87th Legislature – Week 15
Please find a brief update on how things are progressing at the Texas Capitol …
Constitutional carry and other politically polarizing bills make progress. This week saw a tense day on the floor of the House, as the body considered a bill often referred to as “Constitutional Carry”. In essence, the bill would remove the requirement to obtain a permit to carry a firearm. The vote followed party lines for the most part, but about 10% of Democrats did vote for the bill. The bill will move to the Senate with a new political backdrop; yesterday, a former Travis County (Austin) deputy killed three family members in Northwest Austin. The event will also likely impact discussions around bail reform; as the deputy was arrested last June after being accused of sexually assaulting a minor. SB 21, the Senate’s bail reform bill, passed the full chamber this past week. Other politically charged bills on the move this past week included:
A Senate Bill, which would require that student athletes compete in sports based on their biological sex (and not gender identity), passed the Senate by a strict party line vote.
A Senate Bill, which would ban abortion once a heartbeat can be detected, has now passed out of House committee.
Senate Bill 10, which limits cities and counties ability to use taxpayer dollars to fund lobbyists, passed out of the Senate.
ERCOT releases summer forecast as PUC gets new commissioners. ERCOT released a preliminary assessment of resource (generation) adequacy for this summer. It identified nearly 10,000 MW of reserve capacity above predicted peak demand. However, ERCOT did identify three worst-case scenarios that could lead to power outages should those conditions play out. The assessment comes as ERCOT had to issue a request to consumers to conserve energy last week. The request came on an unusually hot spring day; spring is typically when many generators are offline for scheduled maintenance. Two important steps were taken last week to install new leadership at PUC: Commissioner Will McAdams was sworn in and the Governor appointed the chair of the Texas Water Development Board to the PUC, Peter Lake.
Biden Administration rescinds Texas’ 1115 Waiver. On Friday afternoon, the Biden Administration rescinded an extension of Texas’ 1115 Waiver. The extension was pushed through at the end of the Trump Administration. While the Biden Administration has cited procedural problems with the extension, we suspect the Administration has both substantive issues with the extension and that this is in part a reaction to the recent jabs that the Administration has traded with Governor Abbott and other state leaders on issues such as the border and the lifting of COVID restrictions. The waiver, which provides billions of dollars in Medicaid money to the state’s hospital safety net, has long been a political lever in the Medicaid expansion debate. The Texas House did pass a bill to extend coverage to postpartum women to a full 12 months; currently Medicaid coverage ends after 60 days. But other, more comprehensive Medicaid expansion bills have stalled.
Budget night is April 22 in the House. The House’s version of SB 1, the state’s budget, will be considered by the full House this Thursday. We expect the bill to pass easily and move to conference committee, where key lieutenants in both the House and the Senate will work out differences between the two chambers. That discussion is likely to be informed by a revised Biennial Revenue Estimate from the Comptroller. We expect that revision to come in early May – after the Comptroller has the benefit of seeing another month of revenue collections. April collections could be quite robust given three important factors: the lifting of COVID restrictions, stimulus checks, and falling unemployment.