On June 27, at the Lake Houston Chamber State of the State Luncheon, state Sen. Brandon Creighton (R- Dist. 4) and state Rep. Dan Huberty (R- Dist. 127) discussed some of the recent accomplishments that took place over the 86th Legislative Session.
The major bills that were discussed included SB 8, which focused on creating a statewide flood plan, SB 7, which focuses on flood planning, mitigation and infrastructure as well as HB 3 which created a major reform of the Texas public education school system.
Creighton discussed the nuances of SB 7, and said, “We are providing local governments with the matching funds necessary to draw down big federal dollars that are already approved thanks to Congressman Poe and Crenshaw … Local governments were unready [in reference to Hurricane Harvey] to draw the money down from the federal government … $600 million of the $2 billion in our flood recovery package were drawn out from federal accounts as well as $6-7 billion in federal aid. Those dollars arriving will help with the regional flood recovery and mitigation projects that we have set in motion.”
SB 7 has other amenities within its text, however. Creighton added that the bill also creates “two infrastructure funds that will help us go forward and provide grants and loans which local communities can rely on … it is a $2 billion funding initiative out of the rainy day fund which will leave about $10 billion in the fund.” He also noted, “Of the 6-7 billion federal dollars, $1 billion will be dedicated towards housing and approximately $5 billion will be dedicated towards flood projects.”
Creighton briefly mentioned SB 6, which he labeled as a “total revamp of the Texas Department of Emergency Management … it creates a wet debris removal guideline which will benefit communities that did not have the ability to remove all of their wet debris [during Hurricane Harvey flooding].”
Creighton also discussed SB 8, which will create “a statewide flood plan in five years … which we have not had in the past.” One of the points he focused on was an eligible project funded by SB 7 – the replacement of the Lake Houston flood gates. He added that, “We have seen flooding occur and dams fail statewide, this bill will help everyone… this bill will create a mandate for dam operators in Texas as well as an alarm system that will be available to the public … if a release is going to be considered, you will know ahead of time.”
Huberty discussed the recent passage of HB 3, which was only the third major overhaul of school finance and education reform passed in Texas over the past 84 years. Huberty noted the difficulties of formulating this overhaul, noting that in the interim period, he conducted over 70 in-person meetings in Austin to resolve a myriad of conflicts regarding the bill. He said, “We have kids from all over the world coming into Texas … they cannot speak English … we have over 90 languages spoken by students in Houston ISD.” The bill is “transformative … we put money into the classroom. For the first time every in the state of Texas, we are funding dyslexia,” said Huberty. He noted, “We rewarded money to senior teachers. Our goal was to keep good, experienced teachers in the classroom.”
Huberty discussed the financial aspect of the bill, noting that it dedicated $6.5 billion toward education and it also offers $5 billion in tax relief.” Creighton later added, “The school portion of your property taxes will go down 6-8 cents [per thousand dollars of property value] and the next year that number will double to 10-12 cents.” This tax relief is likely to save homeowners several hundred dollars in property tax, depending on the value of one’s property. “The bill also dedicated $560 million toward retired teachers to make sure they are taken care of,” said Huberty.
Huberty said, “Chairman Walle worked hard to get money into right places … we will get $30 million into Lake Houston for additional dredging.”
Huberty also mentioned the passage of HB 76, which was worked on for eight years. “This bill allots for Texas high school athletes to receive an EKG. We give parents the opportunity for their children to receive an exam,” said Huberty.
State Rep. Armando Walle (D-Dist. 140) addressed the chamber as well and said, “Chairman Creighton and I worked extensively on SB 7. We wanted to make sure that our region [the greater Houston area] was taken care of.” He took note of the civility that occurs in the Texas Congress, stating “We fight in a respectful manner,” and “We communicate across the aisle in the Texas Congress.”