Capitol Watch Alert: A Closer Look at the House Interim Charges

Speaker of the House Issues Interim Charges

On November 25, 2019, Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen posted a list of charges for committees of the Texas House of Representatives to study during the interim before the 2021 legislative session. The memo also stated that Bonnen will soon announce several Select Committees addressing “issues of extraordinary interest and concern.”

Of note are the following charges that relate to public schools or students:

House Public Education Committee

1. Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 86th Legislature. Conduct active oversight of all associated rulemaking and other governmental actions taken to ensure intended legislative outcome of all legislation, including the following:

  • HB 3, which relates to public school finance and public education. Monitor the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) implementation of the bill, including the extensive rulemaking process and broad unintended consequence authority of the commissioner. Examine the pay raises districts have provided to staff and the various approaches adopted to differentiate these salary increases according to experience.
  • HB 1842 (84R), HB 22 (85R), SB 1882 (85R), and HB 3906, which relate to public school accountability, assessment, interventions, and district-charter partnerships. Monitor the ongoing progress of the TEA’s implementation and rulemaking of the A-F rating system, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), and public school sanctions and interventions.
  • SB 1873 (85R), which relates to reporting certain school district health and safety information. Review the report on physical education prepared by the TEA and determine what, if any, next steps are needed based on the data collections.

Related to Behavioral Health (Joint charge with Committee on Public Health)

  • HB 18, which enhances school safety and mental health resources for students and school personnel and works to reduce the stigma around mental health conditions. Monitor the process by which state agencies coordinate to implement the legislation and their compliance with various requirements, including providing required guidelines and resources to schools.
  • HB 19, which places non-physician mental health professionals at education service centers to provide resources for educators and administrators in school districts and charter schools.
  • HB 906, which creates the Collaborative Task Force on Public School Mental Health Services.
  • SB 11, which creates the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium to facilitate access to mental health care services through telehealth and expands the mental health workforce through training and funding opportunities. Monitor the creation of the consortium and agencies’ rulemaking processes. Review how school districts are spending their school safety allotment.

2. Determine if any barriers exist in providing a digital learning environment for all children, including an evaluation of the competitive marketplace for blended learning products and services. Evaluate the effectiveness of the Technology and Instructional Materials Allotment (TIMA) in providing districts the resources necessary to equip students with instructional materials and technology, including in the review all programs and initiatives funded by setasides from the TIMA. Monitor the performance and accountability of the state’s full-time virtual schools and online courses provided through the Texas Virtual School Network.

3. Monitor the progress of the TEA’s compliance with the Corrective Action Response required by the United States Department of Education, the implementation of the state’s Special Education Strategic Plan, and the state’s compliance with other federal requirements regarding special education, including maintenance of state financial support for special education. Recommend solutions to barriers the agency, school districts, students with disabilities, and parents face in accessing a free and appropriate public education and in meeting the milestones of the plan and any measures needed at the state level to ensure that students with disabilities are being located, fully evaluated, and appropriately identified for special education instruction and services.

4. Monitor the State Auditor’s review of agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction. The Chair shall seek input and periodic briefings on completed audits for the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years and bring forth pertinent issues for full committee consideration.

Appropriations Committee

1. Monitor and oversee the implementation of appropriations bills and other relevant legislation passed by the 86th Legislature. In conducting this oversight, the Committee will also specifically monitor implementation of appropriations for:

  • Human and sex trafficking legislation;
  • Revenue projections for the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund; and
  • Implementation of procurement and contracting reforms at state agencies.

2. Review and evaluate the actuarial soundness of the Employees Retirement System and Teacher Retirement System pension funds. Examine the cost of and potential strategies for achieving and maintaining the actuarial soundness of the funds. Examine the effect the unfunded liabilities could have on the state’s credit rating. Examine the state’s investment policies and practices, including investment objectives, targets, disclosure policies, and transparency. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Pensions, Investments & Financial Services)

3. Monitor the implementation of SB 68, providing for expanded implementation of the Strategic Fiscal Review process.

4. Examine the number, type, and estimated value of accounts maintained outside of the State Treasury, and the potential impact to state budget certification made by moving additional funds outside the Treasury.

5. Identify structural changes that can be made to the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) in order to maximize investments and establish a source of funding for long-term liabilities. Examine the potential of using the fund for long-term infrastructure projects and the impact of the constitutional cap on the ESF balance.

6. Monitor the State Auditor’s review of agencies and programs. The Chair shall seek input and periodic briefings on completed audits for the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years with potential impact on the appropriations process and bring forth pertinent issues for full committee consideration.

Elections Committee

1. Make recommendations for establishing best practices for conducting an election during a declared disaster. Examine model legislation and statutes from other states pertaining to voting during a declared disaster when polls are inaccessible.

2. Evaluate election laws with the purpose of strengthening voter integrity and fair elections. Perform an in-depth study of the voter registration processes and explore whether centralizing voter registration would be more effective than today’s processes. Consider ways to improve voter list maintenance and study the volunteer deputy registrar process and voter registration procedures in other states. Include in the evaluation a review of the state’s curbside voting protocols and identify processes to improve the efficiency, privacy, and security of curbside voting.

Higher Education Committee

1. Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 86th Legislature. Conduct active oversight of all associated rulemaking and other governmental actions taken to ensure intended legislative outcome of all legislation, including the following:

  • HB 1638 (85R), which relates to statewide goals for dual credit programs. Review best practices for providing opportunities to high school students to earn college credit while ensuring that courses taken reflect authentic, college-level rigor.

2. Review progress toward the goals of the 60X30TX plan, including institutional strategies for responding to diverse and rapidly changing workforce needs and demands, including workforce education, industry certification, and degree programs to address healthcare shortages. Specifically review community colleges’ capacity to meet the goals of 60X30TX, including a review of taxing districts and service areas versus geographic areas of need. Review the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative’s work-based learning, industry-aligned internships, and industry credential initiatives. Consider whether legislative action may be needed to expand work-based learning and recruitment efforts for adults who have previously completed some college level coursework.

Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee

Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 86th Legislature. Conduct active oversight of all associated rulemaking and other governmental actions taken to ensure intended legislative outcome of all legislation, including the following:

  • Study the implementation of emergency preparedness and disaster response and recovery legislation passed during the 86th Legislature, including HB 5, the catastrophic debris management plan for local communities to expedite debris removal following a disaster; HB 6, which creates the Disaster Recovery Task Force to help facilitate specialized assistance when a disaster strikes throughout the long-term recovery period; HB 7, which requires the governor’s office to compile disaster regulatory waivers needed during a disaster; HB 2305, which enhances emergency management training for personnel at the state and local levels; HB 2320, which improves public infrastructure and the hardening of utilities and facilities; HB 2325, which improves communication, disaster technology, and public information distributed during a disaster; HB 2340, which strengthens data sharing and technology used in emergency management operations; HB 2345, which creates the Institute for a Disaster Resilient Texas; and HB 2794, which transfers the Texas Division of Emergency Management to the Texas A&M University System.

House Administration Committee

Study and make recommendations, including recommendations to improve administrative efficiencies and achieve financial savings in the operation of the House and the legislative branch of government, on the structure, duties, funding, and oversight of the following legislative agencies: Legislative Budget Board, Legislative Reference Library, Texas Legislative Council, State Auditor’s Office, and the Sunset Advisory Commission.

Insurance Committee

Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 86th Legislature. Conduct active oversight of all associated rulemaking and other governmental actions taken to ensure intended legislative outcome of all legislation, including the following:

  • SB 442, which requires insurers that do not provide flood coverage in their policy to disclose that the policy does not cover flood events. Determine whether consumers are being properly informed of whether they have flood coverage. Examine the development of standardized disclosure forms for all insurance policies in Texas (health, homeowners, and personal auto) to provide more clarity to consumers about what the policy covers and any exclusions.
  • SB 1940, which extends to August 31, 2021, TDI’s authority to revise and administer the temporary health insurance risk pool to the extent federal funds are available. Study ways to foster a competitive market and reduce the uninsured rate, including by exploring flexibility available through federal waivers. Study the impact to health care systems if the Affordable Care Act is ruled unconstitutional, including identifying which mandates, consumer protections, and subsidies will be lost and which have equivalents in state law.

Pensions, Investments & Financial Services Committee

1. Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 86th Legislature. Conduct active oversight of all associated rulemaking and other governmental actions taken to ensure intended legislative outcome of all legislation, including the following:

  • SB 322, which relates to the evaluation and reporting of investment practices and performances of certain public retirement systems. Examine the process by which state agencies and public retirement systems collaborate on, plan, and implement the structure necessary to perform these evaluations.
  • SB 2224, which relates to requiring a public retirement system to adopt a written funding policy. Examine the process by which state agencies and public retirement systems collaborate on, plan, and implement the structure necessary to create sound and practical funding policies.

2. Monitor the Teacher Retirement System’s (TRS) actions in implementing high deductible regional plans for certain school districts interested in providing alternatives to the current TRS Active Care options.

3. Study pension plan and personal retirement savings options for small businesses in order to be competitive with state and larger employers.

4. Review and evaluate the actuarial soundness of the Employees Retirement System and TRS pension funds. Examine the cost of and potential strategies for achieving and maintaining the actuarial soundness of the funds. Examine the effect the unfunded liabilities could have on the state’s credit. Examine the state’s investment policies and practices, including investment objectives, targets, disclosure policies, and transparency. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Appropriations)

5. Monitor the State Auditor’s review of agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction. The Chair shall seek input and periodic briefings on completed audits for the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years and bring forth pertinent issues for full committee consideration.

State Affairs Committee

1. Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 86th Legislature. Conduct active oversight of all associated rulemaking and other governmental actions taken to ensure intended legislative outcome of all legislation, including the following:

  • SB 943, SB 944, and SB 1640, which relate to the Public Information Act and the Texas Open Meetings Act. Examine the implementation of the legislation and determine if additional changes to the Public Information Act or Open Meetings Act are necessary.

2. Study the regulation and use of unmanned aircraft in Texas, including the appropriate use of drone technology in responding to and recovering from a natural disaster. Examine opportunities for public and private sector utilization of this emerging technology while ensuring privacy protections for individuals.

3. Study how governmental entities use public funds for political lobbying purposes. Examine what types of governmental entities use public funds for lobbying purposes. Make recommendations to protect taxpayers from paying for lobbyists who may not represent the taxpayers’ interests.

4. Examine whether adequate ethics laws, including reporting requirements, exist relating to legislator solicitation of non-state funds, including lobby and corporate funds, used to sponsor both national and international travel for junkets and so-called “fact-finding” trips. Make recommendations for potential statutory changes relating to transparency or prohibitions.

Ways & Means Committee

1. Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 86th Legislature. Conduct active oversight of all associated rulemaking and other governmental actions taken to ensure intended legislative outcome of all legislation, including the following:

  • SB 2, which is the Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act of 2019. Monitor the implementation of the legislation, including a review of the tax rates adopted by taxing units in 2019 and 2020, the appraisal review board survey system, and progress in onboarding the tax rate notices and websites. Make recommendations for modifications as necessary and appropriate.
  • HB 1525 and HB 2153, which relate to the collection of sales and use taxes by marketplaces and out-of-state businesses. Monitor the Comptroller of Public Accounts’ rules regulating the collection of sales, use, and franchise tax to ensure compliance by marketplace providers and out-of-state businesses and monitor any revenue increases as a result of implementation of these bills.

2. Study and consider possible methods of providing property tax relief, including potential sources of revenue that may be used to reduce or eliminate school district maintenance and operations property tax rates.

3. Study the role of the local option sales and use tax, including: an analysis of the available uses for those taxes, specifically economic development agreements; the statewide distribution of local tax rates; the proportion of the local government budget supported by sales and use taxes; the application of consistent sales sourcing rules; and the impact of shifting from origin to destination sourcing.

4. Review the use of third-party tax collection firms, including law firms and tax specialty firms, by governmental units. Evaluate what methods other states use to collect taxes. Determine whether the use of those firms is cost-effective for the taxing jurisdiction or if the tax collection efforts should be performed by the taxing units directly.

This is not an exhaustive list of House interim charges. Download the full list.

 

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