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2015 Texas Legislative Session

Tuesday, May 5, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Annemarie Gasser
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2015 Texas Legislative Session

By Roman Grijalva PE


The 84th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature is now less than a month from adjournment and we’re continuing to track several items of interest to Texas Section members.   


Transportation Funding

As previously written, Senate Bill 5 was filed by Senator Robert Nichols calling for a constitutional amendment dedicating all motor vehicle sales tax revenue above $2.5 billion annually to the highway fund, starting in 2018.  Recently, Representative Joe Pickett filed a slightly different version proposing a constitutional amendment that beginning in fiscal year 2018 would dedicate $3 billion of the state's general sales tax, with a 2% annual escalator, to the state highway fund.  Part of the new revenue could be used to pay debt service on existing state debt so the actual net increase in the highway program could be less than $3 billion annually.


The state budget (General Appropriations Bill - HB 1) includes a provision that stops the practice of diverting gas tax money to pay for other agency operations (primarily Department of Public Safety) out of the highway fund and instead funds DPS out of general revenue.  This nets approximately $600 million annually for highways.  HB 1 also provides an additional $1.5 billion of general revenue to the state highway fund during the biennium. 


Duty to Defend

HB 2049 sponsored by Representative Drew Darby passed the third reading in the House.  HB 2049 would make clear that while a local governmental entity can be indemnified against a design professional's negligent acts, the entity cannot impose a duty to defend that requires a professional to pay defense costs prior to a finding of negligence.  It authorizes the governmental agency to seek the reimbursement of reasonable attorney's fees after a final adjudication of liability due to damage that is caused by or results from an act of negligence, intentional tort, intellectual property infringement, or failure to pay a subcontractor or supplier.


University Construction

The House Committee on Higher Education approved HB 100 by Rep. John Zerwas, which would authorize $3.1 billion in university construction through a vehicle known as tuition revenue bonds (TRB’s).  The bill authorizes a number of facilities for all state systems.


State Agency Contracts

As contracting and procurement discrepancies continue to be revealed regarding the state's human services agency, the Senate recently passed SB 20.  SB 20 will reform state agency contracting by clarifying accountability, increasing transparency, and ensuring a fair competitive process.  Among other changes, it requires that the agency head sign contracts totaling over $1 million.   Low-bid highway construction and maintenance contracts are excluded, but engineering contracts are not.  SB 20 has passed the Senate and is currently being reviewed by the State Affairs Committee in the House.


Water Plan Funding Update

TWDB’s evaluation and prioritization process on 48 abridged financial applications is ongoing and is anticipated to be complete in early May. Projects will be scored against the prioritization criteria previously developed through public input in 2014. Invitations to submit full financial assistance applications will be extended to those projects within the limits of available funding. Full applications will be due within 30 days from the Board meeting at which the applicant's project received priority for funding.

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