Much of the preparation and work for the 2017 legislative session will be initiated during the 2016 interim period by House and Senate committees through “charges” issued by the speaker and lieutenant governor. Stakeholders, advocacy groups and interested persons should monitor these committee agendas and be alert to background research, policy discussions, consensus-building and committee public hearings. These activities can result in important bill drafts that emerge full-blown early in the 2017 session, often with considerable member support. At that point, it may be too late to influence or oppose a bill or policy shift that has accrued broad support.
Following are committee charges affecting nonprofit and volunteer organizations, as currently published (with additions likely to come):
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE COMMITTEE CHARGES
• HJR 73 “super raffles”: Examine the effect of Proposition 4 (HJR 73) on charitable enterprises associated with professional sports teams. Review the statutory limitations to ensure that only qualified, established organizations are allowed to hold raffles authorized in the amendment and the proceeds of the raffles are used for charitable purposes. (Committee on Licensing & Administrative Procedures)
• Property owner associations: Examine the regulatory powers of property owner associations and the procedures available to homeowners when an association restricts individual or property rights. Review current best practices to help clarify the balance of property rights, transparency in governance, and the best interests of property owners in the state. (Committee on Business & Industry)
• Charitable payroll deductions: Examine payroll deductions from state or political subdivision employees for the purposes of labor organization membership dues or fees as well as charitable organization and nonprofit contributions. Determine if this process is an appropriate use of public funds. (Committee on State Affairs)
• Conservation easements: Study and make recommendations regarding the improvement and expansion of the state parks system, pursuant to the passage of HB 158. Examine options such as conservation easements that can maintain private ownership and working lands while also preserving open space. (Committee on Culture, Recreation & Tourism)
• Property improvement districts: Study best practices in the creation, management, and expansion of Municipal Management Districts (MMD) and/or improvement districts in the state… (Committee on Special Purpose Districts)
TEXAS SENATE COMMITTEE CHARGES
• Refugee resettlement program: Study the impact to the state of the increasing number of refugees relating to Texas… (Health and Human Services Committee)
• Religious liberty, faith-based organizations: Examine measures to affirm 1st Amendment religious liberty protections in Texas, along with the relationship between local ordinances and state and federal law. (State Affairs Committee)
• Ethics and disclosure: Review public officials’ reporting requirements to the Texas Ethics Commission. (State Affairs Committee)
• Disaster preparedness planning and coordination: Review natural disaster preparedness planning and coordination in the wake of a growing range of threats. (Inter-Governmental Relations Committee)
• Medicaid reform and state innovation: Study the impact of the Section 1115 waiver…and efficiency of the Medicaid program, including pursuit of a block grant or Section 1332 Medicaid State Innovation Waiver for the existing Medicaid program. (Health and Human Services Committee)
Monitor the House and Senate committee hearing schedules and agendas on www.capitol.state.tx.us.