The Issues

STATE REPRESENTATIVE DADE PHELAN

DISTRICT 21 LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - 86TH SESSION

STATE BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

Total Budget: Appropriates $118.9 billion in General Revenues and approximately $250.7 billion in All Funds. The Budget also remains under all four spending limits – the debt limit, welfare spending limit, pay-as-you-go limit, and the spending limit.

Disaster Relief: $100 million for rapid deployment disaster grants. $806.5 million for post-Hurricane Harvey recovery expenditures and reimbursement to school districts as well as adjustment of school property values reimbursement to districts for disaster remediation costs. $77.3 million for disaster recovery related expenses to Higher Education Institutions affected by Hurricane Harvey. $47 million for state flood risk mapping. $793 million to the Flood Infrastructure Fund that will assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects. $200 million for studies and projects to be conducted in the state by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Education: $4.5 billion for transformational education reforms. $2 billion for dynamic teacher compensation. $200 million for school safety improvements including building renovations, added security personnel, and technology.

Higher Education: $500 million for increased formula funds for all higher education institutions.

Border Security & Human Trafficking: $800 million for border security operations, personal, equipment and technology. $27.8 million for human and child sex trafficking investigative squads, anti-gang squads and regional human trafficking investigative squads at the Department of Public Safety.

Women & Children’s Health: Provides a 24.3% increase in women's health funding. Dedicates almost $60 million to crisis pregnancy centers and Alternatives to Abortion, and permits an additional $20 million in funding if demand warrants. Allocates $86 million in rate increases for community care and Intellectual and Developmental Disability providers, pediatric home therapist and pediatric private duty nursing. Provides $48 million for rate increases and cost growth for Early Childhood Intervention, $11.7 million for salary increases to hire and retain Adult Protective Services workers and supports Community Based Care expansion for foster care.

Teacher Retirement System: Increases the state contribution to the Teacher Retirement System Pension Fund from 6.8% to 8.8% of the statewide teacher salary cost over the next five-year period. Additionally, this legislation authorizes a "13th Check" in the 2020-2021 biennium to members who retired prior to 2017, which is a general supplemental payment of up to $2,000. By giving more to retired teachers without requiring greater contributions from teachers or school districts, our state legislature stood beside our teachers and rewarded their hard work and dedication to Texas classrooms.


INVESTING IN OUR CHILDREN

Education remained a top priority during the 86th Legislative Session for the Texas House. The legislature passed House Bill 3, which provides transformational school finance reform to our public education system by investing billions of dollars into our schools and teachers. Specifically, the Texas Plan provides $4.5 billion to student-centered education reforms, over $5 billion in statewide property tax relief, and over $2 billion in dynamic pay raises for teachers, librarians, counselors, and nurses.

  • House Bill 3 provides $4.5 billion to student-centered education reforms, including:
  • Full-day Pre-K for low income students
    • High-quality K-3 reading standards to ensure Texas schoolchildren read at grade level by 3rd grade
    • The first dyslexia identification program in Texas history
    • Accelerates student achievement via College, Career & Military Readiness (CCMR) outcomes bonuses, dual-language programs, and extended year summer programs for students
    • Directs more funds to residential treatment facilities and to schools with higher concentrations of under-served students, including dropouts and students in special education


TEACHER PAY INCREASE

House Bill 3 adds increased compensation for educators by appropriating over $2 billion in dynamic pay raises for teachers, librarians, counselors, and nurses. The bill also creates a merit/incentive pay program for high-quality educators to receive additional pay, increases the minimum teacher salary schedule, and invests in professional development and mentoring programs for new teachers.


HIGHER EDUCATION VICTORIES

Lamar State Colleges Tuition Reduction: The state budget provided an additional $17.3 million to reduce tuition and fees at Lamar State College Port Arthur, Lamar State College Orange and Lamar Institute of Technology.


Lamar Institute of Technology

Formula Increase: $8.1m/59.8%

New Truck Driving Academy: $1.1m


Lamar State College Orange

Formula Increase: $4.8m/50%

Maintains Hold Harmless: $870k


Lamar State College Port Arthur

Formula Increase: $7.6m/68.5%

Maintains Hold Harmless: $1.7m


Lamar University

Formula Increase: $1m/1.5%

Maintains Harmless: $6m

New Center for Midstream Management: $1.9m

Hurricane Harvey Damage Repairs: $1.4m


HISTORIC PROPERTY TAX REFORM

Senate Bill 2 gives taxpayers the tools to make informed decisions about their property taxes and empowers voters to stop higher property tax rates through an election. With skyrocketing property taxes across the state threatening homeowners and renters, the legislature fought for taxpayers this session.


DISASTER PREPAREDNESS

Senate Bill 7 / House Joint Resolution 4 (Authored by Rep. Phelan) creates the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) to support a statewide effort for regional flood planning and flood mitigation projects to strengthen our state's infrastructure. Projects will be eligible for funding predicated upon the state determining all local entities in the region have: fully cooperated and substantially participated in the process of developing the projects; held public meetings to accept comments from interested parties and, the projects have been completely engineered and scored against one another. The FIF will allow loans at or below market rate to assist in flood projects, flood project preparation, the extensive application process at all levels of government and the engineering of structural or nonstructural flood mitigation. The Texas Water Development Board will administer the funds and approve the applications. The creation of the fund authorizes an appropriation of $793 Million from the state’s “Rainy Day Fund”. House Joint Resolution will appear as Proposition 8 on the November, 5th Constitutional Election Ballot. Its passage ensures the funds will remain in an account solely for uses related to flood mitigation projects.

House Bill 5 (Authored by Rep. Phelan) will provide for the development of a state catastrophic debris management plan and seeks to eliminate the local bureaucracy that can occur after a disaster. Storm debris is a danger to one’s physical and mental health and House bill 5 will expedite its removal while ensuring local jurisdictions are better prepared to respond to and recover from natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey.


SUPPORTING MILITARY FAMILIES AND VETERANS

House Bill 1883 allows active duty military to pay property taxes late without penalty when away from home for military service.

House Bill 833 creates a statewide alert system for missing veterans.


HEALTHCARE

House Bill 72 allows adoptive parents continued access to intensive Medicaid services post-adoption for a child with a chronic health condition, and establishes a program that protects the continuity of care for each child following adoption.

House Bill 475 ensures pregnant and parenting youth in foster care receive basic parenting education and services to help preserve and strengthen their families.

Senate Bill 750 evaluates and develop a limited postpartum care package for new mothers enrolled in the Healthy Texas Women (HTW) program and to develop strategies to ensure continuity of care for new mothers who transition from Medicaid for Pregnant Women into HTW.

Senate Bill 1096 improves medication access for kids with disabilities by prohibiting prior authorizations or any other barriers from being used to negatively impact a child's access to care and streamlines the prior authorization process when a child is hospitalized.

Senate Bill 1207 increases access to resources and information for families' of medically fragile children in Medicaid, establishes an independent review of managed care decisions and puts greater protections in place for medically fragile kids and their families.


MENTAL HEALTH

House Bill 18 enhances school safety and mental health resources for students and school personnel, and works to reduce the stigma around mental health conditions.

House Bill 19 places non-physician mental health professionals at education service centers to provide resources for educators and administrators in school districts and charter schools.

Senate Bill 11 creates the Texas Mental Health Care Consortium to facilitate access to mental health care services through telehealth and the child psychiatry access network and expand the mental health workforce through training and funding opportunities.

House Bill 1 dedicates $7.7 billion for behavioral health and substance abuse services.


DEFENDING INDIVIDUAL & RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES

HJR 38 gives Texas voters the opportunity to authorize a constitutional amendment prohibiting a state income tax.

House Bill 234 ensures Texas children have the freedom to set up a neighborhood lemonade stand without being shut down because they don't have a city permit.

House Bill 1631 bans the use of red light cameras in Texas.

Senate Bill 18 protects free speech on college campuses and prevents a student form being silenced for exercising their First Amendment rights.

Senate Bill 1978 prohibits state and local government from discriminating and taking adverse action against persons or businesses based on their membership, support, or donations to a religious organization. This bill also prevents governmental entities from targeting an individual by denying or withholding benefits or financial assistance.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE DADE PHELAN - LEGISLATIVE ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Major House Bills Authored and Passed by Representative Phelan

House Bill 1177 protects Texans from being charged with the unlawful carrying of a handgun while evacuating from an area during a state of disaster or while they are returning to that area by allowing them to legally transport their lawfully owned handguns for 7 days without a License To Carry.

House Bill 1397 authorizes the Public Utility Commission of Texas to approve a rider submitted by a non-ERCOT utility for an electric generation facility. The goal of a rider is to reduce regulatory lag—the time period between the date that infrastructure is placed in service and the date a utility may start recovering its investment.

House Bill 1576 allows Medicaid recipients to receive better transportation services for their healthcare needs by allowing rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft to provide nonemergency medical transportation services. This new public / private partnership option will ensure better outcomes - a better healthcare outcome for the patient, a better delivery of service outcome for the provider, and a better return on investment outcome for the taxpayer.

House Bill 1941 grants authority to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division to take action under current statute to stop a freestanding emergency room from engaging in unconscionable pricing, only when the price is 200 percent over the average hospital charge for a similar service.A court may impose up to $250,000 in civil penalties when a freestanding emergency room charges an elderly Texan an unconscionable price for emergency care. This bill applies to hospitals that are not federally approved to be a Medicare provider.

House Bill 2439 prohibits any governmental entity from using a building code or other local ordinance powers to mandate vendor driven and product specific mandates in construction.House Bill 2439 does not impact a homeowner association’s aesthetic control and it does not prohibit a local government from including local amendments in their building codes.

House Bill 1256 implements a process that allows employers of first responders direct access to the first responders' immunization information in the event of a disaster.The employee must provide written consent before their employer is granted access to their immunization registry, and they may withdraw consent at any time. Currently, only health care providers, schools, and public health departments have access to these records in the Department of State Health Services ImmTrac2 registry.

House Bill 1418 creates a system whereby emergency medical personnel receive information about their immunization status from ImmTrac2, an immunization registry system, when they seek certification or recertification.This legislation allows first responders to be more easily and quickly informed of their vaccination status, which is critical in the case of a natural disaster.The Immtrac2 registry is an opt-in program.

House Bill 2784 allows industrial construction, utility and manufacturing companies access to workforce training funds. This bill will establish a grant program under the Texas Workforce Commission encouraging companies to develop their workforce by offering earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship programs. The apprentice must be trained through an accepted program, receive a recognized craft certification and be hired as a full time employee. Companies could receive grants of up to $10,000 per apprentice for their training expenses incurred but cannot be reimbursed for the required wages.


Major Senate Bills Sponsored and Passed by Representative Phelan

Senate Bill 30 requires local taxing entities to write more transparent and detailed ballot language for propositions seeking to issue bonds or increase a tax. This will require taxing entities to list each specific purpose for which bonds are being approved. These bond proposals must be printed on the ballot as separate propositions, allowing each issue to be voted on individually. The ballot must also list the rate of any tax that will be increased or imposed if that proposition is approved.

Senate Bill 64 increases the Texas Department of Information Resources’ oversight of agency cybersecurity, assists local entities in responding to cyber breaches, helps grow the cybersecurity workforce pipeline, and seeks to secure the electric grid.

Senate Bill 986 will provide much needed assistance and guidance for local governments in issuing contracts related to disaster response. It requires the Comptroller of Public Accounts to update the contract management guide to include contract standards and information for contracts related to emergency management.

Senate Bill 1152 ends the double taxation occurring on cable bills. When telecommunication providers install lines in a city’s right-of-way they must pay the city for the right to occupy that right-of-way. This tax is passed onto the consumer. Because of outdated and duplicative laws, when that provider sends both telephone calls and video over the same line, they are taxed twice for the same line in the same right-of-way.

Senate Bill 1152 ends the double taxation occurring on cable bills. When telecommunication providers install lines in a city’s right-of-way they must pay the city for the right to occupy that right-of-way. This tax is passed onto the consumer. Because of outdated and duplicative laws, when that provider sends both telephone calls and video over the same line, they are taxed twice for the same line in the same right-of-way. Senate Bill 1152 requires a provider to pay the city the larger of the two taxes, but not both. By eliminating this double taxation it is estimated that cable subscribers across Texas will save approximately $150 million each year.

Senate Bill 1213 allows the Public Safety Commission to enter into a land swap agreement with a large industrial company in Orange County as long as the exchangeable property is within ten miles of the existing office/property and has a facility that the commission determines is comparable to the existing office/property.

Senate Bill 1414 defines the process that landlords must follow when charging late fees. As in other industries, late fees are commonly charged when payments are not made on time.These fees may be an alternative to more drastic actions, such as a lien, lawsuit or eviction. Ambiguity in the current statute has led to uncertainty on how to comply with the law, as well as expensive and time-consuming litigation. Senate Bill 1414 clarifies existing law, continues to protect tenants from unreasonable late fees and creates more certainty for apartment owners.

Senate Bill 1640 will prohibit members of a governmental body from skirting the Texas Open Meetings Act by restoring the “walking quorum prohibition”. This ensures all deliberations occur in a public forum rather than a series of small, private gatherings aimed at avoiding a quorum.

Senate Bill 2208 will allow Orange County to use its current Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue to build a pavilion at the county boat ramp and any related infrastructure including sidewalks, lighting, and fencing that will be used to promote local tourism in Orange County.