More interim charges for lege committee study released (TX)

Interim charges for both the Texas Senate and House of Representatives continue being released. Specific items attracting attention include charges to study Second Amendment rights, open records laws, smart meters, toll roads, medical transparency and an array of other issues important to taxpayers.

These charges, key issues likely to be addressed by future legislatures, are studied between the odd-numbered years in which full Texas legislative sessions are convened. This study includes holding hearings and taking public testimony as research to assist in future legislation-writing activities.

Last week, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst announced interim charges for the Senate Committees on Intergovernmental Relations, Economic Development and Government Organization.

While charges are often submitted by elected officials, government agencies, advocacy groups, professional organizations or other similar entities, Dewhurst has now released charges “prompted by direct suggestions from the People of Texas.” The charges, submitted by the public via an online portal, are termed “a historical step in our efforts to make our state government as responsive and responsible as possible to the People of Texas.”

Senate Committee on State Affairs

Affordable Care Act. Study the emerging negative impacts of the Federal Affordable Care Act, including the use of navigators, and make recommendations to mitigate any unintended consequences including rising health insurance premiums, lack of access to healthcare, mishandling of Texans’ private information by insufficiently-trained navigators, and the Act’s overall effect on Texas employers and insurance consumers. Evaluate free-market alternatives to the Act, including state-led proposals to repeal, reduce or replace the Act. Closely monitor and make recommendations on the continuation of the Texas Health Insurance Pool.

Medical Transparency. Study and make recommendations on increasing medical price transparency in Texas, including studying the impact of SB 1731, 80th Legislative Session. Analyze relevant reforms considered or implemented in other states, and make recommendations regarding potential changes designed to create a more open marketplace for enhanced consumer decisions making in Texas.

Senate Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security

Second Amendment. Study and make recommendations on removing barriers to Second Amendment Rights, including but not limited to open carry legislation. Consider other state laws related to open carry.

Senate Committee on Business and Commerce

Metering Infrastructure. Monitor the implementation of advanced metering infrastructure to ensure minimization of utility customer costs. Analyze developments and make recommendations regarding the health effects and privacy implications of advanced metering infrastructure.

Senate Committee on Transportation

Oil and Gas Impact.Examine the anticipated impact increased oil and gas production will continue to have on roadways and bridges. Make recommendations to enhance the safety and infrastructure damaged by truck activity related to oil and gas exploration and production.

Congested Roadways. Evaluate the Texas Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Planning Organization’s progress on reducing congestion on the 100 Most Congested Roadway segments and make recommendations to advance the development of the remaining congestion relief projects.

Click here to access the full list of charges released to date.

On Jan. 31, Speaker of the House Joe Straus released charges for the Texas House of Representatives. Additional charges, the speaker noted, will be forthcoming in the months ahead.

A partial listing of the charges includes:

House Committee on Pensions/House Committee on Appropriations (joint charge)

Health Care Costs. Study the affordability of health care for active public school employees. Examine how premiums and out-of-pocket costs have increased over time and how these increases have affected employees and school districts, and make appropriate recommendations.

House Committee on Business and Industry

Financial Data Security/Privacy. Study the impact of credit card data theft and other credit or privacy information theft on Texas consumers and businesses.

House Committee on County Affairs/House Committee on Defense and Veterans’ Affairs (joint charge)

Veterans Courts. Study the implementation of SB 462 (83R). Examine which counties currently have veterans courts, as well as veterans courts in other states, and determine how those programs are working and whether these courts provide additional services or resources for veterans. Make appropriate recommendations.

House Committee on Licensing/Administrative Procedures and House Committee on Defense and Veterans’ Affairs (joint charge)

Veterans/Occupational Licensing. Study the implementation of all legislation from the 83rd Regular Session that seeks to develop a model to require state agencies regulating occupational licenses which require an apprenticeship to credit veterans’ relevant military experience toward the apprenticeship requirements.

House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures

Government Regulation. Study appropriate methods to expand the right of individuals to challenge occupational licensing rules and regulations, and identify occupational licenses that may not be necessary for public safety or health.

House Committee on Economic and Small Business Development

P3s. Review the statutes and state agency rules pertaining to public-private partnerships to ensure a fair, competitive, and transparent process that benefits all parties engaging in the partnership. Review how other states and countries utilize public-private partnerships and make recommendations on how to improve the process in Texas, specifically looking at whether there needs to be a single state entity responsible for administering the public private partnership program.

House Committee on Government Efficiency and Reform

Public Information. Review the application of the Public Information Act to requests for large amounts of electronic data. Examine whether the procedures and deadlines imposed by the Act give governmental bodies enough time to identify and protect confidential information in such requests.

House Committee on Higher Education

Education Value. Study new strategies for funding General Academic institutions to accelerate educational innovation and increase focus on improving student learning and success rather than seat time. Consider approaches that encourage new and more productive business models that incorporate affordable, lower-cost academic delivery models and expand the state’s capacity to deliver high-quality education.

House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence

Property Rights. Study issues that inhibit the use of wills and access to the probate process in Texas, particularly for low-income individuals.

House Committee on Special Purpose Districts

Accountability/Transparency. Conduct a comprehensive review of existing special purpose districts in the state. Study how special districts interact with other local governments and local taxpayers during and after their creation. Examine circumstances under which special districts are accountable to local taxpayers and make recommendations on ways to increase spending transparency among districts.

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist and the editor of Watchdog Wire – Texas. As also a contributor at Raging Elephants Radio and a policy analyst with Americans for Prosperity – Texas, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the creator and online producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses probate abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney as well as other taxpayer advocacy issues.

Commentary, Featured