D.C. Watch

December 10, 2021

Legislative News

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Congress Passes Bipartisan ‘Hard’ Infrastructure Investment Bill; $35 Billion Set for Texas

President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) into law on Nov. 15, 10 days after Congress passed the $1.2 trillion bill with bipartisan support — 228-206 in the House of Representatives and 69-30 in the Senate. Texas will receive an estimated $35.4 billion over the next five years.

Nationwide, the IIJA provides $973 billion over five years from FY 2022 through FY 2026, including $550 billion in new investments for transportation ($284 billion), water ($55 billion), power and energy ($73 billion), environmental remediation ($21 billion), public lands ($6 billion), broadband ($65 billion) and resilience ($46 billion). In addition to providing authorizations for a wide variety of programs, the IIJA also makes supplemental appropriations to several federal agencies, including the departments or agencies of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, Interior, Environmental Protection, Health and Human Services, and Transportation.

Nationwide, counties own and operate 44% of public roads and 38% of bridges — more than any other level of government. Additionally, counties directly support 78% of public transit systems and 34% of airports. Each year, counties invest $134 billion in the construction of infrastructure and the maintenance and operation of public works.

Here is how the infrastructure money will be allocated in Texas:

  • $26.9 billion for highway programs.
  • $3.5 billion for weatherization measures.
  • $3.3 billion to improve public transportation options.
  • $2.9 billion to improve drinking water access.
  • $1.2 billion to develop infrastructure for airports.
  • $537 million for bridge replacements.
  • At least $100 million to expand broadband coverage.
  • $53 million to protect against wildfires.
  • $42 million to fight cyberattacks.

The rulemaking for the IIJA funds has not yet been settled. The Texas Association of Counties will provide updates as applicable.

For more information, please see the National Association of Counties’ IIJA webpage.

Ellis County Hosting U.S. Rep. Jake Ellzey for Policy Brief

On Monday, Dec. 13, Ellis County Judge Todd Little will host freshman Congressman Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie) for a policy briefing featuring county officials and staff from the 6th Congressional District. The district includes Ellis, Navarro and Tarrant (part) counties. The event will be held at the historic Ellis County Courthouse in the Commissioners Court room. The briefing will begin at 3:30 p.m. and will be followed by a question-and-answer period.

For additional information, please contact Judge Little’s office.

Federal Court Calls American Rescue Plan Act Tax Cut Prohibition Into Question

On Nov. 15, Chief Judge L. Scott Coogler of the U.S. District Circuit Court for the Northern District of Alabama, blocked the provision of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that prevents government subdivisions from using ARPA dollars to directly or indirectly fund state or local tax cuts. Coogler described the ARPA tax mandate restriction as federal overreach into the taxing decisions of state and local governments. His ruling applies to West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Alaska, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah. The Biden administration has not yet announced if it will appeal the decision.

In May, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton joined Mississippi and Louisiana in a suit similar to the one ruled upon by Judge Coogler. Paxton later joined 19 other states in an amicus brief filed in October. The State of Texas received $16.3 billion and counties $5.4 billion in total ARPA funds. The Texas Legislature has reserved $3 billion of the ARPA funds for tax cuts, pending the results of the suit.

U.S. Rep. Gohmert Announces Run for Texas Attorney General

On Nov. 22, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler) announced he was leaving Congress to run in the Republican primary for state attorney general. Elected to Congress in 2005, Gohmert previously served as a District Judge in Smith County and was later appointed to the 12th Court of Appeals by then-Gov. Rick Perry. He currently serves on the House Judiciary and Natural Resources committees.

Gohmert’s announcement added to an already crowded primary field with incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton being challenged by Land Commissioner George P. Bush and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman. State Rep. Matt Krause dropped his bid for attorney general and has instead announced that he will run for Tarrant County District Attorney. Democrats Joe Jaworski and Lee Merritt will face off in the Democratic Primary. The filing period for the March 1 primaries closes Dec. 13 at 6 p.m.

Freshman State Rep. Crockett Running for Congress

Dallas area State Rep. Jasmine Crockett is running for the 30th Congressional District seat being vacated by the retiring 15-term U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. Johnson currently serves as Chairwoman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Johnson endorsed Crockett’s bid. Multiple Democratic candidates are also vying to represent this solidly Democratic district.

Crockett, a civil rights attorney, currently serves on the Texas House Business and Industry and Criminal Jurisprudence Committees. Her congressional bid creates an open race for her seat in the Texas House of Representatives’ District 100, another solidly Democratic district.

For more information about this article, please contact Austin McCarty.