Tuesday, October 24, 2017

#TXLEGE: Meanwhile, Straus' Interim Charges are a spend/regulate-athon....

"He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
Proverbs 29:1

Joe Straus also released interim charges yesterday:

  • Study the Texas olive and olive oil industry. Provide suggestions to improve, promote, and standardize the industry. Examine current policy related to the industry and examine factors such as research, marketing, labeling, standards, data collection, and the necessity of creating a commodity board or similar type of organization.
    • Note: We wonder which lobbyist is getting paid on this one; also, which major industry player will benefit from this act of protectionism.
  • Study the effects of declining migratory species, such as the monarch butterfly, as well as native and domesticated bee populations on agricultural production and its economic impact on the state. Identify possible causes of the population changes and monitor national trends. Make recommendations on how to improve and promote monarch butterfly and bee populations and habitats in the state.
    • Note: Because, clearly, Texas' state government is capable of "improv[ing] and promot[ing] monarch butterfly and bee populations.
  • Examine the use of federal funds by state agencies responding to the effects of Hurricane Harvey and identify opportunities to maximize the use of federal funds to reduce the impact of future natural disasters. Also, identify the need for state resources to respond to Harvey relief and recovery efforts, as well as opportunities for state investment in infrastructure projects that will reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
    • Note: Spend, spend, spend....all while hitting up the Feds for even more.
  •  Straus' also gives the Appropriations Committee roughly a dozen charges to review the operations of state agencies.  In theory, this could be either a useful exercise or a smokescreen for another spend-a-thon.  We'll let you guess which one we think will happen.
  • Evaluate whether counties have the necessary ordinance-making and enforcement authority to deal with flood risk in unincorporated rural and suburban areas of Texas. Additionally, examine whether counties have adequate resources and authority to ensure that new development in unincorporated areas is not susceptible to flooding.
    • Note: Regulate, regulate, regulate. 
  • Study the feasibility of establishing and mobilizing a volunteer contingency of private boat owners through the boat registration and license database administered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to assist first responders in search and rescue efforts in natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey.
    • Note: If this already happened during Hurricane Harvey without the state government being involved, why does the state government need to get involved at this point?!?
  • Evaluate the ongoing and long-term workforce needs of the state’s businesses and industries. Determine whether state resources are adequate to address shortages and assist with closing existing or future gaps in workforce readiness and skills to ensure the continued economic security and success of the state.
    • Note: Spend, spend, spend.
  • Review Texas’ open meeting laws and related government decision-making policies. Determine if the formal processes prevented the efficient delivery of assistance during Hurricane Harvey. Make recommendations on maintaining the current standards of accountability without limiting government-provided aid during disaster events.
    • Note: That's a loophole you could drive a truck through.
  • Determine, to the extent possible, the scope of financial losses to 2- and 4-year institutions, including facilities, that resulted from Hurricane Harvey. Recommend possible state actions to mitigate any negative impact on institutions and ensure governance structures and parameters allow for effective responses. Review the educational opportunities offered to students displaced by Harvey throughout the state. Recommend any changes that could improve the process and what additional services might be needed for these displaced students.
    • Note: Spend, spend, spend.
  • Study aggressive driving in Texas and review the causes and current mitigation efforts. Make recommendations for legislative action.
    • Note: Regulate, regulate, regulate.
  • Study the use of appraisal processes under property insurance policies in Texas, including the effects of court decisions on the use of these processes and the impact of their use on insurers and policyholders.
    • Note: Regulate, regulate, regulate. 
  • Review local and state zoning and land use regulations. Determine if current rules provide an adequate balance of disaster preparedness and deference to private property rights.
    • Note: Regulate, regulate, regulate.
  • Examine Texas’ eminent domain statutes to ensure a balance between necessary infrastructure growth and fair compensation for landowners. Review available public information and data relating to the compensation provided to private property owners. Make recommendations to improve the accountability, as well as successful development, of the entities granted eminent domain authority.
    • Note: Nice property rights you've got there, be a shame if anything happened to them
  • In fairness to Straus, he gives the Licencing and Administrative procedures committee a couple of charges that might be helpful.
    • Note: Stopped clock, twice a day, and whatnot....
  • Examine the potential value, the necessary elements, and the implications of a broad-based information and awareness campaign regarding water issues in Texas. Consider input from water stakeholders, educators, and communications experts.
    • Note: Spend, spend, spend.
  • Evaluate the governance structures, including investment oversight, of the Employee Retirement System (ERS), Teacher Retirement System (TRS), Texas Municipal Retirement System, Texas County and District Retirement System, and Texas Emergency Services Retirement System. Identify best practices and make recommendations to strengthen oversight within the systems.
    • Note: In theory this could either be useful or a spend-a-thon; we'll let you guess which will happen.
  • Determine, to the extent possible, the scope of financial losses, including facilities, that resulted from Hurricane Harvey. Recommend possible state actions, such as changes to student counts or property valuation, to mitigate any negative impact on districts and ensure governance structures and parameters allow for effective responses.
    • Note: Spend, spend, spend.
  • Review current state mechanisms for identifying and rewarding educators through state-level strategies. Examine how providing additional funding to enhance compensation in districts facing a shortage of experienced, highly rated teachers would affect retention and teacher quality, in addition to whether it would encourage teachers to provide additional services through extracurricular activities, tutoring, and mentoring.
    • Note: Didn't the Governor propose doing this during the special session?!?
  •  Examine programs in public schools that have proven results meeting the needs of and improving student achievement for students with disabilities, with an emphasis on programs specializing in autism, dysgraphia, and dyslexia. Recommend ways to support and scale innovative programs for these students, including providing supplemental services, or incentivizing public-private partnerships or inter district and charter school collaborations. Monitor the implementation and funding for the pilot programs authorized in H.B. 21 (85R) and review the Texas Education Agency's compliance with S.B. 160 (85R), which prohibits special education student caps.
    • Note: Spend, spend, spend.
  • Review the charter school system in Texas. Determine if changes are needed in the granting, renewal, or revocation of charter schools, including the timeline for expansions and notification of expansions to surrounding districts. Review the educational outcomes of students in charter schools compared to those in traditional schools, and to what extent schools participate in the alternative accountability system. Monitor the implementation of facilities funding for charter schools. Consider differences in state funding for charter schools compared to their surrounding districts and the impact on the state budget. Consider admissions policies for charters, including 33 appropriate data collection to assess demand for additional charter enrollment, compliance with access by students with disabilities and the effect of exclusions of students with criminal or disciplinary histories. Consider differences in charter and district contributions to the Teacher Retirement System on behalf of their employees and make appropriate recommendations to support the retirement benefits of all public school teachers.
  • Study treatment of traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer's, and dementia, and recommend opportunities for advancing treatment and cures.
    • Note: Spend, spend, spend. 
  • Study and make recommendations to improve services available for identifying and treating children with mental illness, including the application of trauma- and grief-informed practices. Identify strategies to assist in understanding the impact and recognizing the signs of trauma in children and providing school-based or community-based mental health services to children who need them. Analyze the role of the Texas Education Agency and of the regional Education Service Centers regarding mental health. In addition, review programs that treat early psychosis among youth and young adults.
    • Note: Parental rights be damned.  
  • Study the efficacy of existing transportation finance mechanisms from state, regional, and local perspectives. Identify opportunities to improve existing transportation finance mechanisms and investigate the feasibility of developing new ones.
    • Note: Spend, spend, spend. 
  • Monitor and evaluate the need for affordable housing in urban and rural areas across the State of Texas. Examine whether existing housing programs are adequately addressing the needs for affordable housing. Identify prospective and innovative ideas and solutions to address affordable housing needs in Texas.
    • Note: Subsidize, subsidize, subsidize.
  • Examine local government oversight of abandoned and substandard buildings, including buildings of historical significance. Identify ways to best address these issues in an efficient and effective manner.
    • Note: Regulate, regulate, regulate.
Read the full list of Interim Charges here.

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