Tracking Regional Priorities in Austin

During the 87th Texas Legislative Session, the Dallas Regional Chamber tracked how local legislators voted on issues that impact the region’s pro-business, pro-growth priorities.  

The result is this Legislative Index, designed to help our members – and the North Texas business community as a whole – better understand how our elected officials represented our region’s interests in Austin.  

Fourteen recorded votes in the Texas House and Senate were used to develop the index, revealing the position of 37 representatives and eight senators. These bills were selected for their relevance to critical issues for our region and state – namely, preserving our economic development success, investing in our future workforce, and supporting COVID-19 recovery.  

Although the DRC supported many pieces of legislation and opposed others, only those aligned with our legislative agenda were recorded on the index.  

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dallas Region notched important wins this session that will contribute to its future resilience.

BILL SUMMARIES

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

STATE FUNDS 

SB 1, the budget bill for Texas, appropriates $248.55B for the next biennium, fully funding the state’s commitment to public education investments made by HB 3 during the 86th session, with funding for projected enrollment growth, and $8.6B – a $486M increase to fund higher education. The budget also includes a major win for behavioral health; $44.8M for the planning and land acquisition costs of a critically needed state behavioral health hospital in the Dallas Region.

BROADBAND ACCESS

HB 5 establishes a framework for broadband internet expansion in Texas, focusing on underserved areas.

LIABILITY PROTECTIONS

SB 6 provides retroactive liability protections for businesses from COVID-19- related lawsuits.

TAXPAYER SUITS

HB 2080 amends Chapter 112, Tax Code (Taxpayers’ Suits) by adding Subchapter E (Suit after Redetermination) to provide for a taxpayer to bring suit in district court without having first paid a disputed amount in protest.

EDUCATION & WORKFORCE

PUBLIC EDUCATION

HB 1525 provides technical fixes and other improvements to HB 3 (86R), including updated career and technical education allotments. It also seeks to address and remedy issues relating to local taxation and revenue, charter school funding, the fast growth allotment, early literacy training requirements for educators, and the teacher incentive allotment.

HIGHER EDUCATION

SB 1102, in response to unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic, establishes the Texas Reskilling and Upskilling through Education (TRUE) Program to put Texans back to work in high-demand occupations and further accelerate Texas’ economic recovery.

WORKFORCE

HB 1247 directs the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Workforce Commission, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to jointly develop a strategic framework to encourage work-based learning in Texas. This new framework will guide cross-sector partnerships and identify competencies and credentials crucial to the economic success of Texas.

HEALTH CARE

TELEMEDICINE & VIRTUAL HEALTH EXPANSION

HB 4 makes permanent most of the Medicaid/CHIP waivers put in place as part of the state’s COVID-19 response while still upholding the standard of care. It amends current law relating to the provision and delivery of health care services under Medicaid and other public benefits programs using telecommunications or information technology and to reimbursement for some of those services.

MAXIMIZING FEDERAL DOLLARS FOR MEDICAID

HB 133 requires the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to continue to provide Medicaid to women enrolled during a pregnancy for at least six months after delivery or miscarriage.

COVID-19 RECOVERY

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION CONTRIBUTION TAX RATE

HB 7 amends current law relating to the computation of the replenishment ratio used to determine an employer’s unemployment compensation contribution tax rate.

FRANCHISE TAX TREATMENT OF PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM

HB 1195 amends the Tax Code to provide for exclusion from total revenue of the amounts of certain loans (such as the Paycheck Protection Program) or grant proceeds for purposes of the franchise tax.

INFRASTRUCTURE

ENERGY

SB 3 aims to address issues in Texas’ power grid, highlighted by Winter Storm Uri. The bill establishes an energy emergency alert system and formalizes the Texas Energy Reliability Council and its duties related to ensuring Texas’ natural gas needs are met. It also requires all generation, transmission, and natural gas facilities and pipelines in the state to weatherize equipment under threat of a $1M daily fine for failure to comply.

TRANSPORTATION

HB 2219 authorizes the Transportation Commission to issue Texas Mobility Fund bonds, providing financing for transportation projects in Texas.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE & PUBLIC SAFETY

RETURNING TO THE WORKFORCE

HB 569, the Bonton Farms Act, aims at easing the burden on Texans who were recently release from jail or prison by eliminating financial barrier to re-entry.