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January 30, 2017

85th Legislative Update - Week of January 30th

  • Both the Senate & House will reconvene at 2 pm on Monday, January 30.
  • Governor Abbott’s State of the State will be given to a Joint Session of the House and Senate on Tuesday, January 31 at 11 am.
  • Senate Finance will meet on Article II on Monday and Tuesday, January 30 and 31 respectively.
  • Senate Finance will continue meeting on Article I for the remainder of the week.
  • Senate State Affairs will take up SB 4 (Perry) on Thursday, February 2.
  • Senate Health & Human Services will take up SB 11 (Schwertner) on Thursday, February 2.
  • It is anticipated that House Committee assignments may be published later this week.
  • The 85th Calendar Deadlines for Action Under House and Senate Rules has been published

To view broadcasts:
House | Senate

Interim Reports
HillCo Partners will continue to published links to interim reports that have been released. Since our last update, the following additional reports have been released:

Water for Texas Conference 2017

More than 550 attendees, speakers, and sponsors attended the Water for Texas 2017 conference on January 23–25, hosted by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) in Austin, Texas. Themed as “Innovation at Work,” the conference featured panels, presentations, and demonstrations aimed at water professionals and enthusiasts from around the state.

Guest speakers and panelists alike argued for Texans to remember recent droughts and/or floods. Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar told the audience that the population is increasing everyday so there is a need to continue advocating for water issues, even in a tight budget, because water is important to economic growth.

In regards to drought, TWDB Commissioner Bech Bruun told a morning general assembly that the Texas maps currently forecasting water conditions in the area look very similar to ones right before the drought of 2011. “The Future of Flood: What’s on the Horizon” panel reviewed details of past flooding events and discussed the need for more funding. Bruun noted that $6.8 million in one-time funding for a high-tech network of stream gages, grants and outreach efforts was well used but the TWDB will need additional funding appropriated during this session if they want to continue building on that work. As such, TWDB has requested $12.5 million in exceptional items.

During a panel presentation it was noted that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) uses fees to fund agency operations, in fact about 85% of the budget is fee funded. However, since the programs generate less in revenue than it takes to run several programs, including the TCEQ Water Program, the agency is continually in the process of updating fees but find many of the fees are statutorily capped.

Evan Smith with the Texas Tribune moderated a panel with Senator Charles Perry, Representative Eddie Lucio, and Representative Lyle Larson who reviewed issues for the 85th Legislative Session. In regards to Smith’s question if there was a perceived lack of urgency regarding water issues; Rep. Lucio said it would be a challenge this session while Sen. Perry pointed out addressing the issue will not get any cheaper by waiting. Sen. Perry listed two areas where he thinks there may some momentum; he thinks there is energy behind establishing a statewide flood plan and believes funding may be asked for surface modeling. Rep. Larson advocated for a grid in order to move water, similar to the electricity grid (ERCOT) in Texas, arguing that the state plan is problematic if it is focused on a regional boundary.
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Interactive Texas Reservoir Information Site and Map

The Texas Tribune has developed an interactive information site and map detailing current Texas reservoir levels along with statistics and locations.
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Texas AG Ken Paxton Files Petition to Review EPA’s Protection of Visibility Rule

Attorney General Ken Paxton petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review the Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule titled “Protection of Visibility: Amendments to Requirement for State Plans” which took effect on January 10.
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Texas AG Ken Paxton Files Petition to Review OSMRE's "Stream Protection Rule"

Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a petition alongside 12 states seeking review and injunction against the recently enacted “Stream Protection Rule.” The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement finalized the rule in December.
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Texas AG Ken Paxton Joins in Letter against Endangered Species Rules

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton joined a coalition of 14 states in a letter to the incoming Trump administration urging it to repeal two new rules that alter the definition of critical habitat for endangered species promulgated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
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SBOE Swearing-In Ceremony -Tuesday, January 31

A swearing-in ceremony for eight recently elected or re-elected State Board of Education members will take place at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Sen. Larry Taylor, chair of the Senate Education Committee, will administer the oath of office to the members. New members on the board are Georgina C. Pérez, D-El Paso, and Keven Ellis, R-Lufkin.
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Donna Bahorich Reappointed As Chair of SBOE

Governor Greg Abbot has reappointed Donna Bahorich as chair of the State Board of Education in a new term effective from Feb. 1, 2017 through Feb. 1, 2019. The reappointment is subject to Senate confirmation.
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The Holdsworth Center - Leadership Institute

H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt has announced the creation of The Holdsworth Center, a premier leadership institute based in Austin, Texas with the goal of supporting and developing public school leaders in order to improve, over time, the quality of education offered to every child in every classroom in Texas.

The Holdsworth Center will work with districts over a 5-year period to empower individual leaders -- including superintendents, principals and key administrators -- to reach their fullest potential. The Center staff and faculty will also assist districts in establishing a common vision and roadmap for identifying, cultivating and supporting future leaders.

The Holdsworth Center will operate as a non-profit organization and Mr. Butt has pledged to invest more than $100 million in its creation. The Center will be governed by a 17-member board chaired by Dr. Ruth Simmons, who served as president of Smith College from 1995 to 2001 and as president of Brown University from 2001 to 2012.

The first program will begin in June with six school districts. Anywhere from 15 to 20 districts will be invited to apply by Feb. 1 and notified of selection by the end of March. The first cohort is by invitation only, but in subsequent years the application process will be open to all districts. Strong applicants will have an existing commitment to human capital and talent development and strong alignment of vision among the superintendent, key cabinet members and the Board of Trustees.
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Study Released Detailing Texas' Progress In Bringing High-Speed Internet To Schools And Students

EducationSuperHighway released a report detailing Texas’ progress in its effort to expand access to high-speed internet in public schools statewide.
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Texas Rural Schools Task Force to Host Regional Forums

Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced that the Texas Rural Schools Task Force will host a series of regional forums across the state in January and February. Task force members will develop final recommendations to be shared with Commissioner Morath later this year. Regional forums with area superintendents are scheduled for Abilene (Jan. 17), Waco (Jan. 19), Corpus Christi (Jan. 23), Kilgore (Jan. 25), Van Horn (Feb. 10), Uvalde (Feb.
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Abbott’s Remarks at School Choice Rally

Texas Governor Greg Abbott attended and delivered remarks at the Texas School Choice Week Rally where he promoted school choice as “not just a Republican issue or a Democrat issue – it is a civil rights issue.” Excerpts from the Governor’s remarks can be found in the January 24 press release.
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HHSC Executive Commissioner Charles Smith Reappointed

Governor Greg Abbott has reappointed Charles Smith Executive Commissioner of Texas’ Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), effective February 1, 2017, for a term set to expire February 1, 2019.
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Centralized State Purchasing Study

Senate Bill 20 enacted by the 84th Legislature directed the Comptroller’s office to conduct a study examining the feasibility and practicality of consolidating state purchasing functions into fewer state agencies or one state agency.
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Senate Transportation Interim Report Published

The Senate Committee on Transportation has released their interim report to the 85th Legislature which includes background, conclusions, and several letters to the Chair which cumulatively have concerns on every interim conclusion published. Below is a spotlight on the conclusions from the report; however, for complete details please refer to the report.
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Senate Finance Work Group on School Finance and Senate Committee on Education

The Senate Finance Committee Work Group on School Finance and Senate Committee on Education met in a joint hearing to discuss school finance reform.
The report below details these discussions.
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Texas Water Development Board - January 26, 2017

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) met and during their January 26 meeting approved financial assistance totaling $20,094,197 for water and wastewater system improvements. Of this funding, $6,445,362 was designated for rural water projects. They also heard an update on the water conditions in Texas and reviewed a draft report on Priority Groundwater Management Areas and Groundwater Conservation Districts.
The report below details these discussions.
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Senate Finance - January 24, 2017

The Senate Committee on Finance met to discuss SB 1, Article III on Education. This report focuses on discussion covering the Texas Education Agency and Teacher Retirement System.

The report below details these discussions.
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HHS Transition Legislative Oversight Committee - January 17, 2017

The Joint HHS Transition Legislative Oversight Committee met to hear transformation updates from the Health and Human Services Commission, the Department of State Health Services, and the Department of Family and Protective Services.

The report below details these discussions.
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Texas Water Development Board January 12, 2017

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) met on January 12 to take up a full agenda. They approved $23,228,018 in financial assistance resolutions and heard an update on the MOU signed with the Governor concerning flood management.
The report below details these discussions.
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Sunset Advisory Commission January 11, 2017 - 2015 Recommendations Implementation Update

Sunset Advisory Commission staff presented a report updating the legislature on the implementation of Sunset recommendations from 2015.

  • 2015 recommendations included 132 management actions, including consolidating and reorganizing HHS
  • 56% of recommendations have been fully implemented by affected agencies, this is lower than previous legislative cycles and is due to the high number of HHS recommendations

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Sunset Advisory Commission January 11, 2017 - Health Care

The Sunset Advisory Commission met to hear The Sunset Advisory Commission met to review commission decisions and vote on recommendations regarding the Health Consolidation Licensing Project, the Texas Optometry Board, and the Texas Medical Board at the January 11, 2017 meeting.
The report below details these discussions.
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Sunset Advisory Commission January 11, 2017 - TxDOT

The Sunset Advisory Commission met to review commission decisions regarding the Texas Department of Transportation as well as vote on recommendations during their January 11, 2017 meeting.
The report below details these discussions.
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Texas Ethics Commission Announces New Executive Director

The Texas Ethics Commission announced the appointment of Seana Willing as its new executive director. Ms. Willing will assume the office on February 13, 2017, following the retirement of Natalia Luna Ashley as executive director on December 31, 2016. Ms. Willing has served as executive director of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, and previously served the agency as general counsel and commission counsel. The Commission also unanimously appointed Ian M. Steusloff to serve as interim executive director from January 1, 2017, to February 12, 2017.
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Senate Committee Assignments - 85th Session

The following Senate committee assignments have been announced for the 85th Session.

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