HOU in ATX: Legislative Update – Week 12 – Rideshare Houston

Published Apr 03, 2023 by Taylor Landin

Partnership President & CEO Bob Harvey testifies in support of CCUS bill, legislators tackle broadband expansion and the state’s space economy, and the issue of K-12 curriculum reform takes center stage.
Senate Committee Hears Critical CCUS bill 
On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Natural Resources heard testimony on Senate Bill 2107 by Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville). The critical bill establishes a robust framework supporting the deployment of Carbon Capture Usage and Storage projects across the state. Bob Harvey, the Partnership’s President & CEO, was among those who testified in support of the bill.
“Here in Texas, we’ve built a legacy rooted in innovation, resiliency, and economic growth, and we’ve become the critical hub for essential carbon-intensive industries that power our nation’s economy…our state is the undisputed leader… yet, Texas is one of the few energy-producing states without comprehensive carbon storage legislation,” Harvey said.
Testimony supporting the bill centered on Texas’ economic competitiveness and the opportunity to become a global leader in CCUS. While those opposed to the bill as filed, primarily landowners, shared concerns with the integration section of the bill.
What’s next: After lengthy discussion, the bill was left pending in the committee. We expect significant changes to be made to the bill to address landowner concerns. The Partnership will continue to work with industry partners and stakeholders on substitute language.
Highlights from this Week 
Broadband Expansion
On Wednesday, the House State Affairs Committee considered broadband legislation authored by Representative Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin). Together, House Bill 9, House Joint Resolution 125, and House Bill 2662, would make historic investments in the expansion of broadband infrastructure around the state.
HB 9 would appropriate $5 billion for broadband expansion, while HJR 125 would establish the Broadband Infrastructure Fund as a fund outside the state treasury to increase connectivity. HB 2662 updates broadband legislation from 2021 to ensure state statutes align with newly implemented federal guidelines.
Space Ecosystem
This week, Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood) laid out House Bill 3447 before House State Affairs. This bill would create two entities that support Texas’ space economy — the Texas Space Commission and the Aerospace and Space Economy Consortium. These proposed organizations will continue to keep Houston competitive for future aerospace innovation and economic growth within the space industry.
By the numbers: both House Appropriations and Senate Finance bills include $350,000,000 for this commission. According to the Texas Comptroller , NASA makes a $4.7 billion economic impact on the Texas economy, including 52,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Advanced Recycling
This week, the House Committee on Environmental Regulation heard House Bill 3060 by Representative Ed Thompson (R-Pearland), a bill to support transforming plastic waste through advanced recycling. The Partnership joined industry and other stakeholders in support of the bill, which was left pending by the committee.
Higher Education
House Bill 8 by Representative Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston), and its Senate companion Senate Bill 2539, are rapidly progressing through the first few steps of the legislative process. The bills would overhaul the state’s system of financing community colleges, shifting toward an outcomes-based and industry-aligned approach. HB 8 was heard in the House Higher Education Committee on Monday and was unanimously voted to advance.
On Monday, the House Higher Education Committee also heard House Bill 1595 by Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood). This bill would significantly increase higher education funding to support research, innovation, and talent pipeline development, by creating a new multibillion dollar endowment to support four Texas university systems, including the University of Houston System. The bill was left pending and will be taken back up for a vote at a later date.
Public Education
Senate Bill 9 by Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) focuses on teacher recruitment and retention by providing a $2,000 base pay raise for all teachers, expanding the Teacher Incentive Allotment for merit-based pay, funding a Teacher Residency Program to assist new teachers entering the profession, and a “Teacher Time Study” to help minimize the non-teaching tasks that teachers are often burdened with.
This bill would address many of the concerns and solutions raised by the Teacher Vacancy Task Force, and received broad support during committee testimony. SB 9 was left pending and will be voted on at a later date.
Partnership’s Executive Priorities 
Flood Mitigation
Next Thursday, the House is expected to vote on House Bill 1, authored by House Appropriations Chair, Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood). HB 1 contains the state’s biennial budget, the only bill the legislature is constitutionally required to pass each legislative session.
Why it matters: The House budget proposal appropriates $350 million dollars to replenish the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) prior to the completion of the state flood plan in September 2024. This would be the first time the program received funds from general revenue, creating a dedicated line item within the state budget for each biennium moving forward.
How we got here: The Partnership was instrumental in getting the first $790 million fund created during the 2019 legislative session. Due to the necessity and effectiveness of the program, nearly all of the funding has been committed to flood mitigation and infrastructure projects around the state.
Economic Development Incentives
The House Ways & Means committee is expected to hear House Bill 5 by Representative Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) on Tuesday, April 10. House Bill 5, also known as the Texas Jobs and Security Act, would create a new economic development program to ensure Texas remains competitive in winning large capital-intensive projects.
By the numbers: The Partnership is a leader in the effort to encourage business organizations throughout the state to sign onto this letter that has been shared with the House Ways & Means Committee and the Texas Senate. To date, the letter has 242 organizations signed on in support.
Center Stage: K-12 Curriculum Reform 
According to a recent study, only 17% of Texas students are receiving classroom instruction on grade level. Students are increasingly underprepared for proficiency tests, college entrance exams, and entering the workforce. These learning gaps are evidenced by low local National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, which are the national standard for measuring student academic proficiency.
House Bill 1605 by Representative Brad Buckley (R-Killeen) aims to address this issue head-on by designating certain state-approved, grade level, high-quality instructional materials that school districts may voluntarily decide to use. The availability of this curriculum will allow teachers to spend less time drafting lesson plans and more time teaching, while also making the curricula available online to parents.
Why it matters: The adoption of the high-quality instructional material called for in HB 1605 will result in higher achieving Texas students that are prepared for college and the workforce.
Update: HB 1605 and its Senate companion, SB 2565, have both been heard in their respective committees and were left pending to be voted on at a future time.
The Partnership’s Public Education Advisory Committee met to discuss emerging issues in public education from both policy and research perspectives. During the discussion, education experts Cary Wright (CEO, Good Reason Houston) and Dr. Erin Baumgartner (Director, Houston Education Research Consortium) highlighted curriculum reform as an especially important and urgent issue.
During the 88th Legislative Session, the Greater Houston Partnership will provide a weekly update on newsworthy items from Austin. You can view more policy news and archives of our weekly updates hereSubscribe here to get our weekly legislative updates. 
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