And They’re Off…

I’ve never been a horse jockey.  And I’m thinking my chances to ever be a jockey have probably passed.  Truth be told, I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I’ve even been on a horse.  This all is by way of saying, I’m using an analogy for which I have no actual experience.

Nonetheless, today is the start of the 2019 Texas Legislative Session.  The race that occurs for 140 quick days every odd numbered year. Much like a thoroughbred race (I’m guessing), the gates have been flung open, and we are racing till the end on May 27. 

The race started off fast with the Texas House electing its first new Speaker of the House.  For the last decade, Joe Straus (R- San Antonio) was Texas’ Speaker, but with his retirement the vacant spot had to be filled by another.  As the House’s first order of business they unanimously elected Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) as Texas’ new Speaker.

On Monday prior to session beginning, Comptroller Glen Hegar announced his revenue estimates.  Comptroller Hegar essentially told Texas lawmakers they have $119.1 billion to budget with this session. This is up from the $110.2 billion from the 2017 session.  And with the talk of the town being that this session will focus on school finance and property tax reform, the amount of money available to go to each will shape this year’s main debates.

The first part of the race is where things will pace themselves.  The first 60-days is when we will see all the anticipated 7,000+ bills being filed.  So far there have already been 954 bills filed.  We are already tracking 34.  Clearly a ways to go in the next two months, but trust me, it won’t be long until the bills start pouring in.  We will read them all, track those that have any possible impact, both good and bad, and then get to work.

As always, we have multiple irons in the fire for what we know will be another incredibly busy session.  Some of our 2019 initiatives include, preserving our right-to-replace homes in existing manufactured home communities that was passed in 2017 that so many cities have since learned about and despise; navigate the expected numerous bills in response to Hurricane Harvey; continue to participate in the sunset process for the Office of Consumer Credit Commission; and we will work to bring greater code parity for modular homes with site-built homes.

But that’s not all.  Experience and the grapevine tell us that there will be bills to clarify late fee charges for rentals; city fee transparency bills; bills related to damaged and substandard buildings, including automatic lease terminations; and efforts to increase building codes with greater enforcement, including in the counties. 

Then, of course, with all sessions there is still a lot we don’t know.  For instance, we won’t know for a while the composition of the various House and Senate committees and who will chair those committees.  While it might sound “in the weeds,” the first step in any bills process is at the committee level, and thus where a tremendous amount of political power is wielded. 

The fun is just getting started, but one thing is for sure, it is going to be yet another exciting ride.