The last couple of weeks have been a busy time for a lot of committees in the Texas House of Representatives. Committees are wrapping up interim hearings in order to issue their reports and provide legislative recommendations to the Speaker of the House and full body in preparation for the 88th Legislative Session. The House Committees on Appropriations, Ways & Means, Energy Resources, and State Affairs have all met recently to go over an array of issues including human space exploration, the ERS and TRS systems, property taxes, appraisals, the Chapter 313 corporate property tax abatement program, and our electrical grid -- among other important charges.
The House Committee on Appropriations met for two days of lengthy and informative hearings that will be helpful as they begin to look at budgetary requests for the next session. Over the span of two days, they discussed things like human space exploration in Texas, reviewed ERS and TRS systems, heard from the Texas Education Agency on learning loss recovery and how emergency relief funds were spent in elementary and secondary schools, as well as affordability and accessibility for higher education.
On the first day, the committee had the opportunity to hear from NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) Director Vanessa Wyche as well as other aerospace industry leaders in our state as they discussed space exploration and the space economy in the State of Texas. The panel talked about what is going on at JSC, what programs they have to expand exploration in our state and the different programs they have to attract more people to work in STEM, as well as the new facilities they will be building in the near future. Director Wyche also provided the committee with an update on the rover that is on the planet Mars right now. The exploration rover is called Perseverance and it is in the process of sample collection; when those samples come back to Earth, they will be under the responsibility of JSC. Pretty amazing to consider that we will have material from other planets stored right here in the Lone Star State!
Another of the important charges that the Appropriations Committee covered was higher education affordability and accessibility. The committee received an overview from the Legislative Budget Board on the different formulas and appropriations of funding that go to different Texas universities and what those are required to be spent on. The committee also heard from Dr. Harrison Keller, Commissioner of Higher Education for the State of Texas. He went over the different financial aid programs they have in place for students in universities across Texas, as well as the ways they are aiming to improve student success and the number of students that complete their undergraduate degrees. Commissioner Keller estimates they would need $153 million for the biennium in order to hold steady for the different grants and financial aid programs the Higher Education Coordinating Board currently has.
All of this information will be essential as the committee begins to put together the state’s budget for the next biennium. Committee hearings will continue for the next few weeks and before we know it, the 88thLegislative Session will be here! Please feel free to get in touch with our campaign staff if you have questions about any particular legislation, committee hearing, or legislative process. We are ready to serve!