In this edition of Legislative Advocacy Today, we will provide some updates from the Texas 83rd Legislative Session, some information on immigration reform legislation in the U.S. Congress, and some interesting links from around the Web.

83rd Legislative Session

The Regular Session of the 83rd Legislature ends on May 27, 2013.

Governor Perry has stated that he will call a Special Session if the legislature does that pass $1.8 billion in tax relief, a balanced budget with no increase in fees, and $2 billion for water infrastructure.

Attorney General Abbott has also told lawmakers to expect a Special Session to address redistricting.

Water

The House and Senate are working toward an agreement to provide $2 billion to fund water infrastructure. SJR 1, if passed by the House, would go to the voters in November as a constitutional amendment. This amendment would ask voters to approve the creation of a state fund dedicated to the creation of water projects.  Click here for important information on the need to pass SJR 1.

William McKenzie of The Dallas Morning News wrote an excellent piece on the need to address water infrastructure this legislative session. You can find it here.

Business Tax Relief

HB 500, the business tax relief bill, has now passed the Senate. HB 500 provides major franchise tax relief for Texas businesses by allowing for an across-the-board 5 percent cut to the franchise tax.

“Texas businesses, which shoulder two-thirds of the state and local tax burden, need to see meaningful relief from the state’s onerous margin tax to remain competitive nationally and internationally,” said Chuck DeVore with the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.”

The state comptroller estimates that in 2014-15, the Senate version of HB 500 would provide a $627 million cut in the franchise tax, while the House version would provide a $648 million tax cut.

The Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce supports tax relief for businesses large and small, and we are very encouraged to see this important tax relief legislation moving to the Governor’s desk. 

Drug Testing for Unemployment Benefits

SB 21, which would require drug testing for the receipt of unemployment benefits, passed the House this week and is one step closer to becoming law.

The Chamber thanks the members of the legislature who supported this important bill. SB 21 protects business owners who pay into the Unemployment Benefits Trust Fund by ensuring that their hard-earned dollars are not being used to subsidize illegal drug use.

Transportation

More than 75 bills were filed this session to raise new money for Texas highways. Unfortunately, critical highway funding for Texas fell far short in the latest budget deal reached by lawmakers in the House and Senate.

Click here to read an editorial by The Dallas Morning News on the final transportation funding numbers this session.

Immigration Reform 

This week, immigration reform legislation (S. 744) passed the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 13-5. S. 744 is expected to hit the Senate floor in June.

S. 744 would put 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship. It also would raise caps on visas for high-skilled workers and create a new visa program for low-skilled workers. And, the bill would put billions of dollars into securing the southwestern border and would make E-Verify mandatory for employers across the country.

We will continue to monitor this legislation as it moves to the Senate floor where we anticipate it will be significantly amended.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to release its comprehensive immigration reform bill after the House returns from Memorial Day recess on June 3. A bipartisan group of eight members is working on a bill, and members of the House Judiciary Committee (where the bill must originate) are working on separate legislation.

Buzz from around the Web

Will business agenda survive Capitol drama?

Key budget bills pass as lawmakers break impasse

Drug testing approved for jobless aid, but not welfare applicants

House-Senate deal clears Texas budget logjam

Perry meets with Medicaid advocates, tells them no free lunch

Criminal justice bills a mixed bag for Texas business group

Hot list: Day 136 of the Texas Legislature

Texas Public Policy Foundation on the final days of the 83rd  Regular Session

Measure to allow armed marshals in schools approved

Going nowhere fast: Not much new money for transportation, state leaders sa

Texas ranks 12th in competitiveness, according to conservative group

To subscribe to Legislative Advocacy Today, email jsimon@irvingchamber.com.

Twitter users – follow @IrvingProBiz for updates from Austin and Washington, DC
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