November Legislative Update: Nov. 1, 2019
FROM WASHINGTON, D.C.
FY 2020 Appropriations
Yesterday the US Senate passed the FY 2020 appropriations bill for the US Department of Transportation, including 41 amendments. One adopted amendment prevents a $1.2 billion cut to public transportation funding by blocking a 12 percent across-the-board cut to transit agencies in FY 2020. The Senate’s bill has about $1.5 billion less for USDOT than the House’s version, which passed back in June. The two chambers will now meet in conference committee to (hopefully) resolve differences before Nov. 21, when the Continuing Resolution extending FY 2019 funding levels ends. By that date, Congress must either reach an agreement on 2020 appropriations or pass another Continuing Resolution. Otherwise, they risk sending federal workers home without a turkey for their tables.
The Senate is still debating the appropriations bill for the Energy and Defense departments.
Senate Interim Charges
The 2019 Senate Interim Charges
were released Wednesday. These are the topics that committees will study and hold hearings on before the next legislative session begins in January 2021. The House has not yet released their interim charges.
Interim Charges: Transportation Committee
Interim Charges: Business and Commerce Committee
- Safety: Study the primary causes for traffic-related accidents and fatalities, including fatality rates as a result of intoxicated driving. Make recommendations for effective strategies to improve roadway safety.
- Project Delivery: Evaluate major roadway construction projects that have begun since voters approved new funding sources in 2014 and 2015. Make recommendations to ensure on-time project completion and improve cost efficiencies.
- Texas Department of Transportation Flight Services: Evaluate the current funding, maintenance procedures, and staffing levels at Texas Department of Transportation's Flight Services. Make recommendations to ensure the safest fleet and most efficient service.
- Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Transportation passed by the 86th Legislature, as well as relevant agencies and programs under the committee's jurisdiction. Specifically, make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation of the following:
- The Legislature's new funding for the driver's license program as funded in the General Appropriations Act;
- The Legislature's funding for grants to counties to be used for repair of county roads as funded in the General Appropriations Act;
- SB 198, relating to payment for the use of a highway toll project;
- SB 616, as it relates to the analysis of the opportunities and challenges of transferring the driver license program to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles;
- SB 1915, relating to the board of pilot commissioners for Harris County ports; and
- SB 2223, as it relates to two-way directional routes.
Interim Charges: Intergovernmental Relations Committee
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Examine current state and local laws regulating unmanned aerial vehicles. Identify any legislative changes needed to streamline regulation in a manner that promotes commerce and innovation while protecting public safety and the privacy and property rights of Texans.
Comptroller’s Certification Revenue Estimate
- Infrastructure Resiliency: Examine the authority special purpose districts have to generate natural disaster resilient infrastructure. Determine ways state government can work with special purpose districts to mitigate future flooding and promote more resilient infrastructure. Make recommendations on how special purpose districts may use their statutory authority to assist in mitigating damage from future natural disasters.
On Oct. 10, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar released his 2020-2021 Certification Revenue Estimate. The report reflects an optimistic forecast by the Comptroller’s office for the Texas economy through fiscal year 2021. The report predicts low levels of unemployment, continued growth in the state population, and growth in the annual rate for personal income. In addition, the Comptroller reports that the state will have $121.76 billion in General Revenue related funds available for the 2020-2021 biennium. Those General Revenue related funds will be used to cover the $118.86 billion of general-purpose spending for the 2020-2021 biennium.
In fiscal year 2020, $1.67 billion will be transferred to both the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) and the State Highway Fund (SHF). The $1.67 billion transfers will come from severance taxes collected in fiscal year 2019. In fiscal year 2021, $1.59 billion will be transferred to the ESF and SHF, respectively. The Comptroller’s office predicts an ESF balance of $9.35 billion at the end of fiscal 2021. In both 2020 and 2021, $2.5 billion of state sales tax revenue is expected to be deposited into the SHF as a result of Proposition 7. Proposition 7 also stipulates that a portion of motor vehicle sales tax revenue in excess of $5 billion collected in a single fiscal year will also be transferred to the SHF. The Comptroller predicts that this threshold will be met and that almost $35 million will be transferred to the SHF from motor vehicle sales tax in the 2020- 2021 biennium.
H.R. 4753 Drone Origin Security Enhancement Act (Crenshaw, R-TX)
Introduced only two weeks ago, this bill sailed through its committee hearing last week with a unanimous vote. The bill would prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from operating or procuring foreign-made unmanned aircraft systems. The bill has language similar to Sec. 854 of the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (currently in conference committee), which would place the same restrictions on the Defense Department.
MONITORED BILLS LIST
The Texas Legislature is not currently not in session. The US Congress bill list shows only bills with action since the last legislative update. If you need information on the bills being tracked, please contact Rebekah Hernandez.
RECENT COMMITTEE HEARINGS
Oct. 16: The US House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit held a hearing on “Examining the Future of Transportation Network Companies: Challenges and Opportunities.”
This hearing is most notable for invited witnesses who declined to attend, namely, Uber and Lyft. Several representatives took shots at the absent companies for refusing efforts to improve safety and background checks and reform their labor practices. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, of Gary, Indiana, testified on behalf of the National League of Cities. She said TNCs are becoming an important element in regional transportation since they provide flexibility but added that expanded service to rural and low-income areas is a necessity. Mayor Freeman said metropolitan planning councils and regional transit authorities can use federal funding to ensure equity and access. However, some representatives expressed doubts about the stability of TNCs and whether they could meet federal requirements to be classified as transit providers. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) worried that regulation could tamp down innovation by TNCs.
Oct. 29: The US House Oversight and Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on the Environment held a hearing to examine “Trump’s Wrong Turn on Clean Cars: The Effects of Fuel Efficiency Rollbacks on Climate, Car Companies and California.”
Much of the discussion focused on California’s waiver from the federal government that allows it to set its own (higher) standards for fuel efficiency and is currently the subject of a federal lawsuit. Former California Gov. Jerry Brown testified on the importance of allowing states to serve as policy laboratories. Dr. Antonio Bento, Professor of Public Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California, said the Trump administration had made misguided choices in establishing principles for recalculating the cost-benefit analysis of fuel economy standards and did not properly consider the “social costs of carbon.”
UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARINGS
No committees of interest are currently scheduled to meet.
Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 1 pm:
The Senate Finance Committee will meet to hear invited and public testimony on the following interim charges:
- Spending Limit: Examine options and make recommendations for strengthening restrictions on appropriations established in Article VIII, Section 22, of the Texas Constitution, including related procedures defined in statute. Consider options for ensuring available revenues above spending limit are reserved for tax relief.
- Business Personal Property Tax: Study the economic dynamics of the current business personal property tax. Consider the economic and fiscal effects of increased exemptions to the business personal property tax, versus its elimination. Following such study, make recommended changes to law.
- Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Finance passed by the 86th Legislature, as well as relevant agencies and programs under the committee's jurisdiction. Specifically, make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation of the following: House Bill 1525, relating to the administration and collection of sales and use taxes applicable to sales involving marketplace providers.
To view Committee Hearings for the Texas Senate click here:
To view Committee Hearings for the Texas House click here: