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Our State Senators and Representatives will continue their efforts in Austin for the next 140 days until the end of the session on May 29.

By GINA ERWIN, HAA Legislative Chair, with BRADLEY PEPPER, Vice President of Government Affairs

ON JANUARY 10, the 88th Texas Legislature gaveled in to begin work on the business of the state. Our State Senators and Representatives will continue those efforts in Austin for the next 140 days until the end of the session on May 29.

Unlike what we saw in Washington, D.C. with the election of a new Speaker of the House of Representatives, opening day in the Texas House of Representatives was much less dramatic. As expected and with little resistance, Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) was reelected as Speaker of the Texas House by his colleagues.

With leadership in the House now solidified, Speaker Phelan and his team will focus on establishing committees and assigning members to those committees. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick will do the same in the Texas Senate. While Texas Senate Committees generally remain static, Lt. Gov. Patrick has six new Senators to place on committees.

Committee assignments are key, as that is the first opportunity to hear and vet legislation. A bill cannot reach the floor of either body without first being heard and voted out of committee.

Budget Surplus

As legislators get to work, there is only one item that the Texas legislature is constitutionally required to pass: The Budget. The budget is written to cover the biennium following that legislative session, in this case 2024-25.

Last month, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar released his Biennial Revenue Estimate, which is the revenue the state expects to have to spend for the two year period. While previously released estimates reported an expected $27 billion surplus, Comptroller Hegar’s final estimate reported a record setting $32.7 billion surplus for lawmakers to spend.

The legislature will have an all-time high $188.2 billion available to spend, which is 26% more than the last biennium.

“This is truly a historical, once-in-a-lifetime budgeting session,” Comptroller Hegar said. “They have bigger opportunities to make impacts that impact Texans today that are struggling with inflation, or impact the future generations as they come forward with longterm decisions they’re going to make in the next 140 days. It’s truly what I deem a once-ina-lifetime session.”

Sales tax collections make up 53% of the general revenue funds. While the increased surplus is a positive for budgeting purposed, Hegar attributed the increased sales tax collection to inflated prices that have caused Texans to spend an extra $45 billion on taxable goods in the last year.

In addition to a budget surplus, the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), more commonly knowns as the Rainy Day Fund, is expected to reach a record $27.1 billion at the end of the 2024-25 biennium.

The combination of the surplus and the Rainy Day Fund balance should offer legislators an unique opportunity to address several big ticket items that have historically been put off or been addressed by bubble gum and duct tape.

As we get further into the session and have a more comprehensive view of what has been filed and what is being pursued, the HAA Government Affairs team will be active in working with our delegation and TAA in Austin.

New Congress Begins in DC

Last month in Washington, D.C., the 118th Congress was sworn in. Republicans took over control of the House of Representatives with a four-seat majority (222–213). In the Senate, Democrats retained control even picking up one seat to take a 51-49 advantage (although three Senators are Independent, they are considered in the Democratic majority).

As the nation and the world watched, Kevin McCarthy won the speaker's gavel on a historic 15th vote. It was the longest such election since 1859 and stretched over five days.

After McCarthy finally secured the Speakership, he then swore in the rest of the lawmakers, including 74 new freshman Members.

Representative Steve Scalise (LA-01) was elected Majority Leader. Representative Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08) was elected Minority Leader, becoming the first African American person to lead a major political party in Congress.

While it remains to be seen how the Federal Government will function with differing parties in power, we can expect the Biden Administration to move its agenda through the use of agency rulemaking. This could see HUD, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice have a say on matters like fair housing, resident screening, evictions, anti-price fixing or even, anti-price gouging regulations and more.

If you have a regulatory problem or question, call the HAA main line at 713-595-0300 and ask for Government Affairs. If a particular code requirement or issue concerns you, let us know by emailing Bradley at bpepper@haaonline.org.

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