Legislative update 2/26/21
What a difference a week makes. Freezing temperatures thawed while Austin hearing rooms heated up as legislators demanded answers to last week’s “snow-pocalypse.”
The energy grid failure is now a top-of-agenda item for the 87th Texas Legislature. Gov. Greg Abbott made it an emergency item and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick put it at the top of his priority list.
Patrick announced a total of 31 priority bills for 2021, focusing on three themes: “A safe and secure Texas future,” “Life, liberty and conservative Texas values,” and “Protecting taxpayers and the Texas economy.”
In addition to the power grid, he also announced Senate bills for statewide broadband access, virtual learning, charter school equity, pandemic liability limits and business freedom and uniformity.

The Texas Association of Business has updated its list of bills to watch:

  • HB 34 - Presumptive coverage for first responders
  • HB 244 - Relating to the establishment of a grant program for promoting computer science certification and professional development in coding, technology applications, and computer science for public schoolteachers.
  • HB515 - telemedicine/telehealth reimbursement
  • HB 593 - establishing an intergovernmental development corporation to foster minority- or women-owned construction businesses
  • HB975/SB 412 - telemedicine, telehealth, and technology-related health care services.
  • HB1195/SB372 - Taxes - Forgiveness of a loan made under the Paycheck Protection Program for franchise tax purposes
  • HB1446/ SB 506 - Creates a broadband office within the Comptroller's office responsible for creating a broadband development map and plan
  • HB1511 - creation of the connectivity office within the office of the governor
  • HB1557 - Relating to the Texas Economic Development Act.
  • HB 1614 - Use of certain technologies to supervise a defendant placed on community supervision
  • HB 1791 - Eligibility for job-training programs provided under the self-sufficiency fund
  • HB 1810 - Maintenance and production of electronic public information
  • HB 1820 - Regulation, monitoring, and enforcement of matters under the jurisdiction of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
  • SB 144 - Economic Development/Chapter 313
  • SB 207- Tort/Reducing Lawsuit Abuse in Commercial/Company owned vehicle cases
  • SB 107 -  Relating to certain claims for benefits, compensation, or assistance by certain public safety employees and survivors of certain public safety employees
  • SB 144 - Economic Development/Chapter 313
  • SB 207 - Tort/Reducing lawsuit abuse in commercial & company vehicle cases
  • SB 249 - business interruption insurance coverage for losses arising from a pandemic.
  • SB 475 - Public data privacy enhancing the state's cybersecurity efforts
  • SB 488 - Telemedicine - Practice of dentistry and the provision of tele-dentistry dental services safety safety employees and survivors of certain public safety employees.
  • SB 532 - Relating to the release of certain defendants on personal bond or on bail
  • SB 551 – prohibiting local authorities to regulate employment benefits

On Capitol Hill, the House approved the $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan.” (textsummary). The Senate parliamentarian ruled that the included $15 minimum wage increase would not be included in its version.
The Biden administration announced several changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) designed to help small businesses.
The latest on Biden executive orders, cabinet nominees: Click here to view TRP's comprehensive tracking document. Click here to view the hearing schedule for the President's cabinet nominees.

Public Policy events

Austin Fly-In
The Richardson Chamber and Tech Titans hosted its annual Austin Fly-In Feb. 24-26 in an all-virtual setting. Recorded videos of the presentations will be available soon.
Key areas of focus included:

  • Education and the economy
  • Healthcare and transportation
  • Trade and rural initiatives

Speakers included:
State Sen. Angela Paxton, Vice-Chair of the Senate Property Tax Committee; sits on the Senate committees for Business & Commerce, Education, and Natural Resources & Economic Development.
Mike Morath, Commissioner of Education for the State of Texas
Rep. Jim Murphy, Chairman of the Higher Education Committee
State Rep. Jeff Leach, Chair of the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence; sits on Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee
Glenn Hegar, Texas State Comptroller.
State Rep. Angie Chen Button, Chair of the International Relations & Economic Development; sits on Ways & Means Committee
There also was  a live connection to Texas Tribune's "A Conversation with Rep. Harold Dutton, Chair of the House Public Education Committee."

Public Policy Briefing- RISD bond issue
12 p.m. – 1 p.m. March 8
Join the Policy Committee for a conversation about the upcoming $750 M bond program for the RISD that will be called for a vote at the May election. Featured guest will be RISD Superintendent Dr. Jeannie Stone and moderator will be Liz Morse, Government Affairs and Civic Engagement Liaison for the RISD.
If approved by voters this spring, $694 million will go toward school buildings, buses, and safety, with the other $56 million to be used for technology devices.
This new bond program comes with the upcoming expiration of the 2016 Bond Program, so no new tax increase would be necessary.

Annual Meeting
March 11
Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is slated to be the keynote speaker for this year’s Annual Meeting. The 2020 Richardson Citizen of the Year also will be announced at the annual meeting.
See all the details about the event on the Annual Meeting page.
Full list of sponsorships and benefits
Email or call 972-792-2819 if you have questions.

Here are some additional resources for in-depth coverage:
Richardson Chamber of Commerce Public Policy
Texas Legislature Online
Legislative Reference Library
LegiScan Texas
Texas League of Women Voters
Texas Tribune: The Legislature Explained - YouTube
Texas Tribune: 2021 Texas Legislature