After missing most of the summer, some Texas legislative committees are finally beginning to take up the business they have been charged with completing before the next session.
The interim committee charge issued last November by lame duck House Speaker Dennis Bonnen included 51 pages of work to be completed before the legislature convenes in January. In the Texas Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked committees to study more than 100 charges.
The summer and fall months before a session are usually filled with hearings on those charges. Public hearings are scheduled around the state and recommendations are prepared. Most of that work has been sidelined while the state deals with COVID-19, but there are signs that lawmakers are waking up to the fact that in about five months, they will be back at the state capitol to consider the budget, legislation and policy changes to address the state’s critical issues.
The Texas Senate has yet to schedule any hearings. That chamber’s working groups have been meeting, just not publicly. Last week, the senate finance committee submitted its interim report, including a recommendation for a new policy tying state spending to the rate of population growth plus inflation.
Over in the Texas House, draft protocols obtained by the Quorum Report detail how in-person hearings would be held during the pandemic, but there are no meetings scheduled. In fact, a check of every committee finds that all meetings have been canceled.
House committees are seeking input on a variety of issues, but they are doing so virtually due to the pandemic.
Surprisingly, as of this writing, the Public Education Committee, which would likely want to hear from parents, teachers and others about the handling of COVID-19 in Texas public schools, has not scheduled any time for taking public input.
Likewise, there are currently no hearings or notices of requests for public comment from the Redistricting Committee, which will be heavily involved in redistricting this year.
House Committees Seeking Public Input
The Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety Committee is accepting public comment until Aug. 21 regarding the ongoing and long-term workforce needs of the state related to cybersecurity, mental health, law enforcement and other related professionals.
The Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee has set Aug. 28 as the deadline to get your thoughts in on its charges. You can read more here.
The International Relations and Economic Development Committee’s deadline for public input on its six charges is Aug. 31.
Sept. 1 is the deadline set by the Higher Education Committee for input on the topics they are considering, which include on-campus COVID-19 testing and other issues related to the pandemic and how schools are keeping faculty, students and staff safe as well as five other charges. The public notices are found here.
The Insurance Committee, which is looking into price gouging, business interruption claims and surprise billing associated with COVID-19, is taking input until Sept. 8. This committee is not requesting comment on the expansion of Medicaid. Texas is now just one of 12 states that have failed to expand the federally subsidized insurance system to all eligible residents.
The deadline for submitting input to the Elections Committee is Sept. 18. Their agenda includes recommendations on the establishment of best practices for conducting an election during a declared disaster, an important topic given the ongoing pandemic and its impact on voting this year.
The Appropriations Committee and associated subcommittees are taking public input on the actuarial soundness of the Employees Retirement System and Teacher Retirement System pension funds as well as several other issues until Sept. 30. Information on the subcommittees is here, here, here, here and here.
Sept. 25 is the deadline for submitting comments to the Natural Resources Committee.
Most of the issues being considered by the Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee have to do with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the Texas wine industry and gaming rooms. The public has until Oct. 30 to provide input.