Legislatively, it has been an uneventful week at the Capitol since both chambers, after adopting their rules last week, adjourned until Jan. 26. However, COVID-19 hit close to home. Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) tested positive on Jan. 14 after being on the House floor for three days, and four representatives who sat near him have said they will self-quarantine. That number includes Rep. Michelle Beckley (D-Carrollton) who skipped the first day of the session to avoid a “superspreader” event.
From now until the end of the regular session, TAC Legislative Services staff will report weekly on the highlights of what’s happening (and not happening) at the Capitol, as well as what can be expected in the weeks ahead regarding all matters important to county government. Stay tuned.
State Budget Bills Filed – The House and the Senate both filed their budget bills on Thursday, Jan. 21. These baseline budget bills serve as the starting point for budget deliberations by the House and Senate budget-writing committees.
County officials should note that both bills exceed Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s estimate of revenue available to fund the 2022-23 general revenue appropriations plus whatever additional general revenue appropriations are required to make it through the remainder of the 2020-21 biennium, which ends Aug. 31. As Hegar has stated, the Biennial Revenue Estimate does not consider either the 5% reductions for fiscal year 2021 or all effects of the federal relief received for the pandemic. The TAC legislative team is reviewing these documents and will provide more details on the budget bills from a county perspective in next week’s newsletter.
1115 Waiver Extended – Texas received federal notice on Jan. 15 of approval for extending the Texas Healthcare Transformation and Quality Improvement 1115 Demonstration Waiver. The extension will last until 2030 and includes authorization for a Public Health Provider Charity Care Program. For more information, see this article.
Pension Fund Bills Filed in Both Chambers – During the interim, both the House and Senate assigned committees to study the Employees Retirement System Pension Trust Fund (ERS) and related statewide pension funds that lack sufficient funding for actuarial soundness. Already bills have been filed in both chambers addressing some of the acknowledged shortcomings of these funds. This article explains why these funds matter to county officials and briefly discusses the filed bills.
Senate Committee Assignments – In adopting their rules, the Senate both added and eliminated committees last week before posting committee assignments. Now with the assignments, the Senate can start referring bills to committees – once senators return on Jan. 26. Here are the committees and assignments of most interest to county officials.
Legislative Directories – As committee assignments, staff and office information becomes available during the 87th Legislature, TAC will compile a Legislative Directory. This session resource will be published and distributed in March.
Helpful Tracking Links for Legislation