Legislative Committee Report
Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce
This legislative update was submitted to the Board of Directors and I by Tonya Moses, Chair of the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce, Legislative Committee.
Texas’ 87th legislature is nearing its end. Monday May 29th will mark 20 weeks or Sine Die, otherwise known as the adjournment. Last Fall we worked diligently to create a detailed and all-encompassing agenda that would strengthen our economy and set our area businesses and industry up for success. We hosted our virtual Golden Triangle Days, and numerous meetings, further using texts and emails follow up and to let our representatives know how they can best set our area up for robust recovery and a prosperous future. During this process, the seeds of information concerning Southeast Texas were planted so to speak.
Some of these items are being addressed through various House and Senate bills. Of course, then we face the Texas legislative process! To date we have achieved a couple of victories that have already received Gov Abbott’s signature. First Rep Deshotel sponsored HB 17 that prevents Texas municipalities from barring gas as a fuel for utilities on new construction (both commercial and residential). Second is HB 1905, regarding shifting local water planning duties to regional groups for a more comprehensive and complete approach to this life sustaining resource.
HB 2730 is another bill sponsored by Rep. Deshotel of significant interest regarding eminent domain. Currently the bill has passed the House. It was delivered to the Senate and is now scheduled for a Public Hearing today. History would say that its chances of passage are slim due to the fact that its second reading in the house occurred after May 10, which is a soft deadline that is often thought of as the last chance for success. However, the support of this bill is quite strong with the current administration and could possibly prove to be a rare late victory.
The majority of our other items are related to the state’s budget (SB 1). These range from funding, the criteria used to access the funds, distribution of funds, as well as appropriate allotment, and designation of funds to support our local infrastructure. This includes our roadways, water, sewer, drainage, the ports, and our educational system. Both the House and Senate have their version of a budget. Last week 10 Conferees, 5 from both houses were named. It is their job to iron out the differences in the two budgets. This is where the game is seemingly won or lost.
We have used a “dream team” to assist us in getting our projects both approved and funded, and this strategy has been successful. To form this dream team, we first identified the major players in the legislature such as State Rep. Dustin Burrows, (R-Lubbock), Chair of the House Calendars Committee. This is an especially powerful committee that oversees the timeline and order for which bills reach the House floor. Fiscally speaking state Sen. Jane Nelson, (R-Flower Mound), will continue to oversee the Senate’s role in the writing of the state’s $250 billion two-year spending plan and state Rep. Greg Bonnen, (R-Friendswood), Chairs the Appropriations Committee, which will spearhead the lower chamber’s budget.
Tonya has been in close contact with Sen Jane Nelson’s people as well as Rep Greg Bonnen’s office. They are now fairly well versed in our needs that were set out in the Chamber’s agenda. We are simply seeking to ensure that these conferees understand the importance of our area to the state’s economy and to see that our needs are appropriately addressed.
We are just asking for reasonable support that is earned and deserved so that we can continue to be a vital part of the fuel and energy supply for not only for Texas, but the nation as a whole and beyond to various other countries around the world.
So where does this leave us and our legislative agenda? Not to fear. This year we have worked hard to identify our legislative needs. Many of the needs are critical and even emergent. The identified issues if properly addressed by the legislature will allow Southeast Texas to become a major stake holder in rebuilding the post COVID economy in Texas. We are in constant communication with our representatives and will continue to provide updated details on the needs that were outlined by our chamber. I will keep you posted on not only the status of the budget, but we will follow our needs all of the way through the process until they are actually funded by the state.
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