Last Week in the Legislature
By Kenneth Besserman
Director of Government Affairs and Special Counsel
April 9, 2021 | Issue No. 12
A Great Week for TXCPA Priorities
This week has been a very good week in the Texas Legislature for TXCPA and our 2021 legislative priorities. Floor debate and committee hearings and votes are occurring rapidly.
Thank you to our Key Persons, advocates, and all our members for pushing these bills and issues and connecting with our legislators. Time and again, we hear from members of the legislature that our Key Person Program is very influential and effective.
Senate Bill 297 (Sen. Perry) passed the Senate this week in a unanimous vote. SB 297 will extend the CPA license renewal fingerprinting deadline to August 31, 2022 to enable licensees extra time to submit their fingerprints to the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy. The pandemic has limited access to authorized fingerprinting locations, so many CPAs have been unable to meet the August 2021 deadline. The extra year will enable more CPAs to come into compliance with the Sunset recommendation that all CPAs submit their fingerprints (one time only) to the State Board. On Wednesday, April 7, the companion bill, HB 2023 (Rep. Button) was heard in the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee. The bill has wide support in the House and Senate, so there is a very good chance that this bill will get to the governor’s desk for his signature.
In other good news, HB 1195 (Rep. Geren), which will exclude loans forgiven under the Paycheck Protection Program from Texas franchise tax calculations, passed the House and is now in the Senate. Senator Hancock, author of SB 372, which is the companion bill to HB 1195, had the bill heard in Senate Finance on Wednesday. There is wide support for this bill. The bill also had unanimous support in the House, so all signs point to swift passage in the Senate and on to the governor’s desk.
Another priority piece of legislation, SB 6 (Sen. Hancock), passed the Senate on April 8. Senate Bill 6 is common-sense pandemic liability protection that represents stakeholder consensus on the best way to move forward during and post-pandemic. SB 6 does not provide blanket immunity, nor does it protect bad actors. Instead, SB 6 provides much-deserved protection from litigation for businesses that have acted in good faith during the pandemic. These businesses and providers have kept our economy running, and they should not be subjected to frivolous lawsuits. TXCPA has been involved in the stakeholder process to ensure that individuals have access to the courts for their pandemic-related injuries and businesses are protected from meritless claims.
The Senate version of the state budget, SB 1, also passed out of the Senate unanimously. While the budget deficit has largely disappeared, there was considerable debate about how the expected significant federal stimulus funding should be allocated and spent. The current version of the budget does not include the $6-30 billion that Texas may receive in federal funding. Concerns were raised about the strings attached to the federal funding, the timing of receipt of the funds, and who has authority to allocate or recommend usage of local, educational and health care related federal funds. There were no clear answers to those questions on the Senate floor. Leaders are still attempting to get answers from federal officials on the usage of the stimulus funding. This issue will also be front and center in the House debate and the conference committee on the state budget.
The election integrity legislation, SB 7, still remains front and center in Texas and nationally. Corporations are beginning to publicly oppose SB 7 on the same grounds as they have opposed the Georgia voting reform legislation that has garnered considerable national attention. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick vigorously defended SB 7 in a press conference on Wednesday. The legislation has passed the Senate and debate will begin in the House very soon. This is a highly charged issue on both sides of the aisle, so count on some vigorous and heated debate in the House.
Long awaited partisan battles over abortion, social media censorship, transgender issues, permitless gun carry and election reform are beginning to percolate. Attention will focus on House committees and the House floor since most of these bills have already passed the Senate. Stay tuned for some interesting debates in the coming weeks.