Public Policy gains insight from Texas legislators

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August 08, 2016
The Chamber’s Public Policy Committee recently heard from Texas Representatives Angie Chen Button, Jeff Leach and Linda Koop about their most pressing concerns for Texas businesses during the upcoming legislative session.
Button is chair of the Economic & Small Business Development committee and a member of the Ways & Means and Rules & Resolutions committees. She acknowledged the impressive testimony she hears on the Economic & Small Business committee on the success of Texas businesses and mentioned that Texas is tied with Washington and Louisiana as number one in exports. Referencing a recent Supreme Court ruling, Button said two additional interim charges have been added to address school finance and funding formulas for public schools - a top priority for businesses and workforce development. Button ended by noting that reducing sales and property taxes will be a hot issue during the next legislative session and will be at odds with school funding concerns.

Leach sits on the Criminal Jurisprudence and Government Transparency & Operation committees. He said transportation funding for construction and maintenance will remain a top priority during the next session. Funding from the previous session bolstered the Texas Department of Transportation significantly, but it was not adequate to meet the needs of Texas’ rapidly growing population. He also echoed Button’s concerns regarding school finance and emphasized that the goal of legislators is to go beyond meeting “minimum constitutional standards” in Texas public schools. He said State schools should focus on meeting demands of the current workforce, as well. Addressing the Texas budget, Leach reminded the committee of 
Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s statement during the last Public Policy event that 54 percent of Texas general revenue comes from sales and use taxes. One of his top priorities is ensuring that the Texas state budget remains balanced.

Koop sits on three Texas House committees - Appropriations, International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs and Emerging Issues in Texas Law Enforcement, as well as two subcommittees of the Appropriations committee. She said the goal of the International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs is to make Texas a net exporter. She also discussed new opportunities for Texans with the opening of PMEX and deregulation of the oil and gas industry by Mexico. Koop believes the production and delivery of electricity will be another important topic to address Texas’ recent population surge, along with the more local concern of establishing the Bois d’Arc Reservoir to strengthen Collin County’s water supply. On school finance formulas, she noted that the current education funding formulas are decades old and so complex that they must be overhauled entirely for meaningful change to occur.
Some other things to watch for during the next session include the new Appropriations Committee chair, the issue of recaptured districts which particularly affects Dallas ISD and the push to fund the majority of schools with general revenue funds instead of property taxes.
Each legislator was asked what surprised him or her the most during the previous legislative session in 2015. Leach was surprised how bipartisan the legislature. He referenced the large majority of bills passed with signatures and support from both Republicans and Democrats. Button discussed the advantage for Richardson of having three representatives who serve on different committees, which expands the City’s influence on legislation. As a freshman representative, Koop was surprised by how “crazy it is on the House floor.”
Mayor Paul Voelker also spoke at the end of the meeting, stating that his three top priorities are education, transportation and adequate clean water for the City of Richardson.
The Public Policy Committee works year-round to stay on top of issues affecting Richardson businesses and citizens. They will use that information to draft the Chamber’s legislative agenda, which will be presented to legislators in the spring.
Molly Ulmer, Chief Governance Officer