Jennifer Woodard huddles with AGC officers Robert Adamson and Kal Kincaid prior to the kickoff of the January 2021 Board of Directors meeting.
THE NEW YEAR HAS ALREADY PROVEN to be full of challenges and important work for the chapter. On Tuesday, January 12, the Texas Legislature convened for the 87th Session.
The Texas House elected a new Speaker once again this session. Representative Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) was chosen to succeed former Speaker Dennis Bonnen. Speaker Phelan began his service in the Texas House of Representatives in 2015. Last session he chaired the State Affairs Committee. He has been a long-time friend of the industry and we have worked very successfully with him during his time in the legislature. In 2019 he authored legislation that created the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) that was passed by the Legislature and approved by Texas voters through a constitutional amendment. The FIF program provides financial assistance in the form of loans and grants for flood control, flood mitigation, and drainage projects. Speaker Phelan chaired the statewide campaign effort to pass Proposition 8 creating the FIF and AGC of Texas helped him advocate for support of the campaign. We are excited to work with him once again as he leads the Texas House during this new session.
The Legislative Drafting & Review Committee, chaired by Tracy Schieffer, has been meeting and working since the fall of last year to make sure that we are in the best possible position to engage in the legislative process. Tracy has a very talented and dedicated group of volunteer analysts who convene weekly to review legislation that has been filed and develop positions. They are: Amadeo Saenz, Art Daniel, Bob Hancock, Elizabeth Zwak, Fred Bosse, Johnny Weisman, Manny Sifuentes, Stephen Bolline, Tracy Schieffer, and Trey Pebley. Along with our very capable staff, these members help to shape and direct the chapters actions and responses to important legislation on a variety of subjects.
This session there are several priority items identified by AGC of Texas members:
- Ensure TxDOT funding at current levels and oppose any efforts to divert, delay, repurpose, or otherwise reduce constitutionally dedicated funding for the department.
- Oppose efforts to impose unnecessary regulations and additional restrictions against Aggregate Production Operations.
- Oppose efforts to authorize the use of Comprehensive Development Agreements (CDAs) or other public-private partnerships (P3s) for transportation projects. These financing tools will reduce competition on TxDOT projects and utilize private debt which obligates future revenue generated by a project and reduces the public partner (TxDOT) to capture and re-invest those revenues to construct and maintain other priority projects across the state.
- Support the approval of meaningful reforms to combat the prevalence of frivolous commercial vehicle accident lawsuits and egregious jury awards. AGC of Texas has joined the Texas Trucking Association, Texans for Lawsuit Abuse, and several other interests in the “Keep Texas Trucking” coalition effort to achieve this critical reform package
- Support the approval of legislation that provides limited liability protection for employers against COVID-19 related claims.
There was also big change in Washington, DC in January. President Joe Biden was inaugurated on the 20th and immediately began issuing executive orders to implement his priorities. Both of our national associations continue to advocate at the federal level on behalf of our membership. AGC of America has published its top policy principles for 2021-2022. They include:
- Increase investment in and incentives for public and private construction to support pandemic recovery and job growth.
- Improve the pipeline for a safe, trained, and diverse construction workforce.
- Ensure that tax and fiscal policies promote entrepreneurialism and long-term economic growth.
- Support regulations, policies, guidance, and executive orders that are necessary, cost-effective, and practical.
We are looking forward to a new year that marks the return of more in-person gatherings, meetings, and events. You have all received information on the Management Conference scheduled for June 13 – 17, 2021 in beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. In addition, our annual Administrative Conference is planned for July 22 – 24 and our Scholarship Gala is on the calendar for September 1. We are working to ensure that these events will take place with the safety and health of all the attendees as a top priority.
Presumptive Speaker of the House Dade Phelan meets in December with AGC contractors and staff to discuss legislative priorities. Phelan was elected speaker January 12, the first day of session. From left to right: Past President Robert Adamson (Longview Bridge and Road, Ltd.), Casey Johnson (Longview Bridge & Road) and Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont).