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87th Texas Legislature Recap

June 7, 2021Doug Williamson, Director of Government Affairs

You win some, and you lose some.

I’m happy to tell you that business in Abilene came out of the Regular Session of the Texas Legislature with more wins than losses.

I think it is difficult to label one of the wins as “The Biggest.” However, two that could have possibly the largest positive outcomes deal with liability associated with the pandemic and the expansion of broadband statewide.

Sitting on the Governor’s Desk is Senate Bill 6, The Pandemic Liability Act. The Texas Association of Business describes it as providing “protections for employers that have operated in good faith during the pandemic and in future pandemics.” It covers “certain claims arising during a pandemic or other disaster or emergency. This bill limits the liability of certain persons for injury, death, or property damage related to, caused by, or during a pandemic with certain exceptions. The bill limits the liability of an educational institution for certain actions during a pandemic emergency.”

Also on the Governor’s Desk is House Bill 5, the statewide expansion of broadband services. A new-to-be-formed State Broadband Development Office will be charged with creating a statewide plan in a little more than a year, develop a financial aid program to help expand access and participate in Federal Communications Commission proceedings.

Among other bills that passed the House and Senate were:

  • HB 19: Protects businesses with commercial vehicles from abusive lawsuits.
  • HB 1195: Exempts PPP loans from the Texas Franchise Tax.
  • HB 4: Expands access to telemedicine and telehealth. (Sen. Dawn Buckingham was the Senate sponsor of the bill.)

The headline loss was the failure to extend a major part of the economic development toolbox. Chapter 313 of the Economic Development Act allows school districts to provide some tax advantages to new or expanding businesses. This section of the Act expires at the end of 2023, just a few days before the convening of the next regular legislative session.

During this session, the major bill dealing with Chapter 313 made several revisions in how it works and added 10 years onto its life. Toward the end of the session, a bill that only added two years and made no other changes moved closest to passage, sitting on the calendar for action for the final 10 days of the Session and never being brought to the floor for a vote.

Most observers say they would be surprised if the Governor were to include it in a likely Special Session. He solely sets the agenda by the Constitution.

Among the other bills that failed to gain approval was:

  • SB 14: Preempts local governments from mandating employment regulations that fall outside of the jurisdiction’s regulatory scope like predictive scheduling, local wages, and hiring practices.

Here is a link to the Texas Association of Business full look at the Session. 

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