Report to the Members on the 86th Legislative Session

Written by  STEVEN ALBRIGHT AND KRISTEN SMITH

86th Legislative Session
The Legislative Drafting and Review Committee gathered for its first post-session meeting to review the best and worst of the session.

Legislative drafting and review Committee Chairman Tracy Schieffer dedicates the success of the 86th session to the members who called, emailed, and showed up to legislative offices during what turned out to be a challenging session on environmental regulation.

“The first things I would say about the session is what an absolutely phenomenal job our membership did. Every time we had a call to action, they stepped up to the plate and hit it out of the park.

“They did such a great job,” continued Schieffer. “It was a difficult legislative session. We went into it thinking it wasn’t that big of a deal because we weren’t looking for funding. But we ended up with an incredibly large amount of bills on environmental regulation, and once they started moving, we quickly realized it was going to be a lot harder than we expected. They deserve a tremendous amount of credit.”

Now, after one hundred and forty long days, the 86th Legislative Session has concluded. Having completed their work, legislators returned home to their districts leaving Austin a little weirder but a lot less crowded. The legislature tackled challenging issues, such as passing a $250 billion budget, reforming the property tax system, and passing a major school finance reform package. They also found time to debate other matters that would have an extreme impact on our daily lives, such as doing away with daylight savings time, renewing the UT and A&M football rivalry, creating the Keep Austin Weird license plate, and (most importantly) saving the historic Battleship Texas.

In total, there were 7,324 pieces of legislation filed this session. Only 1,429 of those bills passed, amounting in less than 20 percent of all bills filed. The UT/A&M rivalry and abolishment of Daylight Savings Time were not among them.

“In total, there were 7,324 pieces of legislation filed this session.”

Angela Berry Roberson and Art Daniel with state Rep. Toni Rose, D-Dallas

Several bills important to the construction industry did make it through the process, however. From the critical extension of infrastructure funding to civil jurisprudence reforms, safety legislation to project delivery enhancements, AGC of Texas had an extraordinary session—in a year where no one thought transportation would have a central role.

Success was due primarily to long-term and dedicated member involvement, both before and during the legislative session. The AGC of Texas Chapter’s public affairs is well-organized, proactive and thorough, which made the difference between success and failure when the emergencies began. Because what did not pass was equally as important.

Starting with a legislative fly-in mid-February, a record number of AGC members converged on the Capitol to hold coordinated meetings with legislators and their key staff. By the end of the day, every legislator’s office had been visited—some meetings going well into the evening, by request.

The day began with a briefing at the Hyatt Regency, along with special guest Texas Transportation Commission Chairman J. Bruce Bugg. Commissioner Bugg commented on AGC’s reputation for reliability by recounting his first conversation with Governor Abbott regarding his appointment to the commission. “First thing you need to do is get in touch with AGC. They’ll tell you everything you need to know,” he recalls Abbott saying.

The sentiment was echoed by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick at the beginning of session in a forum for Capitol insiders. There, he noted AGC as an example of how to work effectively to solve major issues, noting that leaders like AGC of Texas have never “declared war” on the state when priorities were not addressed.

As the session gained steam, however, bills regulating aggregate production operations (APO) began popping up. In total, thirty-seven bills were filed that aimed to regulate APOs—all of which would have a negative effect on the industry.

In April, Chapter staff distributed an urgent call to action to all members, asking them to contact members of the House Energy Committee to oppose the APO bills heard in committee. One week later, the same would occur with anti-APO bills heard in the House Environmental Regulation Committee. With each call to action, emails and phone calls flooded the legislative offices.

“I had one legislator ask if I could ask our members to stop calling,” recalled Executive Vice President Jennifer Woodard. “I told him no; that it was a good reminder of our very engaged membership,” she laughed.

Schieffer created an APO subcommittee, headed by Glen Dvorak and comprised of Johnny Weisman, Chad Clark, Bob Lanham, and Seth Schulgen, who visited with every member who filed or would vote on the bills. Dvorak and all committee members did a fantastic job working with the legislators to find a solution.

Shawn Thierry
Tara Snowden (Zachry), Robbie Carmichael (Travelers) and Cody Webb (Zachry) with Representative Shawn Thierry (D-Houston)

Bruce Bugg
Texas Transportation Commissioner J. Bruce Bugg addressed the huge crowd gathered for the Legislative Fly-In.

Tracy Schieffer
AGC Legislative Drafting and Review Committee Chair Tracy Schieffer (A.L. Helmcamp) summarized some of the 2019 highlights from the recently concluded Texas legislative session. She thanked AGC members for staying in touch with lawmakers and for “answering the call” each time an alert went out to contact legislatures: “Without your support, we would not have had the successful session that we had,” she told colleagues.

The sheer number and bipartisan origins of the bills made them hard to kill. However, leaning on the longstanding reputation of AGC contractors, the Legislative Drafting and Review Committee proposed an alternative.

The committee will meet through the interim to craft more sustainable legislation addressing community concerns with bad-acting APOs. The Chapter hired Richard Hyde, former executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), to assist in the endeavor. The committee will present their results to the House Environmental Regulation Committee next session.

“AGC contractors are good neighbors. We want to be good neighbors,” said Schieffer.

True to the words of Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick.

Finally, Schieffer underscored the importance of the leadership of Jennifer Woodard and the Chapter’s government affairs team, who kept the committee on target by tirelessly monitoring the progress of the hundreds of bills marked as a priority by the committee.

On the following pages are a few highlights of important bills that passed this session.

 



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