The Texas Legislature adjourned on Monday Sine Die, which means "without a day" or "indefinitely" in Latin. That means unless Governor Abbott calls a Special Session, the Texas Legislature will be dismissed until January of 2019. Team Thompson was hard at work this session and sent ten bills to Governor Abbott for his signature! Representative Thompson was also a Joint Author or Co-Author on 28 bills that also passed.
While a number of bills passed one chamber, it is necessary for bills to pass in both the House and the Senate in order to be sent for the Governor. Sunday, June 18th is the last day Governor Abbott can either veto or sign legislation, or choose to have the legislation pass without his signature, for bills that passed in both the House and Senate. I am eager to share information on these bills with you and will have more legislative updates for you in future Capitol Reviews once the veto period is over and it is clear which bills are vetoed.
Beginning with this edition of the Capitol Review, we will be transitioning to monthly updates over the interim. Please expect to receive your copy of the Capitol Review the first Friday of every month going forward. This edition covers the following topics:
- The Texas Budget – 85th Legislative Session
- Team Thompson Bill Update
- Reminder: Stay Vigilant!
- House District 29 Events
Here’s a photo of the House Environmental Regulation Committee for the 85th Legislative Session. We are pictured in our Chairman’s office. Representative Joe Pickett’s office is worth a visit if you are ever at the Texas Capitol – swing by 1W.5 to see his antique Model T Ford and some other interesting artifacts he collects!
The Texas Budget – 85th Legislative Session
The Texas Legislative sent a budget proposal to Governor Abbott that keeps state spending flat while also making important investments in child protection and mental health care. Here are some highlights of the budget, Senate Bill 1, which uses $1B of the Economic Stabilization Fund and delays transfer of $1.8 billion of general revenue into the State Highway Fund.
Public Education: we maintained full funding of enrollment growth and provided an additional $75 million for districts experiencing rapid property value decreases (overlaps with ASATR districts). We maintained $47.5 million for the New Instructional Facilities Allotment and provided $25 million for E-Rate, which will bring high-speed broadband to public schools; an additional $1m is provided to public libraries for this same purpose. We also provided $1.6 billion in prekindergarten funding, with $236 million going to districts implementing high-quality pre-K. Additionally, we crafted a two-year solvency fix for TRS-Care, paid for with changes in HB 3976 and $350m payment.
Higher Education: We increased financial aid over 2016-17 in TEXAS Grants and TEOGs at junior colleges and increased the number of Graduate Medical Education slots over the 2016-17 level. We maintained the rate and level of funding for institutions of higher education. We reduced funding in special items, accepting 4% cuts offered by institutions and an additional 10% cut for formula-funded special items OR an additional 5% cut for any other special item. I am pleased to report that Community College total formula funding increased $22.9 million over the 16-17 levels.
Medicaid: We maintained rates to support community attendant wages and the maintenance of add-on hospital payments. We ensured $24.5m to restore approximately 25% of Medicaid therapy rate reductions and $14.1m for the phased-in implementation of the therapy assistance policy change rate reduction. We allowed for $350m in Medicaid cost-containment initiatives, and removed the $1B federal flexibility rider. We exempted consumer directed services from assumed rate reductions in HCS and Texas Home Living waivers and increased the Women's Health program by $30.4m GR, assuming a federal funding match for Healthy Texas Women in 2019. We also directed an evaluation of the managed care system and made no eligibility changes for Early Childhood Intervention.
Women’s Health: We defunded Planned Parenthood and provided $12.3 million GR ($18.3 million AF) for alternatives to abortion and includes a rider that authorizes HHSC to spend up to $38.3 million for any appropriated funds if the agency determines there is a demand based on program utilization.
It’s great to be home after a grueling 5 months in Austin! I enjoyed participating in the groundbreaking ceremony for Independence Park this week.
Mental Health Care: We provided $300 million for new construction, significant repairs and increased capacity at state mental health hospitals and appropriated $62.7 million to eliminate projected waiting lists for community mental health services for adults and children. We also ensured $37.5 million for a new mental health jail diversion program.
Department of Family and Protective Services: We increased rates to foster families and providers by $40.9m and ensured $80m in general revenue (GR) funds for 597 new caseworkers by 2019, which includes decreasing caseloads for conservatorship caseworkers to a 17:1 ratio (fits within court's range). We supported foster care redesign in current area and expansion into 3 areas and included $8.8m for expansion of Prevention and Early Intervention.
Border Security: The funding level is at $800m and includes 250 new troopers to expand operations along the Texas-Mexico border and a 50-hour workweek for all DPS troopers statewide. We also ensured that the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) and DPS will study available federal resources over the interim.
Health and Safety and Deferred Maintenance Needs at State Agencies: This includes $87m for Alamo Preservation; $28.6m for Parks Deferred Maintenance and $49.1m for Parks weather-related construction. We also added $160m for deferred maintenance at state hospitals and State Supported Living Centers (SSLCs), approximately $20m for courthouse preservation, and $300m to replace or significantly repair state hospitals and other inpatient mental health facilities.
TxDOT: We funded critical agency needs, including 313.5 FTEs and deferred maintenance. We ensured that the proposed High Speed Rail (HSR) line is built with private funds, while protecting the agency's ability to perform its state and federal duties. We included $40m to support Texas ports and also funded the Border Intelligence Transportation System to increase security measures and expedite trade at international ports of entry at the Bridge of the Americas and the Zarazoga Bridge (El Paso).
This week I enjoyed a tour of the “Visions of India” exhibit with Heidi Weiss and Congressman Pete Olson.
Team Thompson Bill Update
Here’s an update on the ten bills we passed this session:
- HB 938 designates a portion of FM 518 in Pearland as The Officer Endy Ekpanya Memorial Highway, honoring Officer Ekpanya's commitment and service to our community. Status: Signed by the Governor, effective 9/1/17
- HB 947 designates a portion of FM 1462 in Alvin as The Lieutenant Roy Lin Tisdale Memorial Highway, honoring Lt. Col. Tisdale's leadership and sacrifice for our country. Status: Signed by the Governor, effective 9/1/17
- HB 1075 provides for sports officials registered with UIL to undergo a criminal background check every 3 years, protecting student athletes in our public schools. Status: Sent to the Governor
- HB 1962 creates the Brazoria County Municipal Utility District No. 69 in the Pearland area, promoting economic development in our community. Status: Effective 5/18/17
- HB 1963 creates the Brazoria County Municipal Utility District No. 70 in the Alvin area, promoting economic development in our community. Status: Effective 5/23/17
- HB 2285 designates the University of Houston's Coastal Center as the Texas Institute for Coastal Prairie Research and Education, providing greater recognition for the unique work taking place there. Status: Sent to the Governor
- HB 2332 creates the Brazoria County Management District No. 1 in the Alvin area, promoting economic development in our community. Status: Effective 5/23/17
- SB 929 (HB 1719) requires new tax assessor-collectors to complete 40 hours of continuing education on the assessment and collection of property tax, equipping future tax assessor-collectors to more competently complete their duties. Status: Signed by the Governor, effective 5/18/17
- SB 1298 (HB 991) increases the pool of prospective grand jurors, giving judges greater flexibility when issuing jury summons. Status: Sent to the Governor
- SB 1522 (HB 3591) allows the Texas Transportation Commission to appoint more than 6 members to the Aviation Advisory Committee, benefitting the general aviation industry in our state. Status: Sent to the Governor
We are sad to see Pearland Police Chief Doyle retire after so many years of service, but are excited for Assistant Chief Johnny Spires to take the reins. We enjoyed Chief Doyle’s retirement party this week.
Reminder: Stay Vigilant!
As summer is getting started, I join with DPS to urge Texans to remain vigilant regarding potential crime and terrorist activity in our community and to report suspicious behaviors to local authorities or the department’s iWATCH website at http://www.iwatchtx.org/. The iWATCH program was created as a partnership between communities and law enforcement, and utilizes citizen-sourced tips related to criminal activity.
Concerned citizens who observe suspicious activity can visit the iWATCH website – http://www.iwatchtx.org/ – to fill out a report, which includes contact information and specifics about a particular incident. A report usually takes fewer than five minutes to complete, and once submitted, each report is reviewed by law enforcement analysts. To make an anonymous report, individuals can contact DPS at 1-844-643-2251. (iWATCH is not designed to report emergencies. If a situation requires an emergency response, call 911.)
Preparations for terrorist attacks may often be seen, but rarely reported. When in doubt, please speak up. Here are some examples of behaviors and activities to report:
- Strangers asking questions about building security features and procedures.
- Briefcase, suitcase, backpack or package is left behind.
- Cars or trucks are left in no-parking zones at important buildings.
- Chemical smells or fumes that are unusual for the location.
- People requesting sensitive information, such as blueprints, security plans or VIP travel schedules, without a need to know.
- Purchasing supplies that could be used to make bombs or weapons, or purchasing uniforms without having the proper credentials.
- Taking photographs or videos of security features, such as cameras or checkpoints.
Reports to iWATCH can also be made through the DPS Mobile App. The app is currently available for iPhone users on the Apple App Store: (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/texas-dps/id902092368?mt=8) and for Android users on Google Play: (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.microassist.texasdps&hl=en).
The iWATCH website is part of the DPS Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division, which serves as the central clearinghouse for the collection, management, analysis and dissemination of law enforcement and homeland security intelligence in Texas. The DPS intelligence strategy is essential to proactive, preventive and effective law enforcement operations to combat crime and terrorism.
Team Thompson had a great session in Austin, passing a majority of the bills we filed. Pictured with me are Emily Kirchner, Chief of Staff and Staci Rives, Legislative Director. We also had five hardworking interns this session, who many of you likely spoke with when you contacted our office: Ab Henry, Melissa Hostick, Meredith Owens, Jade Patterson, and Gina Shahidullah. All the interns were with us part-time, so we never got a group photo!
House District 29 Events
Please join area residents at these events taking place over the next month!
- Every Friday in June - 7PM Pearland Parks and Recreation presents Concerts in the Park - Event Link
- 6/10 - 1PM Affinity Urgent Care's Family Fun Day - Event Link
- 6/14 - 7PM Pearland ISD Edu. Foundation Night at the Houston Astros - Ticket Link
- 6/15 - 12PM 2nd Annual ACC Athletic Department Top Golf Tournament - Flyer Link
- 6/26-29th 10AM Summer Children's Theatre Festival -Showings Link
- 7/4 - 6PM Pearland's Celebration of Freedom - Event Link
Team Thompson Update
After four and a half years serving the constituents of House District 29, my Chief of Staff Emily Kirchner is leaving our office to be a full-time mom. Her last week in the office is next week. Emily has done an outstanding job in the time she has been with us. She is a true professional with outstanding organizational skills and people skills. I constantly get feedback from constituents on her follow-though and her genuine concern for their issues. She will be missed by all.
Our awesome Legislative Director, Staci Rives, will be taking the reins in Austin and we are still grateful to have the fantastic Liz Sitta, our District Director, in Pearland. Can we help you with a state issue you are facing? Please email us at
, contact Liz at
and 281-485-6565, and contact Staci at
and 512-463-0707. We work for you!
Thanks for reading, and God Bless Texas!