Lt. Gov. Releases Charges, More to Come
Because of the limited time that the Texas Legislature is in session, in-depth studies of important issues often are conducted by committees during interims. Generally, the lieutenant governor specifies interim charges for Senate committees, and the speaker of the house specifies interim charges for House committees. Most interim studies result in a report to the Senate or a report to the House containing the committee’s findings and recommendations. Copies of these reports can be obtained from the respective committee offices.
As of press time, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst had released several batches of charges to various committees, with more to come. We will keep you apprised of charges to both the Senate and House committees.
Partial Listing of Senate Interim Charges:
Veterans Affairs and Military Installations
Investigate the impact of federal actions (including the federal government shutdown, sequestration, military force reductions, and potential base closure or realignment) on active-duty service members, the Texas Military Department, veterans, their families, defense-related contractors, small businesses, local governments, and state agencies.
Monitor and examine efforts to provide employment and workforce opportunities for veterans, service members, and their families. Make recommendations on how best to continue collaborating with and supporting our honored veterans as they re-enter the civilian workforce, including improving employment opportunities for veterans at all state agencies.
Provide an update on the State Strike Force teams’ progress and recommendations on any additional steps necessary to ensure that veterans promptly receive all federal disability benefits to which they are entitled.
Agriculture, Rural Affairs & Homeland Security
Examine the current regulatory and insurance requirements for the storage of ammonium nitrate, including the role of the state chemist and the Texas Department of Insurance. Make recommendations on the changes to current law that are needed to eliminate duplication or inconsistencies, improve transparency, and protect Texans’ safety without creating an undue burden on Texas businesses.
Examine the role of state and local governments regarding recovery operations across the state in the event of a disaster. Study and make recommendations to identify essential personnel and resources needed to increase existing response capabilities. Make recommendations on how state, local governments, and businesses can work together in order to assist with the rebuilding/recovery of affected jurisdictions in the event of a disaster.
Health & Human Services
Review the Department of Family and Protective Services’ efforts to reduce child fatalities. Review the process by which the Department of Family and Protective Services collects and uses data to evaluate agency performance and improve outcomes for children in the Child Protective Services system. Make recommendations to ensure the process effectively uses data to strategically improve caseworker performance, and identify and improve upon deficiencies within the system and improve overall outcomes for children and reduce child fatalities.
Business & Commerce
Review the administrative and financial state of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA). Specifically, review management’s business practices that result in continued administrative oversight by the Texas Department of Insurance, and determine alternative financial methods to fund a probable maximum loss of a 1 in 75 or 1 in 100 year event. Monitor litigation developments. Develop and evaluate plans to reduce TWIA’s total insured exposure. Monitor and make recommendations regarding an exposure reduction clearinghouse under development at TWIA, which aims to assist the transfer of TWIA policies to the free market. Study and make recommendations regarding the qualifications for building inspectors conducting inspections for the TWIA and other building inspectors statewide. Consider expanding the types of professionals qualified to conduct inspections and the appropriate entity to oversee inspectors.
Review the Texas FAIR Plan’s organizational and financial structure as the state’s insurer of last resort for residential homeowner’s insurance coverage. In particular, study the structural relationship to TWIA, cause of its current debt, and available coverages and rates compared to the private market. Evaluate proposals to reduce the total insured exposure of the FAIR Plan.
Study current legislative and regulatory barriers that could impede capital investment, growth, and expansion of Texas businesses. Make recommendations for reducing barriers to entry for professions regulated by Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, including deregulation, additional reciprocity, and credit for military service.
Project and examine the costs and economic impact to Texas businesses in complying with the federal health care law. Make recommendations on options for state government intervention to reduce the negative impact of the federal health care law on Texas businesses.
State Affairs Committee
Examine the negative economic impact on Texas business from legal issues involving threatened and actual patent litigation by “patent assertion entities” (PAEs). Consider the effects of PAE actions on innovation and economic development in Texas, paying particular attention to threats and lawsuits involving software and technology patent claims. Make recommendations on how the State of Texas can address problems related to frivolous legal actions and unsubstantiated patent claims asserted against legitimate business enterprises in light of the relevant federal jurisdiction, laws, regulations, and court rules in patent cases.