Speaker Straus Releases House Interim Charges
Speaker of the House Joe Straus has released interim charges to committees of the Texas House of Representatives to study prior to the 2015 legislative session. The unedited, city-related charges are listed below. The League will monitor, participate in, and report on the progress of each study.
House Committee on Agriculture and Livestock
- Evaluate the Texas Right to Farm Act and determine if certain recommendations and updates to the law should be made in efforts to protect agricultural operations.
House Committee on Business and Industry
- Review existing lien laws in Texas. Specifically…review ad valorem tax lien lending after the implementation of S.B. 247 (83R – Relating to the transfer of an ad valorem tax lien) and the impact on homeowners, taxing authorities, mortgage lenders, and tax lien lenders. Review the procedures and powers of the Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner to ensure compliance with S.B. 247.
House Committee on Corrections
- In the area of Juvenile Justice, analyze and make recommendations on outcome-based financing models that allow the state to partner with private investors and innovative service providers willing to cover the upfront costs and assume performance risk to divert youths into cost-effective programs and interventions, while assuring that taxpayers will not pay for the programs unless the programs demonstrate success in achieving the desired outcomes.
- Study the impact of S.B. 393 (83R – Relating to the criminal procedures related to children who commit certain Class C misdemeanors) and S.B. 1114 (83R – Relating to the prosecution of certain misdemeanor offenses committed by children and to school district law enforcement). Assess the impact of school discipline and school-based policing on referrals to the municipal, justice, and juvenile courts, and identify judicial policies or initiatives designed to reduce referrals without having a negative impact on school safety. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Public Education)
House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence
- Examine the current pecuniary loss thresholds associated with graffiti offenses. Study the costs of enhancing the penalties associated with the offense of graffiti, as well as a study of pretrial diversion programs that exist in other states and are specific to persons convicted of graffiti offenses. Study the existing Graffiti Abatement Programs in Texas.
House Committee on Culture, Recreation, and Tourism
- Evaluate the Texas Film Commission and the Texas Music Office to determine their effectiveness in economic development in Texas. Determine how the offices can better collaborate with local economic development entities and state agencies to further the economic development goals of the state.
House Committee on Economic and Small Business Development
- Review the statutes and state agency rules pertaining to public-private partnerships to ensure a fair, competitive, and transparent process that benefits all parties engaging in the partnership. Review how other states and countries utilize public-private partnerships and make recommendations on how to improve the process in Texas, specifically looking at whether there needs to be a single state entity responsible for administering the public private partnership program.
- Examine and evaluate economic development incentives to determine if the incentives are achieving the desired outcomes for which the incentives were initially established. Review which economic development goals and incentives are most important and report on methods to further improve those goals and incentives while reducing ones not meeting their desired objectives.
- Review the Governor's Office of Economic Development and Tourism and determine its effectiveness on economic development in Texas. Determine how the office could be more efficiently coordinated with local and regional economic development entities and other state agencies to help further the economic development goals of the state.
House Committee on Elections
- Examine the use of Help America Vote Act funds and methods to ensure the efforts required by the Help America Vote Act continue.
- Evaluate the Move Act, specifically the implementation of H.B. 1129 (83R – Relating to a program allowing certain military voters on active duty overseas to cast a ballot electronically).
House Committee on Energy Resources
- Study the impact of the expanding oil and gas exploration and production occurring across the state. Included in the study should be both the positive impacts of the exploration and production as well as the new challenges they are presenting. The study should encompass a review of the following issues:
- the effect on the state budget and the Economic Stabilization Fund;
- the overall impact on the state economy;
- the impact on property values and local taxes;
- the effect on roads;
- the impact on local school districts;
- the complex relationship between land owners, royalty owners, and operators;
- the impact on the environment, including emissions and injection wells;
- projected water needs and how those fit with our state water plan; and
the housing issues created by the number of workers needed in areas of shale plays.
Monitor the implementation of H.B. 2982 (83R - Relating to the power of the Railroad Commission of Texas to adopt and enforce safety standards applicable to the transportation by pipeline of hazardous liquids, carbon dioxide, and natural gas in rural locations) to ensure that the required rulemaking is completed efficiently and in a timely manner.
House Committee on Environmental Regulation
- Study the environmental permitting processes at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, specifically the contested-case hearing process at the State Office of Administrative Hearings and the timelines associated with the process. Study the economic impact that the state's permitting processes have on Texas manufacturing sectors and how neighboring states' and the federal permitting processes and timelines compare to those in Texas.
House Committee on Government Efficiency and Reform
- Examine current restrictions on state and local governmental entities relating to the construction of critical infrastructure, including transportation and water projects, and make recommendations for expediting and creating more cost-effective and efficient methods for the construction of such projects.
- Review the application of the Public Information Act to requests for large amounts of electronic data. Examine whether the procedures and deadlines imposed by the Act give governmental bodies enough time to identify and protect confidential information in such requests.
- Examine the public's accessibility to government services and agencies through the use of mobile applications and online services. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Technology.)
House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety
- Assess the level of preparedness among critical infrastructure entities, state and local emergency planning organizations, first response efforts, and overall coordination of jurisdictions across the state. Include a review of the state's role in preparing, resourcing, and coordinating with local emergency response, specifically in rural areas or areas that depend largely on volunteer response efforts.
- Investigate the fatal explosion in West, Texas, in April 2013, for deficiencies in safety, risk management, and disaster planning by chemical facilities and state entities. Determine if any changes should be made to existing laws and rules relating to inspection, investigation, and enforcement, and make specific recommendations on how to reduce the likelihood for damage, injury, or death.
- Evaluate state and local entities’ effectiveness in meeting the state’s border and homeland security program goals and objectives.
House Committee on Insurance
- Monitor the status of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA). Consider options to enhance TWIA's ability to serve its statutory purpose and to fairly and equitably serve its policyholders. Include an evaluation of TWIA's operations, improved incentives for coverage by the private market, and effective use of reinsurance, bonds, and other financial devices.
- Examine opportunities to improve the resiliency of the Texas coast to withstand tropical storms. Study strategies to incentivize and encourage hazard mitigation, and consider the current state of building codes and how they might more effectively protect property and reduce losses. Examine the proper role of insurance in protecting the Texas coast. Coordinate as necessary with the joint interim committee created by H.B. 3459 (83R). (Joint charge with the House Committee on Land and Resource Management.)
House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence
- Examine the public policy implications of litigation related to environmental contamination brought by local governments, in particular whether such litigation supports effective remediation.
House Committee on Land and Resource Management
- Examine population growth in Texas cities and the impact the growth has had on housing, available land resources, city centers, businesses, and the state's economy. Evaluate Texas' preparedness to respond to future growth and ensure economic stability. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Urban Affairs.)
- Study current regulatory authority available to municipalities in their extraterritorial jurisdiction. Examine how citizens are involved in the zoning process, and make necessary recommendations to ensure a proper balance between development activities, municipal regulations, and the effect zoning decisions have on Texas citizens.
- Examine opportunities to improve the resiliency of the Texas coast to withstand tropical storms. Study strategies to incentivize and encourage hazard mitigation, and consider the current state of building codes and how they might more effectively protect property and reduce losses. Examine the proper role of insurance in protecting the Texas coast. Coordinate as necessary with the joint interim committee created by H.B. 3459 (83R). (Joint charge with the House Committee on Insurance.)
House Committee on Natural Resources
- Monitor the implementation of H.B. 4 (83R – Relating to the administration of the Texas Water Development Board and the funding of water projects by the board and other entities) and S.J.R. 1 (83R – Proposing a constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas to assist in the financing of priority projects in the state water plan) and the progress of the Texas Water Development Board and other entities in implementing this legislation to provide a stable, long-term funding source for the State Water Plan.
- Evaluate the availability, management, and development of groundwater in the state. Consider the economic, environmental, and social impacts of groundwater usage and production in the agricultural, municipal, and energy sectors. In particular, examine methods to facilitate further development of brackish groundwater resources and to improve the consistency and certainty of permitting by groundwater districts without undercutting reasonable regional and local regulation of groundwater.
- Explore opportunities to encourage voluntary protection and stewardship of privately owned lands in support of the state’s water supply and to protect environmental flow needs in Texas rivers. Examine methods in which state agencies, water rights holders, and non-governmental organizations can work together through programs like the Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program and the Texas Water Trust.
- Examine strategies to enhance the use of aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) projects, including a review of existing ASR facilities in Texas and elsewhere.
House Committee on Special Purpose Districts
- Conduct a comprehensive review of existing special purpose districts in the state. Study how special districts interact with other local governments and local taxpayers during and after their creation. Examine circumstances under which special districts are accountable to local taxpayers and make recommendations on ways to increase spending transparency among districts.
House Committee on Technology
- Examine the public’s accessibility to government services and agencies through the use of mobile applications and online services. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Government Efficiency and Reform.)
House Committee on Transportation
- Evaluate actions by state agencies under the committee's jurisdiction to increase transparency, accountability, and efficiency. Consider the cost-saving outsourcing of technologies and recently developed practices, such as the conversion of roadways, used by the Department of Transportation designed to demonstrate savings. Identify and make recommendations on the credibility and effectiveness of these goals.
- Monitor the usage of state funds by the Texas Department of Transportation for improving road quality in areas impacted by Energy Sector activities.
- Evaluate the status of passenger and freight rail in Texas, including a review of the structure and operations of the Rail Division of the Texas Department of Transportation.
- Review the state of our current transportation infrastructure outside of the five most populous areas. Explore future needs of our infrastructure and make recommendations to ensure long-range sufficiency.
- Monitor the implementation of the “Turn-Back Program” by the Texas Department of Transportation, specifically its fiscal impact to municipalities and taxpayers.
- Examine county authority to utilize tax increment financing and transportation reinvestment zones to fund transportation projects.
House Committee on Urban Affairs
- Examine population growth in Texas cities and the impact the growth has had on housing, available land resources, city centers, businesses, and the state's economy. Evaluate Texas’s preparedness to respond to future growth and ensure economic stability. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Land and Resource Management.)
- Examine strategies to address the chronic graffiti problem. Study solutions implemented in other states and cities and whether those programs have been successful, and make appropriate recommendations.
House Committee on Ways and Means
- Monitor the implementation of recent amendments to the property tax. Examine whether the frequency of reappraisals strikes the proper balance between stability and predictability in values for taxpayers and taxation at market value.
- Study methods used to evaluate the impact of taxes on individuals and businesses.
- Review the various state event trust fund accounts to ensure that the accounts are operated in a manner that is transparent and accountable.
- Evaluate the actions of the comptroller's office to increase transparency, accountability, and efficiency. Examine ways to increase efficiency in the administration of taxes through the use of technology. Identify and make recommendations to implement these goals.
- Review state regulatory and tax policy to ensure that investment in technology infrastructure, goods, and services is unfettered and that Texas is able to capitalize on innovation to fuel additional job growth, business expansion, and investment. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Technology.)
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