October 4, 2017

This week's Capitol Roundup :
  • Federal funding for Harvey relief could face nearly three years of delay
  • Texas businesses in FEMA disaster area receive extensions on tax filings
  • Bills passed into law last session have begun to take effect
  • Abbott's newly appointed leadership team begins preparing for 2019 session

Please feel free to forward this information to others and reply by email with any changes or additions you'd like to see.
Click here to access past editions of Capitol Roundup.

AGC Texas Chapters

Quote of the Week
"The 5th Circuit quickly confirmed what my office and I long maintained: SB 4 is a common sense measure that prevents governments in Texas from standing in the way of federal enforcement of immigration law."
-Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton
Paxton made the comment in a statement released Sept. 26, the day after a federal court ruled parts of SB 4 - the sanctuary city ban - could go into effect. The court also ruled certain elements of the law were too vague or broad and will continue to play out on appeal. Paxton's office has filed a brief with the 5th Circuit and begun to accept violation complaints from citizens. 
Federal funds for Harvey relief face seven to 32 months of bureaucratic red tape

Cities and counties in Southeast Texas could be waiting up to nearly three years for federal funds to trickle into the area to aid long-term rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Land Commissioner George P. Bush told state lawmakers this week. 

Short-term funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to remove debris and repair homes has already made its way into the state, but money for longer term home repairs could be on hold for seven to 32 months. "It could be some time," Bush told the Texas House Urban Affairs Committee this week.
That committee, along with the House Appropriations Committee, met in Houston on Monday to coordinate responses to what remains to be a laborious recovery effort since the storm hit just over a month ago. 

Before the majority of disaster relief funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development can be deployed to aid the 1.2 million affected homes, government agencies must prepare an action plan, which must first be made available to the public for comment during a period lasting up to 60 days. The long-term funds will go to houses damaged beyond 50 percent, while immediate FEMA payments will go to those homes below that mark. 

Other Harvey relief news:
  • The House Natural Resources Committee is holding a hearing in Houston this Wednesday on the storm and how to reduce flooding and pollution in affected areas.
  • As recovery efforts continue, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday released a list of Harvey-related topics for Texas Senate committees to look into ahead of the next legislative session. Click here to see a full report. House Speaker Joe Straus released a list of interim charges earlier last month. Click here to see a full report. 
  • Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told House members that cleaning up debris in the city will cost an estimated $260 million and said the federal government is set to pay for around 90 percent of it.
  • Gov. Greg Abbott's office handed Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner a $50 million check for Harvey recovery last week. The money comes from the $100 million disaster relief fund appropriated to Abbott's office during the last legislative session, and it will go toward immediate relief needs such as reconstruction.  In return, Turner called off a proposed city-wide property tax hike. 
  • The Texas Taxpayers and Research Association (TTARA) has issued a new white paper outlining some post-disaster relief tax rules, including use of the Rainy Day Fund and reappraisals. The report noted the estimated $190 billion in damage is equivalent to 12 percent of the state's estimated economic output.
  • The Comptroller's office has compiled information for Hurricane Harvey evacuees and relief workers, including information on how to request an extension for reporting and paying taxes. Click here for more information. 
Source: HoustonRecovers.org
Franchise and sales tax extensions granted for Texas businesses in FEMA disaster area

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the state Comptroller's Office has compiled information for businesses eligible to request tax filing extensions, including the franchise tax, and certain sales tax exemptions. Click here for more information on extensions for filing taxes.

Franchise Tax

For the 2017 franchise tax reports with valid extensions to Nov. 15, an automatic extension has been granted to Jan. 5, 2018, to businesses located in the FEMA disaster area in Texas. See how to request additional extensions below.  
Sales Tax

The Comptroller's office is granting businesses located in the FEMA disaster area that are not required to file electronically an automatic 30-day extension to complete the following sales and use tax reports: August monthly reports due Sept. 20; and Quarterly reports due Oct. 20. 
Taxpayers are not required to report electronically if they paid less than $50,000 in sales and use tax in the preceding state fiscal year (Sept. 1 to Aug. 31). Taxpayers located in the FEMA disaster area who are not required but choose to report electronically will also receive the automatic extension.
Taxpayers required to electronically report sales and use tax and taxpayers reporting other tax types may request a 30-day extension of time to file if located in the FEMA disaster area. 
FEMA Disaster Area

The following counties have been deemed to be in the FEMA disaster area (see map below) Aransas, Austin, Bastrop, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Colorado, DeWitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzales, Hardin, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Karnes, Kleberg, Lavaca, Lee, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Polk, Refugio, Sabine, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Tyler, Victoria, Walker, Waller, Wharton
Flurry of bills passed in spring become Texas law in the fall

Several bills passed during the 2017 Texas legislative session have gone into effect over the last month. Some of the new laws are still making their way through various "rule-making" committees to determine exactly how they will be implemented. 

Here are four new laws - all have since taken effect - that AGC Texas Building Branch followed closely and/or was actively involved in passing this spring:

School background checks for contractors (HB 3270 by Dwayne Bohac & Larry Taylor)

The law decides when the state's mandatory background check applies to school construction projects.   More importantly, for most of our members' job sites, their workers will no longer require a check (e.g., greenfield projects, non-instructional facilities, secure job sites at existing schools). And now that a single standard is clear in statute, reciprocity within a region becomes easier to accomplish.

Right to repair ADA defects (HB 1463 by John Smithee & Kel Seliger)

Under this law, a person with a disability may assert a claim for discrimination based on a violation of the building and architectural standards established in Chapter 469 of the government code. The law also requires the claimant to provide the respondent written notice at least 60 days before filing an action for the violation and further gives the respondent an opportunity to cure the alleged violation within the 60-day period. The law allows the respondent an opportunity to remediate the violation without incurring litigation costs.

Preference for American-made iron and steel for state and local projects (SB 1289 by Brandon  Creighton & Chris Paddie)

The law requires large state projects - such as buildings, roads and bridges - to purchase iron and steel from an American supplier if the cost doesn't exceed 20 percent more than the price of cheaper, foreign imports.   

Sanctuary cities ban (SB 4 by Charles Perry & Charlie Geren)

As passed, the law bans local officials from preventing peace officers from questioning the immigration status of people they detain or arrest. It also seeks to punish local government department heads and elected officials that limit cooperation with federal immigration officials. Punishment could come in the form of jail time and penalties that exceed $25,000.  Last week, A panel of three appellate judges  ruled that provisions of the law are clear to go into effect while the case plays out on appeal.
Abbott appoints new leadership team to tackle "big ideas" in next legislative session

After making the announcement earlier this month, Gov. Greg Abbott's newly appointed team of senior staff began working this week. The change came in anticipation of the 2019 legislative session, according to Abbott's office. 

Abbott's long-time Chief of Staff, Daniel Hodge, will move to the private sector and will be replaced by Luis Saenz, who served as Abbott's appointments director before founding Saenz Public Affairs.
"I have been privileged to have Daniel Hodge by my side dating back to my tenure as Attorney General, bringing excellence to the organizations in which he has served. I am truly grateful for his commitment and service to the State of Texas," the statement from Abbott's office said.
"While there are big shoes to fill, I'm confident the team I'm introducing today is up to the task," the statement continued. "There are big ideas I plan to tackle in the upcoming session, and this team will be integral in spearheading those efforts. We have already started working to ensure a smooth transition, and we will continue our work to keep Texas the beacon of opportunity."

Abbott introduces his new staff at the Capitol on Sept. 18. From left to right: Matt Hirsch, Sarah Hicks, John Colyandro, Tommy Williams, Luis Saenz, Reed Clay, Peggy Venable, Steven Albright and Walter Fisher. (Source: AP)

Luis Saenz will serve as chief of staff. Saenz was the principal and founder of Saenz Public Affairs and has been actively involved in conservative politics at all levels of government for more than 25 years. 
Steven Albright will serve as senior advisor for state operations. Albright previously served as the budget director. Prior to joining the Office of the Governor, he served eight years as chief of staff in the Texas Senate for Senator Robert Nichols, as well as policy director for the Texas Senate Committee on Transportation.
Reed Clay will serve as counselor and chief operating officer. Clay was formerly the governor's deputy chief of staff. He has worked alongside Abbott for 8 years, having previously worked at the Texas attorney general's office prior to transitioning to Abbott's gubernatorial administration in 2015.

John Colyandro will serve as senior advisor and policy director. Colyandro formerly served as the executive director of the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, and the executive director of the Texas Conservative Coalition, a legislative caucus.
Walter Fisher will serve as legislative directorFisher previously served as Texas Senate parliamentarian from 1996-2014.
Sarah Hicks will serve as budget director. Hicks was formerly the assistant vice chancellor and director of state relations at the Texas A&M University System.
Matt Hirsch will serve as deputy chief of staff and communications director. Hirsch formerly served as Abbott's communications director, a role he has held since the governor announced his gubernatorial campaign in 2013.
Peggy Venable will serve as appointments director. Venable was formerly serving as a Senior Visiting Fellow for the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Tommy Williams will serve as senior advisor for fiscal affairs. Williams formerly served as the vice-chancellor for Federal and State Relations for the Texas A&M System.


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