The breakfast tacos remained virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the content was as filling as ever when TAC held its second online Tuesday Morning Breakfast of the 87th legislative session this week. Despite the occasional technical glitch, the first two virtual breakfasts have been a big success. More than 130 participants joined Tuesday's meeting to hear an overview of where the Texas Legislature currently stands, followed by a quick survey of bills to watch. At least 1,614 bills and 79 proposed constitutional amendments had been filed as of Tuesday's meeting.
The Legislature met last week long enough for members to take their oaths of office and for each chamber to establish the rules they will follow for the session. Lawmakers then adjourned until Tuesday, Jan. 26.
Some highlights from this week's breakfast meeting:
- Senate committee assignments have been set (House committee assignments are to come). Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) chairs the Committee on Local Government. Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) chairs the Committee on State Affairs. Both committees will oversee legislation of particular importance to counties.
- The federal government approved the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's request for an 1115 Medicaid waiver on Jan. 15. The waiver means Washington will continue to cover much of the cost borne by local health departments and public health districts for caring for low-income and uninsured patients.
- County officials continue to focus attention on House Bill 749 and Senate Bill 234. Jim Allison, General Counsel for the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, discussed the group's plans to defeat the bills that seek to prohibit the use of county funds to influence legislation and largely silence county voices at the Legislature. Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley echoed Allison by saying, "We're going to be fighting from the beginning to the end.”
- Brazos County Justice of the Peace Rick Hill said the Justices of the Peace and Constable Association is watching House Bill 277 closely. The bill would require counties to appoint an attorney for an indigent defendant appearing before a magistrate. Hill called the proposed legislation "an unfunded mandate of significant proportions."
- TAC Legislative Consultant Austin McCarty discussed highlights of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief plan, which includes $350 billion in emergency funding for state and local governments. TAC and the National Association of Counties will be monitoring the proposal closely as it takes shape in the newly seated 117th Congress and moves through the legislative process.
Join us and other county officials virtually each Tuesday at 8 a.m. to stay on top of the ever-changing legislative landscape at the Capitol.
Registration is needed for participation. Login instructions will be sent with confirmation of your registration. Please register for our next breakfast by 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25.
Contact Amy Ruedas at AmyR@county.org or (800) 456-5974 with any questions about the breakfast meetings. And stay up to date with the latest from TAC Legislative Services by visiting www.county.org/legislative.