Senate Committee Interim Charges. On Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced interim charges for Senate Committees. Interim charges give committees specific direction on issues and topics to consider before the next legislative session. Below are some highlights from the charges; the full list can be viewed here.
- Electricity: The Business and Commerce Committee is directed to assess the electricity market in Texas, including customer demand for on-site storage, distributed generation, and electric vehicles. Also directs the Committee to study the usage of non-wire alternatives like energy storage, identify barriers to the electric market, and make recommendations to maintain grid reliability.
- Local Economic Development Incentives: The Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee and Water and Rural Affairs Committee are directed to study the use of local tax abatements under Chapter 313 of the Tax Code and to make recommendations to enhance effectiveness of those abatements and of similar programs.
- Healthcare Costs: The Business and Commerce and Health and Human Services Committees are directed to make recommendations to increase access to affordable quality healthcare and explore opportunities to curb rising costs. The Business and Commerce Committee is also directed to study ways to increase flexibility in the market, including 1115 and 1332 waivers.
- Teacher Workforce: The Education Committee is directed to examine best practices to recruit and retain highly-qualified teachers, and to review training methods to recommend potential changes
- Natural Disaster Relief and Infrastructure Resiliency: The Finance Committee is directed to review eligibility and receipt of disaster funds and identify barriers to utilization, as well as to recommend changes to statute or rules to promote efficient deployment of resources. The Intergovernmental Relations Committee is directed to examine the authority of special purpose districts to generate resilient infrastructure and look at ways the state government can mitigate future flooding in cooperation with special purpose districts.
- Eminent Domain: The Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee and Water and Rural Affairs Committee are directed to study the balance of private property rights and continued improvement in oil and gas infrastructure.
- Groundwater Regulatory Framework: The Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee and Water and Rural Affairs Committee are directed to study and make recommendations to improve groundwater regulation, management, and planning.
- Lobbying & Ethics Loopholes: The State Affairs Committee is directed to study how governmental entities use public funds for lobbying purposes and make recommendations to protect taxpayers from paying for lobbyists who may not represent their interests. The Committee is also directed to review current lobby laws and examine exceptions that allow individuals to avoid registration, and to propose whether such exceptions should be limited or removed.
- Transportation Project Delivery: The Transportation Committee is directed to evaluate major roadway projects that have begun since voters approved new funding sources in 2014 and 2015, and make recommendations to ensure projects are delivered on-time.
Appointees to Commission on Judicial Selection. On Monday, Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker Dennis Bonnen named appointees to the newly formed Texas Commission on Judicial Selection. House Bill 3040 (Hunter) created the commission and charged it with evaluating alternative methods of judicial selection and producing recommendations for reform to the Legislature by December 31, 2020.
Governor Abbott appointed Charles “Chip” Babcock, David Beck, Martha Hill Jamison, and David Oliveira, with Beck serving as chairman. Lt. Governor Patrick appointed Senators Joan Huffman (R-Houston), Juan “Chuy” Hinijosa (D-McAllen), Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) and Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) to the Commission. Speaker Bonnen has named Representatives Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa), Ina Minijarez (D-San Antonio) and Carl Sherman (D-DeSoto).
- David Beck of Houston is a senior partner at Beck Redden. He is a gubernatorial appointee to the University of Texas System Board of Regents, where he is chairman of the Audit, Compliance, and Risk Management Committee and chairman of the Facilities Planning and Construction Committee. Beck received a Bachelor of Science from Lamar University and a LL.B. degree from The University of Texas School of Law.
- Charles “Chip” Babcock of Houston is a partner at Jackson Walker. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas, American Law Institute, and the Brown University Advisory Board. Babcock received an A.B. from Brown University and a Juris Doctor degree from Boston University School of Law.
- Martha Hill Jamison of Houston is retired, and previously served on the Fourteenth Court of Appeals for nine years, and as judge of the 164th Civil District Court for nine years. Prior to her service with the Texas judiciary, she worked in both public and private sectors. She is board certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Jamison received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and a Juris Doctor degree from The University of Texas School of Law.
- David Oliveira of McAllen is a partner with Roerig, Oliveira & Fisher, LLP. Additionally, he is a former director for the Texas Association of Defense Counsel, former chair of the Texas Southmost College Board of Trustees, and a former member of UTRGV Medical School Advisory Board and the UTRGV President Search Committee. Oliveira received a Bachelor of Arts from UT Austin and a Juris Doctor degree from Texas Tech University Law School.
Texans Vote on Constitutional Amendments and Special Elections. Early voting began Monday, October 15th, and runs through Friday, November 1 for Texas voters to weigh in on 10 proposed amendments to the state constitution on issues ranging from school funding to wastewater infrastructure. All ten proposed amendments can be viewed here. Election Day is Tuesday, November 5th.