After 209 days, things have finally come to a close for the 83rd Session of Texas Legislature. It took the House and Senate only a handful of days during the third special session to pass a transportation funding measure, and with no other issue added to the call by Governor Perry, the House adjourned earlier this week. It’s good to be finally home.
I am pleased to report that the third time was indeed a charm for the Legislature’s attempt to fund the increasing needs on our state’s transportation system without raising fees or taxes. SJR1 passed both the House and Senate this week, and if the voters approve this ballot measure next November, then we will begin directing a portion of future revenues from oil and gas severance taxes that would otherwise be headed towards our state’s rainy day fund to our highway fund. Additionally, HB1 was passed and along with creating a special legislative committee to ensure a healthy balance remains in our rainy day fund, it requires TxDOT to find $100 million in efficiencies in their budget. These savings will be used to pay down existing debt on transportation bonds. As Texas continues its rapid population growth and our roads become more congested, it’s clear more will need to be done in this area, but these two bills together are a good start.
As our district and most of the Lone Star State are experiencing economic growth and job creation as a result of the energy sector, I’ve becoming increasingly focused on policies that affect this vital industry. Recently, I was honored to have been appointed, along with a handful of other legislators, to the Energy Council by House Speaker Joe Straus. The Energy Council is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to facilitate cooperation in national energy policy matters among several energy-producing states, including Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming, plus the province of Alberta, Canada. I am excited about this opportunity to hear from energy policy experts and learn from others about ways to expand opportunities for this growing component of our regional and state economy.
There were over 1,500 bills passed in the House and Senate this year. During the interim, I will pick some to highlight and explain how these new laws will impact Texans.
With the passage of HB5 during the regular legislative session, students entering high school this fall will take 10 fewer state exams than their classmates two years ahead of them. The old law required 15 state standardized exams to graduate. Now, students will need to pass only five. This legislation also made changes to the curriculum required for a high school diploma, enabling students to focus more on science and technology, business and industry, public services, humanities or a multidisciplinary option.
As always, my staff and I are available during the week at 936-634-2762 or 512-463-0508.