Texas Legislature A Deux

The sequel to the 85th Texas Legislature – in the form of a Special Session – starts this week in Austin to address unfinished business.

And.. much like the 1st session ended, there will almost certainly be drama.

First, Governor Greg Abbott wants a bill to continue operations of the Texas Medical Board which licenses and regulates our doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.

If and when that gets done, the Governor has outlined 19 other issues he wants addressed.

The most high-profile of those issues is the so-called ‘bathroom bill’ to require people to use the bathroom associated with their birth gender.

The business community is rallying against the bill for economic reasons.

The perceived discriminatory nature of the legislation could result in Texas losing major sporting and other professional events as North Carolina did before they reversed their policy.  State tourism officials have projected the economic impact in the billions of dollars.

The technology industry – which has made major investments in Texas in recent years — thinks they’ll have a harder time recruiting the diverse and skilled workforce they need.

It’s an issue that has gotten much too much attention.

Speaking of a skilled workforce..

The Legislature recently authorized using the Skills Development Fund to help companies expanding in Texas or re-locating from another state if they offer high-skilled jobs.

The Fund has about $ 48,000,000M available.

And remember, the Texas Enterprise Fund – the Governor’s deal-closing fund for major job projects — will have about $90M to spend over the next 2 years.

Just this week the Governor announced a $6M deal with Merck, the pharmaceutical  giant, to develop a technology hub around the Dell Medical School campus in Austin. Merck is expected to create 600 high-wage jobs.

So, while short of the $ 200 Million the business community wanted — Texas hasn’t completely disarmed when it comes to business recruitment.

And finally, Governor Abbott has said that addressing rising property taxes is the “number one issue” of the special session.

The Governor fears that rising valuations are taxing people out of their homes and wants to reign them in.  These big increases can also hamper business expansion, particularly in the capital-intensive industries.

The rub is that property taxes – which are taxed locally – pay for core community services like public schools, roads, emergency services, police and fire protection.

And, naturally, rising populations around the state put a strain on those services.

It’s a difficult issue to be sure with large and powerful competing interests.

Given the political tension in Austin right now, whether the Legislature even gets to that issue – on the list of 20 – is far from clear.

Craig Casselberry

cc@quorumpublicaffairs.com

(512) 762-7366

 

 

 

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