Last Week in the Legislature
The Clock is Ticking
By Kenneth Besserman
Director of Government Affairs and Special Counsel
May 5, 2023 | Issue 13
AUSTIN - The last month of every legislative session is fraught with legislative deadlines, tactics to kill or stall legislation, the state budget and other major issues to negotiate that take up an enormous amount of legislative bandwidth, and petty squabbles that prevent members from getting their bills passed. The 88th session is no different.
CPA Pipeline Progress
With all the legislative turmoil swirling in the background, TXCPA continues to have a successful session. SB 159 – allowing students to begin testing at 120 hours – has now passed both chambers and was sent to Governor Greg Abbott on May 2. The Governor has until May 13 to sign, veto or let the legislation become law without his signature. TXCPA has worked hard this session to educate legislators and staff about the importance of this bill and all indications are that the Governor will sign it.
HB 2504 – expansion of the Fifth-Year Accounting Scholarship – continues to make legislative progress. The legislation has passed the House and now awaits a Senate Business & Commerce Committee hearing. We are hopeful that the bill can be heard in the next scheduled committee hearing so that we can avoid any last-minute issues, delay tactics or a crowded legislative calendar. The legislation has received overwhelming legislative support and we are quite hopeful that we can see more movement toward passage next week.
Negotiations have stalled or slowed down on property tax relief, and serious differences exist between the House and the Senate over power grid and ERCOT reforms – not to mention the latest report from the Public Utility Commission that predicts a high probability of brownouts this coming summer as peak energy demand will exceed generating capacity.
The House and Senate are still far apart on negotiating property tax reduction. The debate continues to be between a larger homestead exemption versus a reduced cap on property tax appraisal increases. The chambers seem further apart now than they have been in recent weeks. The communications, rhetoric, advertisements, polling, vocal support for both plans, and animosity emanating from both chambers is getting louder, stronger and more vitriolic. A negotiated deal is still more likely than not; this is the one issue that can put the legislature back into a special session. Lowering property taxes was promised by the Big Three and by many members of the legislature and it could be a political fiasco for members to return to their districts after the session without the promised property tax relief.
Other major state legislation that continues to progress this session include:
- A 13th paycheck for retired teachers;
- A number of election-related bills that address issues from reduction of early voting locations, more state oversight of county-run elections and increased penalties relating to improperly run elections;
- Prohibitions on gender-affirming and gender-transitioning health care and medical procedures;
- A statewide business courts system;
- Border security funding;
- Increased funding for water projects and infrastructure;
- ERCOT/power grid reform that seeks to create and incentivize more generating capacity in Texas and limit renewable energy sources; and
- Private school vouchers.
All these bills have had at least one hearing either in the House or Senate; some have had hearings in both chambers and some of these issues are beginning to enter the negotiation stage where the chambers iron out the differences before final passage. As the session winds down and finishes, we will have a lengthy review of the legislation that has passed that affects the business community and legislation that has a broader effect on the whole state.
Next week is a significant deadline in the House. If a House bill has not passed second reading by May 11, the bill is likely dead and will not pass. But even before May 11, if a House bill has not had a hearing – likely this week or early next week – there is almost no way to get the bill out of committee and scheduled on the House floor for debate. This means that we are very close to the end of House bills being able to pass the House and get through the Senate. So, as mentioned in the title, The Clock is Ticking…
Only 23 days left in the session.