Public Policy

Support our legislative efforts

The Richardson Chamber develops its legislative agenda for each legislative session during Public Policy Briefings, monthly luncheon meetings with subject matter experts that help our members stay informed. Past speakers include state legislators, U.S. Congressmen, Richardson ISD officials, City of Richardson City Manager, candidate forums, etc.

Luncheon meetings are usually held on the second Monday of each month in the Chamber’s Board Room.

The Richardson Chamber also plans special events throughout the year to better inform members about important legislative issues.

For more information on meeting sponsorship or special event sponsorship, contact Molly Ulmer at 972-792-2811 or molly@richardsonchamber.com for more information.

Legislative Alerts

Legislative Alert: January 18, 2019

House and Senate reveal new budget proposals

On Wednesday, Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) filed Senate Bill 1, the upper chamber’s budget for the 2020-21 biennium. The Senate proposed a base budget of $243 billion, an increase of 12 percent from the 2018-19 budget. The bill would also increase the Foundation School Program (FSP), the state’s source of public school funding, by $4.7 billion.

The lower chamber’s proposed budget, which will be House Bill 1, has not been filed. The Legislative Budget Board (LBB) published a report on Monday that proposed $247 billion over the next biennium, with $7 billion more allocated toward the FSP. The increase is about $3 billion more than the Senate’s public education allocation. The lower chamber’s budget would increase funding for primary and secondary schools by about 17 percent, for a total of $70.6 billion. The LBB estimate included funding from federal and state funding as well as local property taxes, which are projected to decrease as the state’s contribution increases. The House only proposed a 1.6 percent increase in higher education funding. The new budget would draw about $633 million from the Economic Stabilization Fund, better known as the Rainy Day Fund or Texas’ savings account.

Public school finance has been a primary concern for many years as the state’s share of education funding has declined. For a thriving economy, Texas needs a reservoir of qualified, educated workers. Improving our workforce starts with a strong education that meets the needs of its students and businesses in the community. The leaders of the Texas legislature have declared public school finance reform as one of their top priorities during the 86th session.

Teacher pay raises

SB 1 also included a $3.7 billion allocation for mandated teacher pay raises. Sen. Nelson filed Senate Bill 3, which contains the first across-the-board pay increase for Texas teachers in nearly 20 years. The bill would provide full-time teachers with a $10,000 pay raise by Fall 2021, with a $5,000 salary increase in Fall 2020 and an additional $5,000 the next year. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick endorsed the proposal during his inaugural address. Gov. Greg Abbott also emphasized the importance of improving public education funding in his inaugural speech, stating, “Our students deserve better…It is time for Texas to deliver real education reform.”

House and Senate reveal new budget proposals

No House or Senate committees have been assigned. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Senate committees would be assigned next week. House committee preferences were due on Tuesday, with assignments planned by the end of January. Bill assignments will begin after the committees are announced. No bills can be passed the first 60 days of the session unless the governor declares emergency items.

Sources: Texas Legislature Online (TLO), Legislative Budget Board (LBB)

Legislative Alert: January 11, 2019

The 86th Legislature convened on Tuesday and is off to an exciting start. More than 1,000 bills have been filed since November of last year. Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and the newly-elected Speaker Dennis Bonnen committed to collaborate on key issues during the upcoming session. Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced an additional 8.1 percent will be available to lawmakers for the next budget.

Rep. Dennis Bonnen of Angleton will be the next Speaker of the House

One of the most pressing questions for the next session has been who will replace former Speaker of the House Joe Straus. The leader of the state House of Representatives, like the lieutenant governor, has enormous power to steer the legislature. Among other duties, the speaker appoints committees and their leadership, refers all proposed legislation to those committees, and decides which bills come to a vote on the floor. This authority allows the speaker to negotiate bipartisan agreements, ensure that committee chairs and vice chairs share his or her priorities and interests, and even halt opposed legislation.

In November of last year, a majority of representatives pledged to elect Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) to be the next Speaker of the House. Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Patrick and Speaker Bonnen held a joint news conference on Wednesday to reassure Texans with the “very strong, profound and unequivocal message” that they are united on key issues. Each of them highlighted school finance and property tax reform during their campaigns. When asked if he would push Bathroom Bill legislation that plagued lawmakers in 2017, Lieutenant Governor Patrick stated he did not plan on reintroducing a battle that has “been settled…been won.”

Rep. Bonnen was 24 years old when he won the open 1996 Republican primary runoff by ten votes. He was the youngest member at that time. In 2013, Rep. Bonnen became speaker pro tem under Joe Straus, the Speaker’s second-in-command. The following session, he was appointed to chair the powerful Ways & Means Committee. He became known as the “House’s top advocate” and a “bulldog” during this time for his work on the House’s tax cut proposal. In 2017, Rep. Bonnen became a key mediator of the growing tension between Lt. Gov. Patrick and former Speaker Straus. Last year, Rep. Bonnen was not even a candidate for Speaker when more than 100 out of the total 150 House members pledged to support him. His experience in House leadership, rightward-leaning views and reputation as a skilled arbitrator contributed to his victory.

Rep. Bonnen studied political science at St. Edward’s University in Austin. After college, he interned for former Rep. Greg Laughlin, a conservative Democrat who would switch to GOP the following year. During his tenure in public office, he worked in various industries until he settled as president, CEO and chairman of Heritage Bank in 2008. See the Texas Tribune’s profile on the new Speaker for additional background.

Comptroller announces Texas will have nearly $9 billion more to spend in the next budget

The budget is the only bill that state lawmakers must pass each session. Policy priorities are born or buried in the state budget each year. Key issues such as reforms to public school funding formulas, research at state universities, tax relief and job training programs must be written into the budget to be enacted. Bills that require state funding are contingent on inclusion in, and passage of, the appropriations bill each biennium.

Texas Comptroller Hegar has the job of estimating the state’s economic condition for the next two years to determine the state budget. On Tuesday he released his biennial budget report for 2020 and 2021. His evaluation of the Texas economy was “cautiously optimistic,” with 8.1 percent more funding for lawmakers to distribute. A total of $119.1 billion will be available for the budget, an increase from $110.2 billion for 2018 and 2019. The state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, more commonly known as the Rainy Day Fund, is also at a record high of $15 billion.

The Texas Comptroller has an especially difficult task because he is asked to predict the state’s available funds over a longer period than most states, who normally meet each year. After delivering the positive outlook above, he warned that “we’re unlikely to see continued revenue growth at the unusually strong rates we’ve seen in recent months.” However, lawmakers will still have significantly more funding available than the previous session to spend on top priorities such as public school financing and property taxes.

The process

More than 800 House bills and 300 Senate bills have been filed since last November. Lawmakers will continue to introduce new legislation until the deadline on March 8. The top spots, House Bills 1 through 20 and Senate Bills 1 through 30, are reserved for the top priorities of the Speaker and the Lieutenant Governor respectively. The upper and lower chambers alternately file the appropriations bill each session, and this year will be the House’s turn with House Bill 1. The Speaker and the Lieutenant Governor will assign committees likely later this month or early February. Once the committee appointments are announced, lawmakers will start meeting to work on legislation.

The Chamber will track bills relevant to our Legislative Agenda, where you can find our positions on policies that are vital to the Richardson business community. Each week we will continue to highlight bills and developments that matter to you and to the Richardson business community. Stay tuned!

Legislative Day

Do you want to know more about the Texas Legislature? Join us for Legislative Day in Austin on March 5 and 6 as we speak with elected officials, learn about key policies and see the legislative process in action. This opportunity is open exclusively to members of the Richardson Chamber of Commerce. Register here!

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