Senators authored a letter to Comm. D’Andrea urging him, “in the strongest possible terms” to reprice the market; and Gov. Greg Abbott revised his initial list of Emergency Items yet again to include the desired modification. Meanwhile, House Speaker Phelan urged caution, stating that “the pricing structure ERCOT employed during Winter Storm Uri requires a meticulous audit and data analysis.”

Thursday, in ongoing hearings on the subject, House State Affairs and Senate Jurisprudence heard testimony from Comm. D’Andrea. He informed the two bodies that the Independent Market Monitor (IMM) had revised its previous estimate down to $3.2 billion, and he would have more information on that soon. He believes the formula dictating storm pricing does not legally constitute an “error,” and therefore reversing it would be both illegal and unethical. Further, given the complexities and various entities involved, clawing back those funds would more likely financially destabilize the state than it would address the damage to consumers. He indicated that any official action in this area should come from the Legislature. Following Comm. D’Andrea’s testimony in Senate Jurisprudence, Lt. Gov. Patrick issued a release arguing that the Commissioner abdicated his responsibility and authority on this issue, and called on Gov. Abbott to intercede and replace Comm. D’Andrea when the other PUC vacancies are filled. Gov. Abbott has since refused suggesting that solutions to these issues are squarely in the purview of the courts and the Legislature.

House State Affairs also held a lengthy discussion on Thursday regarding the Committee Substitute for House Bill 3, or, the “Texas Pandemic Response Act” by Rep. Dustin Burrows. The author indicated that the intent of the bill is to streamline pandemic responses and clarify the Governor’s executive authority. CSHB 3 would therefore establish the Pandemic Disaster Legislative Oversight Committee, which would have the power to review proclamations, orders, or rules issued or adopted by the Governor and terminate them in whole or in part. The Committee would comprise the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker of the House, as well as the chairs of select House and Senate Committees.

In other news, the bill filing deadline was Friday, March 12th; more than 900 bills were filed by the end of the day. In the House, budget rider amendments may be submitted from 9:00 a.m. Monday through Friday at 5:00 p.m.

The Department of State Health Services (DSHS) announced that beginning March 15th, Texas will expand vaccinationsto individuals 50-64 years of age. Texas will receive more than 800,000 first doses of COVID-19 vaccine for Week 14 of vaccine distribution. DSHS will allocate 656,810 doses to at least 445 providers in 178 counties. The federal government will distribute an additional 200,000 first doses to pharmacy locations and federally qualified health centers.

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Week Ending March 5, 2021

Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order rescinding his statewide mask mandate and permitting all businesses and facilities to open at 100% capacity. The Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House have both issued statements in support of the order. Speaker Dade Phelan also indicated that COVID-19 rules may be relaxed in the Texas House, pending a vote of the full body. It is unclear exactly what this will mean for legislative activities, as we have not yet seen updated Capitol guidelines from the State Preservation Board, nor can we be certain of the outcome should the House and Senate hold votes to revise the rules.

Leadership of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the Public Utility Commission (PUC) stepped down this week, following widespread criticism after Texas’ winter storm, (recently given the name “Winter Storm Uri”). PUC Commissioner DeAnn Walker resigned, and has since been replaced as chair by Comm. Arthur D’Andrea. On Wednesday, the ERCOT board convened in a private session that culminated in the termination of Bill Magness, ERCOT President and CEO. He is the most recent departure after seven other board members resigned last month.

The financial machinations of the energy grid were upended during the storm, creating more than a few knots to be untangled in its wake. Potomac Economics, the PUC’s independent market monitor, found that ERCOT erroneously overcharged power companies to the tune of $16 billion. The PUC raised energy prices to $9,000 per megawatt-hour in order to incentivize power generation and balance the volatile relationship between supply and demand that was caused by the storm. ERCOT maintained emergency alert status until the morning of Friday, February 19th, consequently maintaining the higher prices. However, the monitor found that ERCOT should have dropped the prices when widespread outages ended on the 17th. The PUC has announced that they will not reverse the charges, stating that such a move would have unintended consequences.

Additionally, in response to recommendations from the Independent Market Monitor (IMM), the PUC voted to claw backpayments ERCOT made to generators for ancillary services which were not actually provided during the storm. Ancillary services are electricity reserves contracted in advance and designed to help ERCOT maintain energy transmission and reliable operation. The IMM identified instances during the storm where ancillary services were paid for but not ultimately provided due to forced outages or diminished capacity. The PUC therefore ruled that payments made to electric generators that failed to provide must be returned.

The House Committee on Insurance heard invited testimony from insurance industry leaders on the financial consequences of the storm. While the full scope is still uncertain, early estimates from the industry project billion-dollar losses. Albert Betts, Executive Director for the Insurance Council of Texas, stated that in terms of losses, this will be the most significant winter storm event in Texas history. Further, he said that at least 150,000 claims had been filed as of March 2nd, most of which are expected to be homeowner claims. Doug Slape, Deputy Commissioner for the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) told legislators that they can expect top-sheet loss estimates on March 12, and the information will continue to be updated weekly.

In other news, House Speaker Phelan has appointed Rep. Armando Walle to the Legislative Budget Board, replacing Rep. Oscar Longoria. Rep. Mary Gonzalez has also been reappointed.

This week, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) notified vaccine providers that they should include school and child care workers in vaccine administration. Additionally, the DSHS announced that more than one million first doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be shipped to providers throughout the state for week 13 of vaccine distribution.

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Week Ending February 26, 2021

The chaos caused by Texas’ winter storm didn’t die down this week so much as it shifted its focus and expanded its reach. Legislative activity resumed and intensified in the midst of the ongoing fallout of Texas’ winter storm, and committees of both the House and Senate held marathon meetings to determine root causes and assign accountability for the crisis. Legislators pressed for answers regarding what went wrong and who was at fault, but largely confronted the reality of systemwide failures and more than enough blame to go around. Testimony was lengthy and exhaustive, but did reveal common themes for the failures from which the state is trying to recover:

  1. Delegation of Authority. Grid actors from the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to industry leaders throughout the state trusted the design and mechanics of the system and shared in our collective surprise when it failed. Through their testimony, the PUC, ERCOT, and the Texas Railroad Commission all expressed uncertainty regarding the outer limits of their authority in this crisis.
  2. Communication. Testimony consistently revealed inadequate communication not only between state agencies, state leadership, and industry heads, but between those entities and the public. Panelists and legislators repeatedly discussed the possibility of an Amber Alert-style warning system or designation of an outside entity responsible for crisis communications.
  3. Energy Integration. From collection to distribution, the natural gas industry and its infrastructure have not been fully integrated with the wholesale electricity market, and there is no central authority that oversees and understands both fields. Natural gas production and distribution was impacted by a lack of electricity, but electricity production was likewise limited by a dearth of natural gas.
  4. Weatherization. While this was acknowledged as a key contributing factor, witnesses suggested it was not the primary factor. Additionally, it will be a complex and expensive process to winterize systems without undermining their resiliency to Texas’ more consistently hot summer temperatures.
  5. Data. Those testifying were unanimous in their assertion that while they knew a severe weather event was coming, they had no idea that it would be as bad as it was. The forecast remained comparatively optimistic until the final hours and minutes when ERCOT realized that the state was in danger of losing the entire grid.

It remains unclear how the Legislature will mitigate the added financial impacts to consumers. Wholesale electric prices escalated more than 7,400% during the storm, responding by design in an attempt to get generators to push more power to the grid. Consumers with fixed-rate billing arrangements may be shielded from the price hike, but those with variable-rate arrangements that are tied to the wholesale price may be on the hook for higher bills—in some cases for thousands of dollars. We will continue to provide updates on this issue as the investigations evolve.

In other news, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick released his list of 31 priorities for the 87th Legislature, found here. Unsurprisingly, top billing went to the state budget and reforms to the state’s energy system, followed immediately by the “Star Spangled Banner Protection Act.” Other priorities include pandemic response legislation, a bill banning state agencies from selling personal data, and statewide broadband access.

Bill referrals have finally begun in the House of Representatives, and a slate of hearings are scheduled for next week. Additionally, Republican David Spiller swept the runoff election in House District 68 with more than 60 percent of the vote. He will serve the remainder of former State Representative (now-Senator) Drew Springer’s term.

The Department of State Health Services (DSHS) announced that not only will Texas be receiving 676,280 first doses of COVID-19 vaccine for the week of March 1, but that the state has now administered more than 5 million doses. Almost 1.7 million individuals are fully vaccinated and more than 3.3 million have received at least one dose. Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine for adults over the age of 18.

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Week Ending February 19, 2021

This week was dominated by the severe weather that swept through Texas, nearly overwhelming the state’s energy grid. Millions of Texans went days without power and/or water and only Friday did the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) announce an end to the emergency blackouts. Water, however, continues to be an issue. Cities across Texas have warned of dangerously low water levels and millions of Texans have received boil water notices. The infrastructural aftermath of the storm will take weeks or more to sort through, and Gov. Greg Abbott has called on the state legislature to prioritize preventing similar catastrophes in the future this session.

House Speaker Phelan called for a joint meeting of the Committees on State Affairs and Energy Resources to consider the factors that led to the statewide electrical blackouts. That meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, February 25. Senator Joan Huffman, Chairwoman of the Senate Jurisprudence Committee, also announced that the Committee will gather to investigate the legal responsibilities of ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas. Sen. Kelly Hancock has also called a meeting of his Senate Business and Commerce Committee on February 25th. Additionally, Gov. Abbott provided an update Thursday wherein he announced that he will be requesting a Major Disaster Declaration from the White House and that he has added the mandatory winterization of Texas’ power system and the requisite funding to his list of Emergency Items for this session. President Joe Biden has since said that he will be signing the disaster declaration and will visit Texas soon.

Reacting to the extreme weather conditions and responding to the suffering of millions of Texans is rightly the top priority of state government at the moment. However, the crisis has also dramatically affected the ability of the Legislature to conduct the public’s business in the near term. The session is only twenty weeks long, and this week was essentially lost, as members and staff grappled with the crisis. To date, no bills have been referred to committee and no bill hearings are scheduled, which is considerably behind the typical timeline. Between COVID-19 and the weather disaster, not to mention the budget shortfall, the ability for the Legislature to conduct meaningful business is markedly compromised. Securing the passage of legislation – a daunting exercise under the best of circumstances – may prove to be beyond the feasibility of lawmakers for all but the most critical bills.

The Texas Legislative Council has extended the submission deadline for language drafting requests. Executive Director Jeff Archer asked that legislators submit their requests by 6:00 P.M. on Wednesday, February 24.

In other news, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Greg Bonnen released Appropriations Subcommittee Assignments for the 87th Legislative Session. Remember also that the special election in House District 68 is on Tuesday, February 23. It is unclear whether the Governor will reschedule given that the early voting period was enveloped by the blackouts.

The COVID-19 vaccination process has been severely impacted by the storm, and last week’s planned vaccine distribution to Texas was postponed due to the weather. The Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has announcedthat the state will receive 591,920 first doses of COVID-19 vaccine for the week of Feb. 22, to be distributed to 563 providers in 230 counties across Texas.

Texas Power Lobby Ranking 2021

Each session, Mike Hailey, publisher of Capitol Inside magazine, prepares his “Texas Lobby Power Rankings” of the lobbyists that most influence the legislative process. Eric has been listed each of the past five sessions, including this year. Thank you, Mike, for your coverage of the Texas Legislature and your recognition of the important role that lobbyists play in the legislative process.

Click on the image below for full coverage

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Week Ending February 12, 2021

Senate Finance Committee meetings commenced this week with updates from the Comptroller of Public Accounts (CPA) and the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) on the financial condition of the state. The Comptroller’s presentation was largely a reiteration of his Biennial Revenue Estimate, but he did give us several important points to chew on:

  • $271 million that is constitutionally required to be dedicated to the state’s Guaranteed College Tuition Plan, can be added back to his estimates of available spending as long as they are appropriated through the state budget.
  • While the CPA has a record of emergency federal funds flowing into the Texas through the State Treasury, estimates for funds going to smaller entities can only be extrapolations or “back of the envelope” calculations. He will be working to ascertain which entities receiving indeterminate federal funds may also be seeking state appropriations.

The Legislative Budget Board’s presentation also revealed several key pieces of data for state budget-writers:

  • Due to the influx of COVID-19 funds, the Medicaid program may not require supplemental appropriations—the first time that’s happened in years.
  • The LBB estimates that federal COVID-19 funds may also completely erase the CPA’s projected $946 M deficit for 2020-21.

During the LBB’s presentation, lawmakers expressed concerns about state agencies selling client data and that the resulting profits are not included in budget figures. Finance Chair Sen. Nelson requested that the LBB conduct a survey to ascertain which—if any—state agencies are involved.

More budget-related news: Lt. Governor Dan Patrick told the Texas Business Leadership Council that he wants to direct“the first $6 billion that we get from the federal government” to cover a shortfall in the Texas Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, to hopefully avoid an unemployment insurance tax hike for businesses already stretched to their limits by COVID-19. He also threw cold water on proposed expansions of gambling in Texas, saying possible increases in state revenue were not sufficiently persuasive for him to support the effort.

In other news: The first House Appropriations Committee meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 17th. Some bittersweet clarity on the redistricting process, as the U.S. Census Bureau announced Friday that redistricting data will be delivered to all states by September 30, 2021—guaranteeing at least one special session. And remember that early votingfor the special election runoff in House District 68 begins on the 16th.

The Department of State Health Services (DSHS) announced that Texas will receive 407,650 first doses of COVID-19 next week, which will be distributed to 302 providers in 158 counties, including 85 large hub providers. Through the State Mobile Vaccine Pilot Program, Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) announced the deployment of mobile vaccine teams to underserved counties. Additionally, the Governor stated that three FEMA-run mass vaccination sites are expected to open in underserved communities in Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth before the end of the month.


A sense of relief as Senate Finance begins to dig into Texas budget

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says upcoming bill would defend Texas energy sector from boycotts

Texas launches multimillion dollar campaign to combat vaccine hesitancy

Austin-area farmers, fearing 'grim' freeze, scramble to harvest, protect crops

Gov. Greg Abbott plans to relax business restrictions soon if COVID-19 numbers continue to drop from record highs

Online students won't have to take STAAR test, Texas Education Commissioner Morath says

Texas reports fewer than 9,000 people hospitalized for COVID-19 for the first time since December

Texas lawmakers push to switch immunization registry to opt-out after COVID-19 complications

Election Results and Summary: Primary Run-Off and Special Election in SD-14 July 14, 2020

Election Summary

TOP STORIES: Among the key races that received the most scrutiny, MJ Hegar narrowly prevailed in the closely-watched U.S. Senate Democratic Primary to take on longtime Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn. Hegar was the front runner for much of the primary, and benefitted from her support from the traditional Democratic Party infrastructure and her fundraising prowess.

Meanwhile, former Travis Co. Judge Sarah Eckhardt and current State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (both Democrats from Austin) appear to be headed to a runoff in the special election in State Senate District 14. The pair easily outdistanced their four other challengers to replace the retired Sen. Kirk Watson, whose term ends in 2022.

And although it would have been considered heresy a few short years ago, a recently released Dallas Morning News poll suggests that Texas is up for grabs. The poll indicates that former Vice President Joe Biden actually leads President Donald Trump by a five-point margin (48-43) among likely voters. The same poll suggests that Cornyn leads Hegar by a thirteen-point margin, but that’s not a complete picture – Hegar should see a meaningful bump as Democrats coalesce around one candidate, meaning Cornyn could have a real race on his hands.


Texas Senate

In the Democratic primary in Senate District 19, State Rep. Roland Gutierrez prevailed over Xochil Pena Rodriguez for the opportunity to challenge State Sen. Pete Flores in the general election. Sen. Flores, a Republican from Pleasanton, won the historically Democratic seat in a special election in 2018 with a great deal of support from Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, but if the Democrats have a big year, one could expect this seat to flip back.

In the Rio Grande Valley, in Senate District 27, State Senator Eddie Lucio was victorious in the runoff for the Democratic primary against newcomer Sarah Stapleton Barrera. The longtime state senator was forced into a runoff by a crowded field.

Despite his being a Democrat, Senator Lucio’s victory is a significant win for the Senate’s Republican governing majority led by Lt. Gov Patrick. Should Sen. Flores fail to retain Senate District 19, the partisan split in the Senate will drop to 18 Republicans and 13 Democrats. However, Sen. Lucio can frequently be counted on by the Republican leadership to support certain GOP priorities, and presumably Barrera would have been a more reliable Democratic vote. Typically, 19 votes are required in the Senate to pass legislation, and with the periodic defection of Senator Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) on some issues, Gov. Patrick could find himself counting on Sen. Lucio more than ever to advance certain conservative causes.

Texas House of Representatives

Several closely watched races will affect the partisan balance of the Texas House. Among them:

House District 2 – Republican Primary: Incumbent Dan Flynn was ousted by conservative Bryan Slaton in this East Texas seat. Rep. Flynn was a chairman and a key ally of the GOP leadership. Slaton will likely promote a more conservative agenda.

House District 59 – Republican Primary: Incumbent J.D. Sheffield, a physician from Stephenville, was defeated by Shelby Slawson in one of the more high-profile contests. Rep. Sheffield was an avid supporter of the House of Medicine, particularly on immunization and vaccine issues, and has been targeted by the far right in recent years.

House District 60 – Republican Primary: In somewhat of a surprise, veterinarian Glenn Rogers of Graford defeated Jon Francis of Cisco in a bid to replace the retiring Rep. Mike Lang (R – Granbury). There is no Democratic opponent in the race. Both candidates have solid conservative credentials, but Francis is related by marriage to the Wilks Brothers, patriarchs of a billionaire family of staunch conservatives who dole out millions in financial support for far-right candidates and causes.

House District 138 – Democratic Primary: Houston area attorney Akilah Bacy topped Jennifer Rene Pool in the race to fill the seat left by retiring State Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston). Bacy will take on business owner Lacey Hull in the general election in November. This Houston-area seat could flip to the Democrats in the fall with a strong showing.

House District 142 – Democratic Primary: Longtime State Rep. Harold Dutton survived against Houston City Councilman Jerry Davis in one of the most bitterly contested races of the year. Rep. Dutton received a great deal of local criticism for his sponsorship of an education-related bill from several sessions ago, and was forced into a runoff by a “phantom” candidate, who finished third in the initial primary without mounting a campaign, and actually may be a truck driver in Colorado who never filed for the seat.


With the ballots now set for the fall general election contest, the question becomes: Will the Democrats capitalize on the historic circumstances facing the nation leading up to the 2020 elections? The challenges are well-documented – a global pandemic leaving more than 130,000 Americans dead, a COVID-ravaged economic landscape, and profound social unrest coupled to the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Meanwhile, Pres. Trump’s disconnected response to all three tribulations leaves the Democrats well-positioned to build upon the historic “Blue Wave” they enjoyed in the 2018 midterm elections.

If the 2020 general election were held today, it is likely that Pres. Trump would face a momentous defeat at the hand of the presumptive Democratic nominee Biden. The U.S. House would probably become more Democratic as well, potentially adding to the 40-seat gain in 2018. And while most observers speculated early in the election cycle that the U.S. Senate would remain safely Republican, that would be a considerably more dangerous bet today. Even the Texas House could flip, assuming several key races fall the Democrats’ way. All in all, Pres. Trump’s declining approval rating, and a Democratic lead over Republicans in generic congressional and Texas State House polling, collectively spell big problems for the GOP in the fall.

With that said, the election is obviously NOT being held today. There are nearly four months ahead before the November general election – a lifetime in politics – and it is reasonable to predict that Pres. Trump can regain his footing, and assist his party down the ballot. If COVID-19 infections begin to slow and the U.S. economy meaningfully improves, and if Pres. Trump can develop a consistent and reassuring message to the American people, there is still plenty of time for the GOP ship to be righted.

We will be watching this final sprint to November closely, and will continue to report on developments as they occur.

Click here to view all the up to date results in more detail. As always, please let us know if you have any questions or comments.

January 28, 2020 Special Election Run-offs in House Districts 28, 100, and 148

The results are in for the special election run-offs in House Districts 28, 100, and 148.

A special election was held in three districts in Texas on Tuesday night. Most of the attention was concentrated on District 28 due to the impact that election could have on the majority in the Texas House.

Gary Gates (R-Rosenberg) won the District 28 seat vacated by Rep. John Zerwas (R) who retired after the 86thLegislative session. This win will most likely give Republicans confidence going into November with hopes of keeping their majority. The race drew national attention, with Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren endorsing Democrat Eliz Markowitz, and significant resources being invested by both parties.

District 148 and District 100 have historically voted Democrat and last night that remained true, with results showing Anna Eastman (D-Houston) the winner in District 148 and Lorrain Birabil (D-Dallas) the winner of District 100.


House District 28

Vacated by John Zerwas (R-Richmond) who served 14 years in the House and was Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

  • Winner: Gary Gates (R-Rosenberg) – 17,457 votes (58.05%)
  • Elizabeth “Eliz” Markowitz (D-Katy) – 12,617 votes (41.95%)

House District 100

Vacated by Eric Johnson(D-Dallas) who became Mayor of Dallas.

  • Winner: Lorraine Birabil (D-Dallas) – 1,643 votes (66.28%)
  • James Armstrong III (D-Dallas) – 836 votes (33.72%)

House District 148

Vacated by Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) who served for 25 years in the House retired.

  • Winner: Anna Eastman (D-Houston) – 4,527 votes (65.47%)
  • Luis La Rotta (R-Houston) – 2,388 votes (34.53%)

With GOP Supermajority at Risk in 2020, Dan Patrick Says Texas Senate May Lower Threshold to Bring Bills to the Floor

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he may seek to decrease the threshold required to move legislation in the Texas State Senate to a simple majority if Republicans lose one or two seats in November. Currently, 19 votes are required to put legislation on the floor for passage, but if Republicans lose Sen. Pete Flores, (R-Pleasanton) who is running for reelection in a historically Democratic district, Patrick said they may have to go to a simple majority of 16. He expressed confidence that Republicans will succeed in November, and that the party will keep the majority in the Senate. Democrats were very critical of this approach, believing it to erode the bi-partisan tradition of the Texas Senate. Changing the threshold requires a simple majority when senators vote to approve their rules at the start of every session. Read the full article here.

Texas Physicians Propose Mass Violence Prevention Strategies

Texas physicians laid out medicine’s priorities before a special committee of the Texas House of Representatives late last week. The hearing was held in El Paso and featured testimony from Alan Tyroch, MD, Chair of Surgery at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso who coordinated trauma care after the mass shooting in El Paso last year, and outlined TMA’s eight recommendations for addressing mass violence. Dr. Joseph Penn, clinical professor of psychiatry at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) and representing the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians also testified. Dr. Penn mentioned how mental health is not a predictor of and not the major factor in mass violence, and that the overall best predictor of future violence is past violence. Read the full article here.