Committee activity is slowing down, while activity on both the House and Senate floors is picking up speed during these last few weeks of the legislative session. This past week, HB 11, a bill that would transfer $2 billion from the rainy day fund for the purpose of initial funding of the state water plan, did not receive a vote on the House floor after a point of order recommitted the bill to committee. Negotiations on how the state will fund water infrastructure continue. A point of order on the House floor also stalled HB 14, at least temporarily.
Here’s a recap of what happened in both the House and Senate this past week on some significant county-related bills:
Transparent, Translucent, or Opaque. HB 14 by Rep. Pitts was on the House Calendar on Friday, May 3. The bill did not pass due to a procedural issue of order that made the bill ineligible for a vote. As a result, the bill was recommitted to the House Appropriations committee and may well be back on the House calendar next week. Representatives from local government associations are working closely with the bill’s sponsor and other legislators to mitigate some of the bill’s more problematic pieces. The Senate companion, SB 14 by Sen. Williams, is currently pending in the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Matters, but it is expected this bill may soon begin moving.
Water Wars. This past Monday, the House took up HB 11 by Rep. Ritter, the bill that would transfer $2 billion from the rainy day fund to the state water implementation fund in order to fund the state water plan. Rep. Ritter, in laying the bill out, said the fund would serve as a water infrastructure bank for local and regional entities, leveraging that $2 billion into $27 billion in state assistance for these local and regional water projects. Before the bill could be voted on, a point of order was called successfully on the bill. The bill has been recommitted to committee and could well make its way back onto the House calendar this coming week. SJR 1, which would ultimately leave it to the voters to decide whether to spend $5.7 billion on the water plan, state roads and public education, is over in the House (not yet referred to a committee). It’s not entirely clear whether the House is enthusiastic about having the voters make the final decision about spending the money. The speaker and other members, though, have been very clear on their intent to fund the state water plan this session.
He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. House Transportation Committee takes action on overweight truck fines and fees. The House Committee on Transportation heard testimony and voted out SB 1670 and SB 1671, both by Sen. Nichols. SB 1670 increases fees for a vehicle axle or gross weight permit and SB 1671 increases civil and criminal penalties for violations relating to oversize or overweight vehicles. County representatives voiced their support for these bills.
The Ins and Outs of County Government. The House Committee on County Affairs heard several county bills, including SB 194 by Sen. West. The bill requires a commissioners court to adopt infrastructure standards that provide for at least two means of ingress and egress in subdivisions of 1,000 or more lots in the unincorporated area. The substitute makes it clear that this requirement does not limit the authority of commissioners court to adopt more stringent infrastructure standards under other existing law. The bill received support from the homebuilders and county associations. Another county bill on the agenda was SB 692 by Sen. Carona. This bill allows certain county officers, county employees or candidates for county office to file financial disclosure statements by electronic mail. Travis County Clerk Dana Debeauvoir testified for the bill. Both bills were left pending.
Driver’s License Bill Cruising Along. The House passed HB 827 by Rep. King, which allows a commissioners court of a county with a population of 50,000 or fewer to enter into an agreement with the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to provide driver’s license renewal services. A county office that provides written consent to the commissioners court may provide the services. A similar bill, SB 1729 by Sen. Nichols, which allows DPS to establish a pilot program for driver’s license renewal services in certain counties, has been voted favorably from the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety.
Our Mental Health Is Coming Along Nicely! GOOD NEWS this week as HB 2401 by McClendon, the ancillary bill to HB 205, which outlines the services noted by local communities as most needed in their efforts to divert and/or treat people with mental disorders, was voted favorably as substituted from the House Public Health Committee WITH NO FISCAL NOTE – down from the original impact of $176.5 million! County officials are encouraged to immediately contact House Calendars Chairman Todd Hunter at or visit the Calendars office to express support of the inclusion of HB 2401 on the House Calendar before the Tuesday evening deadline so that meaningful and cost efficient mental health policies can be passed this legislative session.
In other good news, HB 205 by Rep. McClendon moved through final passage on the House floor by a vote of 145-1.The bill will be sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Uresti of San Antonio. McClendon stated that “every single line in [HB 205] has been finely crafted [by stakeholders]” … and that’s a fact!
Electioneering on Public Property. HB 259 by Rep. Simmons passed the House. The bill prohibits an entity that owns or controls a public building where voting will take place from prohibiting electioneering, which is defined to include the posting, use or distribution of political signs on the premises outside the prohibited 100 foot distance on election day or during early voting. The bill authorizes an entity to prescribe “reasonable regulations” concerning the time, place, and manner of electioneering. The bill now heads to the Senate.
Senior Citizens and Disabled Voters. The Senate Committee on State Affairs passed HB 666 by Rep. Rick Miller, which allows senior citizens and disabled voters to submit a single application to vote by mail to the county clerk/elections administrator during the calendar year for all elections in which the county clerk/elections administrator is the early voting clerk. Current law requires seniors and disabled voters to submit a separate application for each election. The bill was recommended for the Local and Uncontested Calendar.
Costs and Fees. The Senate Committee on Jurisprudence considered HB 1513 by Rep. Lewis, which increases the district clerk’s court records archive fee from $5 to $10 and the county clerk’s records management and preservation fee and the records archive fee from $5 to $10. The bill was left pending.
Is It Public Information? The Senate Committee on Open Government considered SB 1563 by Sen. Ellis. The bill amends the definition of public information under the Public Information Act (PIA) to include any information (1) that a governmental body spends or contributes public money for the purpose of writing, producing, collecting, assembling or maintaining or (2) that is created by an individual officer or employee of a governmental body in his or her official capacity and is related to official business, and (3) any electronic communication on any device if it is related to official business. The bill also adds a definition of "official business." The bill was voted favorably from the committee.