Last Week in the Legislature
By Kenneth Besserman
Director of Government Affairs and Special Counsel
April 16, 2021 | Issue No. 13
The Beginning of the End
With just over 40 days left in the 87th legislative session, members are beginning their final attempts to get bills heard in committee, negotiate compromise legislation on bills that are moving through the process, and beginning long days and nights on the House and Senate floor as the floor calendars get longer and longer. Legislative deadlines are approaching to get bills out of committee and on to the House and Senate floor for debate. Every day that passes at this point in the session we see hundreds and hundreds of bills dying in the legislative process.
As we all know, the Texas legislative process is designed to make it very difficult to pass legislation – a short session, legislative deadlines, slow committee hearing process and other hurdles. A slower process this session because of the pandemic has exacerbated the difficulty in passing legislation.
In light of the innumerable hurdles in the legislative process, TXCPA is extremely proud and thankful that our legislative priorities are moving forward on a bi-partisan basis and with very little concern at this point in the session. This week, our three top legislative priorities had significant legislative movement.
TXCPA Legislative Priorities
SB 297/HB 2032 – CPA fingerprinting deadline extension – had some additional movement in the House. SB 297 was referred to the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee. The House companion, HB 2032, was heard in the committee last week and should be voted out in the coming days. Once HB 2032 moves to the House floor, it will be substituted with the Senate bill so that it can pass the House and move to the governor’s office. The TXCPA Government Affairs team and our contract lobbyist team have heard very favorable comments about the bill and our members who have taken the time to contact legislators. Final passage looks highly favorable.
HB 1195 – PPP forgiven loans exclusion from franchise tax – also made progress this week. The bill was unanimously voted out of Senate Finance and certified for the Local and Uncontested Calendar. The bill is eligible to be heard on the Senate floor in the coming days, so Senate passage seems almost certain at this point. This bill has wide support in the legislature and among the business community. Look for HB 1195 to make its way to the governor’s desk very soon.
SB 6/HB 3659 – Pandemic Liability Protection Act – was heard in the House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee this week. SB 6 passed out of the Senate last week, 29-1, and its progress in the House might be a bit slower and more controversial, but passage of a pandemic liability protection act also looks promising. The bill was left pending in the House committee after a long hearing this week. There is expected to be some minor changes to the bill in the committee before the bill gets to the House floor.
The legislation will protect those businesses, churches, schools and other entities that have followed the rules, laws and regulations in place during the pandemic, and will not protect bad actors. This bill remains a high priority for state leadership, so we expect this bill to get to the governor’s desk as well.
Other Legislative News
On Thursday, the House debated permit-less/constitutional gun carry legislation. This legislation, HB 1927, would allow an individual over 21 to carry a firearm in Texas without the need for a permit so long as the person is not otherwise legally prevented from owning or carrying a weapon. This legislation is highly controversial and expected to be debated for many hours on the House floor. Ultimate passage in the House and Senate is uncertain.
The Senate this week debated other controversial legislation relating to transgender athletes in high school. While the bill did ultimately pass the Senate, its passage in the House is far from certain. The legislation tracks a number of other similar bills that are moving through other state legislatures. The bill would require a high school athlete to compete on a team that related to their birth gender. This issue has created a national buzz along the lines of the bathroom bill from 2017. We shall see how businesses and business groups respond to this controversial social legislation.
The Senate also passed legislation and a constitutional amendment reigning in the governor’s powers during times of emergency. The constitutional amendment will require a special session to be called if the declared emergency lasts more than 30 days. That will allow the legislature to convene to take legislative action on the governor’s emergency declarations if it chooses. In addition, SB 1025 would allow only the legislature to suspend provisions of the Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and the Election Code during any disaster declaration. The bill will require the governor to call a special session if the governor seeks changes to any criminal law or election law provisions.
Another item of interest – Congressman Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) announced that he will be retiring and will not run for Congress in 2022. Brady has been a great friend to TXCPA and the accounting profession and we appreciate his service to Texas. We will be closely watching candidate filings in the coming months. Stay tuned for more information on this race.