In this edition …
This edition of Legislative Liaison focuses on a new federal COVID-19 relief bill, elections in North Texas, and Legislative updates.
- As of 8 a.m. Monday, Texas REALTORS® is following 1,211 of 3,721 bills filed so far this session.
- The Texas Senate will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, March 2, and the Texas House will reconvene at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 2.
- Follow Texas REALTORS®’ Gov’t Affairs team on Twitter: @TXRealtors_GA
- 2021 Texas REALTORS® Legislative Priorities book: texasrealestate.com/issues
New federal relief bill includes state and local aid
The U.S. House of Representatives early Saturday passed President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan legislation, which next moves to the U.S. Senate. This would be the sixth major coronavirus relief package passed by Congress.
The legislation includes …
- $20.3 billion in new money for rental assistance (on top of the $25 billion allocated in December)
- An extension of the eviction and foreclosure moratorium and forbearance for federally guaranteed mortgages through Sept. 30, 2021
- $10 billion for a Housing Assistance Fund that will allow state housing finance agencies to help homeowners with COVID-19 hardships.
Read more from NAR about the legislation.
HD 68 win makes a full House
On Tuesday, February 23, TREPAC-supported candidate David Spiller won the special election in House District 68 with 62.9% of the vote to replace now-Sen. Drew Springer.
Turnout was 6.62% across the 22-county rural North Texas district.
This fills the last vacant seat in the Texas House of Representatives. This also completes the game of political dominos that began when former Congressman John Ratcliffe (TXCD-06) was appointed as National Intelligence Director. Texas Sen. Pat Fallon won the special election to replace Ratcliffe, then-Rep. Drew Springer won the race to replace Fallon.
Election dates set for CD 6
Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an order for a May 1 special election to replace the late U.S. Representative Ron Wright (R-Arlington), who represented Congressional District 6 covering Ellis and Navarro counties and the southeast corner of Tarrant County.
Candidates must file with the Texas Secretary of State by March 3. Early voting begins April 19. As of Monday morning, 11 candidates have filed for the CD 6 seat and four others have expressed interest.
The filed candidates include Susan Wright, who is the widow of the late Congressman Wright, and freshman state Rep. Jake Ellzey, who lost to Wright in the 2018 Republican primary for the CD 6 race.
Lege committees hold multi-day storm response hearings
Thursday and Friday brought marathon simultaneous hearings for the Senate Business & Commerce Committee and a joint meeting of the House State Affairs and House Energy Resources committees regarding the utility outages in February.
The energy leaders who testified included ERCOT CEO Bill Magness, Public Utility Commission Chair DeAnn Walker, and Railroad Commission Chair Christi Craddick.
In the Senate hearing, ERCOT’s Magness was in the hot seat for about six hours, followed by PUC’s Walker, who was questioned into the night on Thursday. In the House hearing, critique largely focused on the lack of communication from agencies/companies to consumers.
See the schedule of upcoming committee meetings for the Senate here and for the House here.
Lt. Gov.’s 31 priorities
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick announced his 31 top priorities for the legislative session on Tuesday.
Following the Governor's direction, ERCOT reform and power grid stability is high on the list of priorities for the Senate to address along with statewide broadband access, protecting state-held personal data, removal of racist restrictions from deeds, and redistricting.
See the full list here.
House begins referring bills
The Texas House started referring bills to committees last week. This is a promising step to see the legislative process moving forward, as the Legislature has been making slow, deliberate steps due to COVID-19 precautions and the severe weather and utility outages.
Texas REALTORS® continues to review every bill as the March 12 filing deadline approaches.