The Session’s over, but the work continues

June 14, 2019

You can’t evaluate how good the 86th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature was like you would a professional athlete.

It’s not hits divided by times at bat. It’s not completed passes versus incomplete or intercepted passes. It’s not strokes under par.

You shouldn’t count the number of bills for which you advocated versus those the Governor signed. It’s not that kind of numbers game.

You have to look at the bills that can have the greatest positive impact on your community, your region or the state as a whole. Through that lens, the Abilene Chamber of Commerce and its Governmental Affairs Committee did well.

At the top of our list was to enact legislation that makes it easier for military spouses who have occupational licenses to have those licenses recognized in Texas. This is important to military families, to decision-makers in the Pentagon, to the workforce needs in the state and Texas economy.

Sens. Donna Campbell and Dawn Buckingham jointly authored SB 1200 that did just that. It said that if the license a military spouse received in another state had “substantially equivalent” requirements as Texas has, then that license is good here. We vigorously advocated for this bill, including moving testimony by Tamara Dugger, a Dyess spouse and Registered Nurse, before a Senate committee. In the end, an amendment to the bill also waived the licensing fees.

Last week, Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law. Only about a dozen other states have taken actions on licensure reciprocity.

Reps. Stan Lambert and Dan Flynn proposed bills that were generally similar, but in the end, SB 1200 became law.

Rep. Lambert championed another bill that was important to Dyess families and military members throughout the state. The Governor felt it was the right thing to do and signed HR 1597. It makes it easier for military kids to enroll in public schools without having a permanent address. The parent’s PCS orders transferring them to a Texas military installation provide enough documentation to get the students into class.

We followed a number of bills that were approved in the House but did not make it out of a Senate committee. Among them were ones addressing less-than-four-wheeled electric vehicles on public roads, and another allowing TxDOT to perform road work on military installations (and get paid for it).

Of course, the statewide headline bills dealt with the state budget, school finance and property tax reform. All have been signed by Governor Abbott.

A couple of bills that would prohibit tax incentives on wind farms near military bases didn’t make it out of House committees.

And literally in the last minutes of the session, the Plumbing Sunset bill died, meaning the Plumbing Code and Plumbing Examiners Board would be gone. However, last week Governor Abbott signed an executive order that keeps the state from plunging into an unregulated plumbing industry.

In the interim, before the 87th Regular Session in January 2021, we expect:

  • No Special Session
  • To follow any interim charge and attend hearings on topics important to us
  • To work to revive some bills from this session and develop new legislation
  • To monitor state agencies
  • To convene Chamber-member stakeholders to have ongoing conversations on issues of importance to them

Even though legislators won’t be back in Session for 19 months, we have no off-season, working to benefit Abilene and the Big Country.

Doug Williamson – Director of Governmental Affairs

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