Oct 27th 2017 | Posted in State by admin

The presiding officers of both the House and the Senate have released interim charges to committees on which issues to examine during the interim between the 85th Legislature and the 86th Legislature in 2019. 

In Texas’s biennial legislature, a legislative session occurs in odd-numbered years beginning the second Tuesday in January, and running for 140 days straight. After each legislative session, the presiding officers of the House and the Senate assign “interim charges,” or topics for study, to their committees in preparation for the next session. The work on these charges will begin with a slew of public hearings on those topics that have yet to be taken up. Committee staff will then write interim reports on those topics for the next legislature. When the next legislature reconvenes, many bills presented will have derived from that interim work. 

Below are some of the interim charges, where it came from- House or Senate- and which committee will address the interim charge: 

State Agency Contracts, Projects and Bonds 

Senate Transportation- Project Acceleration: Study and make recommendations regarding segregating state and federal transportation funding to accelerate project delivery.  

House Transportation– Study the ability of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to deliver highway construction projects that reduce congestion and improve mobility, including the Department’s options and limitations related to contracting. Make recommendations to improve the Department’s ability to complete complex projects on time and under cost. 

House Transporation– Study Texas’ various toll authorities and evaluate their transparency and stakeholder responsiveness. Make recommendations to improve the state oversight of toll authorities. 

House Special Purpose Districts– Review the statutes and procedures related to state approval and oversight of water district bonds that finance utility, infrastructure, and other projects. Identify opportunities for improving the state’s oversight of bond issuance and make recommendations for statutory changes. 

House Appropriations– Monitor the ongoing implementation of S.B. 20 (84R), S.B. 533 (85R), and S.B. 255 (85R), as well as Article IX, Sections 7.04, 7.10, and 7.12 of the General Appropriations Act. Study the processes by which state agencies award, execute, manage, and monitor state contracts, and make recommendations on whether any changes are necessary to safeguard the best interest of the public and state. Evaluate measures utilized to determine vendor performance, and make recommendations on how to improve vendor selection and performance. When reviewing the Health and Human Services Commission’s (HHSC) managed care contracts, determine if HHSC has adequate data, staff, and processes to provide appropriately rigorous contract oversight, including but not limited to the use of outcome metrics. Consider whether HHSC properly enforces contractual sanctions when managed care organizations (MCOs) are out of compliance, as well as how HHSC uses Medicaid participants’ complaints regarding access to care to improve quality.  

Infrastructure, Development and Construction 

Senate Higher Education- System/Campus Expansion: Consider what role the state should have in overseeing the approval and development of new higher education locations into geographical areas already served by existing institutions. Develop a long-term statewide strategy for authorizing new locations and programs which includes a plan to ensure adequate support for expansion. Explore where there are underserved areas of the state and what type of programs would best serve the population to fill regional workforce needs. 

House Transportation– Review the current state of infrastructure at Texas’ international shipping ports and border ports of entry in Texas. Identify transportation-related impediments to international trade and estimate the impact of those challenges, including border wait times, on the state’s economy. Make recommendations for improvements to facilitate international trade and economic growth. (Joint charge with the House Committee on International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs) 

House Transporation– Evaluate the impact energy exploration and production have on state and county roads and make recommendations on how to improve road quality in areas impacted by these activities. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Energy Resources)  

House Energy Resources- Examine how state policies may facilitate investment in public infrastructure and workforce development in the Permian Basin region in order to support the anticipated growth in industry activity and related population, and capture the full economic potential of the region. 

Funding, Bonds and Taxes 

Senate Finance- Economic Stabilization Fund: Examine options to increase investment earnings of the Economic Stabilization Fund in a manner that minimizes overall risk to the fund balance. Investment options should ensure the liquidity of a sufficient portion of the balance so that the legislature has the resources necessary to address the needs of the state, including natural disasters. Evaluate how the Economic Stabilization Fund constitutional limit is calculated; consider alternative methods to calculate the limit, and alternative uses for funds above the limit. 

Senate Transportation-  Funding Opportunities for Texas Ports: Review the state’s appropriations for Texas’ ports and the Ship Channel Improvement Revolving Fund and make recommendations for increased investment to meet future needs.  

Senate Resources and Economic Development– Hotel Occupancy Taxes: Study and make recommendations regarding the collection and use of hotel occupancy taxes to increase transparency in the imposition, rate, and use of such taxes. 

Senate Intergovernmental Relations– Special Purpose Districts Bond Reform: Study the state agency review of tax exempt bonds issued by special purpose districts and public improvement districts used to finance water and sewer infrastructure in new residential and commercial developments. Examine the disparities that exist between the feasibility review of water and sewer bonds backed by property-based assessments and those backed by ad valorem taxes, and make recommendations that ensure the continued stability of the Texas tax exempt bond market by requiring all districts to undergo appropriate reviews prior to issuance. 

Technology and Security 

Senate Education– Virtual Education in the 21st Century Classroom: Review the Texas Virtual School Network (TVSN) and recommend methods of updating and improving the system to boost online virtual education. 

Senate Criminal Justice– Telemedicine in Correctional Facilities: Review current availability and best practices in the state regarding the use of telemedicine for inmates in city or county jail, state jail, or the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Examine and make recommendations on whether access to care and outcomes can be improved through the expanded use of telemedicine for medical and mental health services, and whether expansion would create efficiencies. Examine barriers to implementation and expansion of telemedicine in correctional facilities. 

House Transportation– Study emerging issues in transportation related to technology and evaluate the state’s preparedness for addressing challenges and opportunities posed by technological advances. Review the implementation of state and federal programs and legislation related to intelligent transportation systems, autonomous vehicles, unmanned aircraft systems (i.e. drones), and other technological changes. 

House State Affairs– Examine the use of television white space and other technologies to expand broadband access to areas with no access or limited access. 

House Public Health– Review opportunities to improve population health and health care delivery in rural and urban medically underserved areas. Identify potential opportunities to improve access to care, including the role of telemedicine. In the review, identify the challenges facing rural hospitals and the impact of rural hospital closures. 

House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues– Evaluate the use of telemedicine to improve behavioral health services in the juvenile justice system.  

House Investments and Financial Services– Study the impact and risks that a large-scale security breach of a credit bureau has on Texans. Identify opportunities to protect Texas consumers and to mitigate the impact of such a breach. 

House Business and Industry– Study the impact of data breaches or theft on Texas consumers and businesses. In particular, study the consequences of recent data breaches and subsequent mitigation efforts. Review the existing standards of risk as well as the current best practices in securing sensitive and personal information held or used by private industries. Determine if existing rules and regulations offer adequate consumer protection while allowing continued economic success for businesses in the state.  

 Hurricane Harvey 

House Appropriations– Examine the use of federal funds by state agencies responding to the effects of Hurricane Harvey and identify opportunities to maximize the use of federal funds to reduce the impact of future natural disasters. Also, identify the need for state resources to respond to Harvey relief and recovery efforts, as well as opportunities for state investment in infrastructure projects that will reduce the impact of future natural disasters. (Issued on September 14, 2017)  

House Ways and Means– Review the impact of Hurricane Harvey on state and local taxes. Examine the need for and the feasibility of requiring reappraisal of all property affected by large-scale disasters such as Harvey. Identify improvements to the tax-rate-setting process following such disasters. 

House Urban Affairs– Monitor housing needs in areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey and related flooding, including: a. The local, state, and federal governments’ responses to short-term and long-term housing needs for those displaced by the storm; and b. Changes in affordable and low-income housing needs in affected areas.  

House Urban Affairs– Make recommendations to improve and accelerate the response to existing and future housing needs related to Hurricane Harvey and future natural disasters, including: a. The viability of set-asides under current state and federal programs to address natural disaster-related contingencies; and b. How best to rebuild and revitalize impacted communities to mitigate future disaster-related damage. 

House Transportation– Review the state’s response to Hurricane Harvey and natural disaster preparedness with respect to the transportation system and transportation infrastructure. Make recommendations for improving agency operations related to emergency preparedness and response. 

House State Affairs– Evaluate the response of the electric utility industry to Hurricane Harvey. Determine whether current rules and regulations hinder effective responses to natural disasters in areas within the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and outside ERCOT. Evaluate policy initiatives, best practices, and the effects of expanding distributed generation in order to restore electrical power, critical services, and infrastructure in areas impacted by a natural disaster. Study the impact of expanded distributed generation and advanced technology deployment on wholesale electric power prices and their impact on ratepayers.  

House State Affairs– Evaluate the durability and reliability of energy efficient buildings and facilities during natural disasters. 

House County Affairs– Examine how emergency response activities are organized, funded, and coordinated. Review the impact of natural disasters on county finances. Identify any deficiencies in authority for the most populous counties related to infrastructure planning, emergency response, and recovery. Explore ways to improve efficiencies and manage costs while protecting public safety. Additionally, study the relationship between the state, counties, non-governmental organizations, and churches in preparing for and responding to Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, and determine if preparedness plans are adequate.  

House Special Purpose Districts– Evaluate the impact of Hurricane Harvey on residential communities within special purpose districts and districts’ capacity to respond. Review the role and adequacy of the districts in emergency preparedness and response. Make recommendations for strengthening districts’ emergency operations. 

House Public Education– Determine, to the extent possible, the scope of financial losses, including facilities, that resulted from Hurricane Harvey. Recommend possible state actions, such as changes to student counts or property valuation, to mitigate any negative impact on districts and ensure governance structures and parameters allow for effective responses. (Issued on September 14, 2017)  

House Public Education– Recommend any measures needed at the state level to prevent unintended punitive consequences to both students and districts in the state accountability system as a result of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. (Issued on September 14, 2017)  

House Public Education– Examine the educational opportunities offered to students displaced by Hurricane Harvey throughout the state and the process by which districts enroll and serve those students. Recommend any changes that could improve the process for students or help districts serving a disproportionate number of displaced students. (Issued on September 14, 2017)  

House Higher Education– Determine, to the extent possible, the scope of financial losses to 2- and 4-year institutions, including facilities, that resulted from Hurricane Harvey. Recommend possible state actions to mitigate any negative impact on institutions and ensure governance structures and parameters allow for effective responses. Review the educational opportunities offered to students displaced by Harvey throughout the state. Recommend any changes that could improve the process and what additional services might be needed for these displaced students.  

House Natural Resources– Examine the following issues within the Committee’s jurisdiction regarding Hurricane Harvey and flooding in general: the role of regional entities in developing projects to control flooding, both through new infrastructure and enhancing existing infrastructure; mitigation efforts that would reduce the impact of future flood events, and strategies to fund those efforts; and the response of public entities that own or operate dams to large-scale rain events, including how such entities make decisions regarding dam and reservoir operations during such events, coordinate with state and local emergency management officials, and communicate with the public. (Issued September 14, 2017)  

House Natural Resources– In conjunction with Charge 1, study the following additional issues related to Hurricane Harvey and flooding in general: a. The development of the initial State Flood Plan by the Texas Water Development Board, and how the plan might be enhanced or focused in light of Harvey; b. Science and data availability and needs related to flood risk and to responding to flood events; c. The best methods of providing state financial assistance for flood infrastructure needs; d. Opportunities for improved collection and storage of flood flows for future supply needs; and e. The role of voluntary land conservation efforts, including conservation easements, in preventing and mitigating flooding. 

House Licensing and Administrative

Procedures–  Evaluate the adequacy of the workforce currently available to the industries responsible for rebuilding the state’s key infrastructure, as well as residential and commercial properties damaged by Hurricane Harvey. Specifically, examine the labor needs within the construction industry and skilled trades and determine if local or state licensing requirements and regulations are an unnecessary barrier to the ongoing success of post-Harvey recovery. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Business & Industry)  

House Land and Resource Management– Review the General Land Office’s (GLO) role and efforts during the recovery period following Hurricane Harvey. Examine the state’s readiness and protocols in response to storm-related natural disasters. Provide an assessment of public lands and make recommendations on future and ongoing mitigation strategies regarding state assets. 

House Land and Resource Management– Review local and state zoning and land use regulations. Determine if current rules provide an adequate balance of disaster preparedness and deference to private property rights.  

House Agriculture and Livestock– Study the impact of data breaches or theft on Texas consumers and businesses. In particular, study the consequences of recent data breaches and subsequent mitigation efforts. Review the existing standards of risk as well as the current best practices in securing sensitive and personal information held or used by private industries. Determine if existing rules and regulations offer adequate consumer protection while allowing continued economic success for businesses in the state.  

House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues– Evaluate the impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Texas juvenile justice system, out-of-home placements, and care for youth involved with the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Recommend any changes that could improve operational stability of state juvenile justice institutions following a natural disaster and changes that would allow for a more effective response.  

House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence– Study the effects of Hurricane Harvey on the courts and legal system. Examine whether existing statutes granting authority to the Texas Supreme Court and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals are adequate to address potential needs during emergencies. Study the effects of Harvey on civil legal aid programs in general, and specifically in regard to legal problems faced by those impacted. 

House Investments and Financial Services– Review the impact of Hurricane Harvey on financial institutions in Texas and evaluate the response of the state’s oversight agencies. Study how Harvey impacted consumers and lenders in the mortgage and home equity markets. Identify opportunities to improve the operational stability of financial institutions and to improve the state’s responsiveness following a natural disaster. 

House International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs– Review the state’s communications with the federal government in response to Hurricane Harvey. Identify best practices and make recommendations for improvements to ensure the state maximizes federal resources in future emergencies. 

House Insurance– Examine the effect of Hurricane Harvey on the insurance market in Texas. Include an evaluation of the status of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and Texas FAIR Plan Association, and of the impact of Harvey on the ability of these residual markets to achieve their statutory goals and meet the needs of their policyholders. Examine possible gaps and vulnerabilities in insurance coverage brought to light by Harvey and recommend ways to address these issues.  

House Human Services– Study the impact of Hurricane Harvey and the response to the storm on individuals living in long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, state supported living centers, licensed community group homes, and children in the foster care system. Identify and recommend necessary solutions to ensure appropriate disaster-related protocols are in place to keep vulnerable Texans protected. Also, identify any challenges state agencies experienced in responding to the storm or during recovery efforts.  

House Homeland Security and Public Safety– Evaluate the response of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) response to Hurricane Harvey. Review the actions of the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the state’s natural disaster preparedness planning efforts to determine their effectiveness at addressing Harvey-related issues. Study coordination between municipalities, counties, and state agencies and how emergency response activities are organized and coordinated at the city, county, and regional level.  

House Government Transparency and Operation– Examine the role of technology in disaster preparedness and the response to Hurricane Harvey and future natural disasters. Review and make recommendations to drive innovation and efficiency and evaluate whether there are any regulatory impediments to collaboration between the public and private sectors.  

House Government Transparency and Operation– Evaluate whether qualifying state agencies are appropriately utilizing available state disaster recovery services, including the statewide technology centers. Consider the costs and benefits of allowing other states to participate in Texas’ statewide technology centers under Subchapter L, Chapter 2054, Texas Government Code for disaster recovery purposes.  

House Government Transparency and Operation– Review Texas’ open meeting laws and related government decision-making policies. Determine if the formal processes prevented the efficient delivery of assistance during Hurricane Harvey. Make recommendations on maintaining the current standards of accountability without limiting government-provided aid during disaster events.  

House General Investigating and Ethics– Maintain oversight of federal, state, local, and charitable funds spent in response to Hurricane Harvey. Investigate instances of waste, fraud, or abuse involving such funds. Ensure that the State of Texas is maximizing federal disaster aid. 

House Environmental Regulation– Examine the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) response and clean-up efforts related to Hurricane Harvey. Study whether current air, water, waste, and wastewater rules and regulations adequately protect the public, natural resources, environment, infrastructure, residential areas, and industrial facilities from damage caused by natural disasters. Evaluate the debris cleanup and removal process and whether current rules and regulations are effective in expediting cleanup efforts. Make recommendations on how natural disaster responses can be improved.  

House Energy Resources– Examine the Railroad Commission of Texas’ (RRC) response to Hurricane Harvey. Study whether current state rules and regulations are sufficient to protect the public, natural resources, environment, infrastructure, and industrial facilities from damage caused by natural disasters. Evaluate options to ensure the availability of fuel reserves for first responders during natural disasters.  

House Economic and Small Business Development-Examine Hurricane Harvey’s economic and workforce impact on the state and private sector. Analyze the effects and efficiency of state resources available to assist in job training and the recovery of the state’s workforce.  

House Elections– Study the potential impact of disaster events on election administration and security. Specifically, examine any effects or vulnerabilities identified during Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent recovery period.  

House Defense and Veterans’ Affairs– Evaluate the impact of Hurricane Harvey related to the Texas Military Department, Emergency Management Council, and the Texas Division of Emergency Management. Recommend any changes that could improve operational stability and the reaction of these agencies following a natural disaster and changes that would allow for a more effective response.  

House Culture, Recreation and Tourism– Review the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s and the Texas Historical Commission’s roles in the response to Hurricane Harvey. Evaluate the economic, recreational, and biological impacts and needed repairs from Harvey as they relate to applicable state agencies and the following areas and industries under the purview of the Committee: a. State parks b. Wildlife and fish c. Historic sites and buildings d. Art and cultural resources e. Travel and tourism f. In addition, provide recommendations on how to allow for a timely recovery of these areas from Harvey, and how to mitigate the impact of, and adequately prepare for, future natural disasters.  

House Culture, Recreation and Tourism– Study the feasibility of establishing and mobilizing a volunteer contingency of private boat owners through the boat registration and license database administered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to assist first responders in search and rescue efforts in natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey. 

House Criminal Jurisprudence–  Evaluate the impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Texas criminal justice system, including its effect on the speed of criminal trials and litigation, criminal courts, district attorneys’ ability to prosecute, and attorneys’ ability to provide proper defense. Recommend any changes that could improve operational stability of state criminal justice institutions following a natural disaster and changes that would allow for a more effective response.  

House Corrections– Evaluate the Texas Department of Criminal Justice response to Hurricane Harvey. Recommend any changes that could improve the operational stability of state criminal justice institutions following a natural disaster and changes that would allow for a more effective response.  

Senate Interim charges part 1, Senate interim charges part 2 and house interim charges are available online.


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