As the COVID-19 pandemic ravages Texas, agencies and institutions have been called upon to reduce their spending. On May 20, top Texas officials published a memo directing agencies and institutions of higher education to plan a 5% decrease in their budgets for the current, 2020-2021 biennium which was originally approved as $250.7 billion in June of 2019. The 2020-21 budget was a 6.3% increase from the 2018-19 biennium budget of about $217 billion.
Officials cited the economic losses and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a resulting need for smooth economic recovery as drivers of the required 5% decrease. Some agencies and programs are exempt, the majority of which have a role in COVID-19 response.
In the memo, Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Speaker Dennis Bonnen requested savings plans be submitted by each (non-exempt) agency and institution to the Office of the Governor and the Legislative Budget Board no later than June 15, 2020. The memo specifies some of the “cost saving strategies” expected in savings plans and outlines select agencies and programs that are exempted from the new directive. It also came with a warning that further budget adjustments may be necessary as the pandemic develops.
May 27, 2019, marked the end of the 86th Texas Legislative Session, which began in January. A plethora of environmental disasters–including multiple floods; the March fires at the ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown and the ITC petrochemical storage facility in Deer Park; and the April chemical fire and deadly explosion at the KMCO warehouse in Crosby–have plagued Houston in recent years. These horrific events raised expectations that environmental-related issues would be a substantial focus of the 86th session. (The subsequent fire and explosion at a second ExxonMobil Baytown plant in July reinforced the need for such a focus.)
And the legislative session, the first since Hurricane Harvey, did indeed put forth some environmental legislation, including increased funds to support flood mitigation. We asked some of our member organizations to give us their feedback on the legislature’s environmental activities.
The following information summarizes reports shared by six of those groups, listed below. For more information and in-depth analyses, please visit their websites.
The 86th Legislature House and Senate have been assigning bills to committees, holding public committee hearings, distributing reports on bills, and voting on legislation. Activities are described below.
Public Citizen is a non-profit consumer advocacy organization that focuses on protecting health, safety, and democracy. This session, they are closely following House Bill 798, which relates to plot plan requirements for an application for a standard permit for a concrete batch plant issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The bill would require that the plot plan include a distance scale, a north arrow, emission points, and tanks, as well as to benchmark locations in the area of the facility and to indicate if setback or buffer requirements would be met. Public Citizen believes that this bill would ensure that TCEQ has the information it needs to determine if the applicant meets the sitting requirements. For more information about Public Citizen’s Texas office and the issues they follow go to
The last day for House committees to report House Bills and House Joint Resolutions is May 6, 2019. The last day for Senate committees to report Senate and Senate Joint Resolutions is May 18, 2019.
We’d love to know what bills you are watching. Send an email [email protected]
More information about the 86th Texas Legislative session can be found at capitol.texas.gov.
Read more about activities- including filed bills and committee assignments- of the legislature