state

Much remains on table as Legislature begins final week

AUSTIN — As the Texas Legislature entered the final week of its 140-day 86th regular session, Texans continued to wait for lawmakers to wrap up priority issues: the 2020-2021 state budget, property tax reform and school finance reform.

Of the more than 7,000 bills Senate and House members have filed proposing to create, amend or repeal a law, only 56 had passed and been forwarded to the governor’s desk for final approval as of Sunday, May 19. This is a low number of bills to have survived the threshing floors at both ends of the Capitol at this point in the session. Lawmakers with bones to pick with each other have used and may continue to use parliamentary maneuvers to speed or slow the movement of bills between now and May 27, the last day of the session.

Meanwhile, last week, the House and Senate passed and forwarded to the governor the following bills:

—HB 253 by Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, provides for development and implementation of a five-year strategic plan to improve access support services for postpartum depression.

—HB 621 by Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, prohibits an employer from taking any adverse employment action against a child-care or education professional who reports possible child abuse or neglect.

—HB 869 by Rep. Cole Hefner, R-Mount Pleasant, provides for the prosecution of the interception, use or disclosure of certain communications, notably credit card skimming, as organized crime.

—HB 1218 by Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, requires the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission to establish a schedule for the distribution of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as “SNAP” benefits, that ensures the even distribution of the benefits each month over a 28-day period.

—HB 1631 by Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, prohibits a local authority from implementing or operating a red light traffic signal enforcement system, but a local authority may continue to operate a system under the terms of a contract until the contract expires. The law allowing cities to install and operate red light enforcement systems became law in 2007.

—SB 442 by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, requires that insurance companies warn residential and commercial property policyholders if their policy does not cover flood damage so they may better prepare for future natural disasters.

—SB 649 by Sen. Zaffirini, D-Laredo, seeks to reduce the volume of waste deposited in landfills by requiring the creation of a plan to stimulate the use of recyclable materials as feedstock in processing and manufacturing.

—SB 962 by Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, extends provisions in current law through 2034 requiring that the state’s economic stabilization fund maintain a sufficient minimum balance before constitutionally approved transfers to the state highway fund may be executed.

Jobless rate drops again

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased another tenth of a point to 3.7 percent for the month of April, the Texas Workforce Commission reported May 17.

Growth in the Texas economy continued in April, with 28,900 seasonally adjusted non-farm positions added over the month. April was the 108th consecutive month of annual growth for total non-farm employment.

“Our state’s ongoing success is linked to the innovation and competitiveness of employers in a range of industries providing Texans more opportunities to demonstrate their world-class skills,” said TWC Chair and Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs. “In fact, Chief Executive Magazine has named Texas the Best State for Business for the 15th year in a row.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Midland Metropolitan Statistical Area recorded April’s lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 1.7 percent, followed by the Odessa MSA at 2.0 percent. The Amarillo MSA recorded the third-lowest rate: 2.1 percent.

Sales tax holidays are set

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on May 15 announced state sales tax holidays would be conducted across the Lone Star State May 25-27.

According to comptroller’s office, shoppers will save about more than $12 million in state and local sales tax during the Memorial Day weekend sales tax holidays.

Products displaying a “WaterSense” label or logo may be purchased tax-free for personal or business use. These include shower heads, bathroom sink faucets and accessories, toilets, urinals and landscape irrigation controls.

Certain products displaying the “ENERGY STAR” logo can be purchased tax-free, including air conditioners priced at $6,000 or less, refrigerators priced at $2,000 or less, ceiling fans, fluorescent light bulbs, dishwashers, dehumidifiers and clothes washers.

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