87th Legislature – Week 13/14
Here’s a brief update …
A pair of election reform bills has thrust Texas into the midst of a national debate on voting laws. Two bills are moving through the Texas Legislature that make changes to Texas voting practices. Senate Bill 7 would limit extended early voting hours (from 6 am – 9 pm), prohibit drive-thru voting and make it illegal to proactively mail out absentee ballot applications, something Harris County attempted this past election. The Senate passed the bill, where it will now head to the House, prompting several high-profile corporations to decry the bill. The public rebuke comes on the heels of MLB’s decision to move the All Star game from Georgia after it passed an election reform bill. This in turn prompted strong responses from Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Patrick. The Governor declined an invitation to throw out the first pitch for the Texas Rangers in response to MLB’s decision. Speaker Phelan also pushed back on the corporate backlash, suggesting he’d like to go “line by line” with them, noting that last election saw “certain areas of the state creating election law out of thin air”.
Speaker Phelan lays out health care priorities. The Speaker was joined by Republican and Democrats alike at a press conference to lay out his bipartisan health care legislative agenda: “Health Families, Healty Texas”. The package of legislation is highlighted by legislation to expand telemedicine (HB 4), extend Medicaid coverage for postpartum mothers (HB 133), and a bill to fund research regarding brain disorders (HB 15).
A new PUCT commissioner has been appointed. The Governor has made his first appointment to the Public Utilities Commission since the resignation of all three members in the aftermath of Winter Storm Uri. Will McAdams will appear before Senate Nominations later today. While we expect some pointed questions, particularly as it relates to market intervention and re-pricing, we do not expect his nomination to ultimately face substantial objection. McAdams is a veteran of the Capitol, having previously been a policy advisor on electric issues to former Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Senate Business and Commerce Chair Kelly Hancock.
The border crisis continues to be a significant macro-political issue. As the number of apprehensions of migrants reaches all-time highs along the southern border, the Governor’s activity in response has increased. Last month, he launched Operation Lone Star, sending the Department of Public Safety and the National Guard to crack down on Mexican cartels and smugglers in high-threat areas. Last week, he visited Weslaco to check on operations. In addition, after allegations of sexual abuse in a federally run detention center in San Antonio, Governor Abbott launched an investigation into the center and demanded that the federal government close the facility for unaccompanied minors in a letter to Vice President Kamala Harris. You can watch Governor Abbott’s appearance on Fox News Sunday here.
With Committee work still at a frenzied pace, floor action in both chambers has picked up speed. Priority bills begin to crisscross the Capitol. Here’s a sample of some of the major movement this week:
Senate Bill 1, referred to House Committee/Set for hearing. This is the state’s budget.
Senate Bill 3, referred to House Committee. This bill would require the weatherization of all generation, transmission and natural gas facilities, prohibit retail electric variable rate plans, and establish an energy emergency alert system to ensure notification of potential outages.
Senate Bill 5, referred to House Committee. This bill would form a statewide broadband office, require the office to create a statewide broadband plan, and establish a broadband development incentive program.
House Bill 5, passed out of the House. This is a near identical companion to SB 5 (mentioned above).
House Bill 10, referred to Senate Committee. This bill remakes the ERCOT governing board.
House Bill 11, referred to Senate Committee. This bill would require the weatherization of the state’s generation fleet.
House Bill 16, referred to Senate Committee. This bill would prohibit retail electric rate plans indexed to the wholesale price of electricity.
House Bill 103, passed out of the House. This bill would establish an active shooter alert system.
House Bill 1239, passed out of the House. This bill would prohibit local ordinances from closing places of worship.