April 7, 2017

This week's Capitol Roundup :

CLICK HERE to register for the 2017 AGC Convention June 18-21 at Coeur d'Alene Resort in Idaho. 
  • House counters Senate with budget bill using $2.5 billion from Rainy Day Fund
  • All top AGC-TBB bills reach committee level, await votes

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AGC Texas Chapters

Quote of the Week
" If you want to go up and characterize something in such an offensive way, I would hope that you would have a little bit better understanding. "
-State Rep. John Zerwas

Zerwas (R-Richmond) made the comment during budget debate on the House floor in response to a proposed amendment by Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park)  that would have abolished the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's advisory council on palliative, or end-of-life, care. Zerwas is an anesthesiologist and the House's lead budget writer. Cain removed the amendment.
House and Senate move closer on budget, disagree on Rainy Day Fund

After more than 15 hours of contentious debate, the Texas House passed a budget around 2 a.m. Friday, moving its spending blueprint closer to the Senate's plan but stopping short of an agreement on tapping into the state's savings account.

House budget writers faced more than 200 amendments to their 2018-19 spending document, but the bill managed to pass by a margin of 131-16.  While the House cut about $4 billion in general state revenue spending from its original plan laid out this session, its members voted to tap into the Rainy Day Fund to cover a $2.5 billion hole left by a drop in revenue this year.

Meanwhile, the Senate - which unanimously passed its budget plan last week - increased spending from its original plan by $2.7 billion and covered the $2.5 billion gap by  shifting back the date of a new transfer of general revenue into the state highway fund. The competing House and Senate plans will likely have to be worked out in conference committee before the May 29 deadline.

House budget leaders, including House Speaker Joe Straus, have called the Senate's maneuver an "accounting trick." Lead House budget writer Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond) thanked House lawmakers for tapping into state savings,  "instead of electing to use an unconstitutional transfer from the transportation funding."

There has been talk around the Capitol of possibly using the Rainy Day Fund since the two chambers began their budget talks with spending plans that were $5 billion apart. While it has been used in the past to avoid tax hikes, Texas state lawmakers have consistently said that the fund should not be used for ongoing expenses, such as education or transportation. 

In an especially lean budget year, the two chambers of the Legislature disagree not only on funding sources, but also on which areas of the budget to cut. Perhaps the biggest disagreement lies in opposing efforts to find new ways to fund education. 

While the Senate budget would strip $1.8 billion in state education funding and shift more costs to local governments during a time of rising property values, the House plan would add $1.6 billion in state funds in order to relieve pressure from property taxes. The House budget also shifts  the budget's final education aid payment onto the next state budget.

Both the House and Senate budgets spend more than the state is currently taking in.  Comptroller Glenn Hegar said in January that Texas would bring in less revenue over the 2018-19 cycle than in the current 2016-17 cycle. The drop is due to a crash in oil prices, but also because 2015 tax cuts removed $4 billion from the budget, the same year lawmakers and voters approved nearly $5 billion in new highway funding. 
All AGC-TBB bills referred to committees

All bills advocated by AGC Texas Building Branch have been referred to committees where they await debate and votes to move them to the floors of the House and Senate.

In a particularly measured session, especially in the House, bills have been moving at a slower pace than usual. However, now that the House and Senate have each passed budget bills with different concessions, there is more time and space on the legislative calendar to address other legislation. 

The following is an updated list of all top AGC-TBB bills and their respective committees. 

Right to Repair Construction Defects 
HB 2343 by
Rep. Paul Workman - 
House Business & Industry

State Breach of Contract Clean-up Legislation
by Rep. John Cyrier - 
House Judiciary
SB 1950 by Rep. Bryan Hughes - Senate State Affairs
HB 2128 by Rep. John Cyrier - 
House Judiciary
SB 1947  by Rep. Bryan Hughes - Senate State Affairs

Lien law Modernization
 HB 3065  by Rep. Deshotel - House Business & Industry Committee
 SB 1506 by Senator Hinojosa - Senate Business & Commerce
Prevailing Wage Rate Surveys 
HB 2689 by Rep. Jim Murphy - House Business & Industry
SB 1951  by Rep. Bryan Hughes - Senate Business & Commerce
Uniform General Conditions for Schools 
 HB 3434 by Rep. Linda Koop - House Public Education
Construction Contract and Purchasing Revisions 
HB 3020  by Rep. John Cyrier - House Appropriations
SB 2233 by Rep. Larry Taylor - Senate Business & Commerce
School Background Checks 
 HB 3270 by Rep. Dwayne Bohac - House Public Education
Contract Labor on Public Projects 
HB 3357 by Rep. Ramon Romero, Jr. - House Business & Industry

Contract Claims with State Agencies (change orders)
SB 1947 by Rep. Bryan Hughes - Senate State Affairs

Contract Claims with State Agencies (attorney's fees)
SB 1950  by Rep. Bryan HughesSenate State Affairs

29 - Last Day of 85th Legislature

18-21 -  AGC TBB Annual Convention - Coueur d'Alene Resort, Idaho

10 -  AGC TBB Safety Committee Meeting - Austin

15 -  AGC TBB Board Meeting - Austin AGC Office

3 -  AGC TBB Safety Committee Meeting - TEXO
17 - AGC TBB Board Meeting - Austin AGC Office