Other items include evaluations of the state’s power grid resiliency, property tax appraisal reform, fiscal solvency of pension systems, overdose deaths and opioid addiction, and students’ learning loss during pandemic school closures.
“These charges touch on the most pressing issues facing Texans, from improving the quality and safety of our state’s foster care system to confronting our state’s growing infrastructure demands,” Phelan said in a statement. “The interim charges are the result of my conversations with House colleagues from across the state, many of whom have concluded there is more work to be done to reform the state’s health care and criminal justice systems.”
A dozen committees were tasked with border security-focused charges last year, and those are reiterated in this latest list.
The Texas House Elections Committee, chaired by Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park), is tasked with evaluating the poll watcher training program required by the large elections bill passed during the second special session last year. Cain’s committee will also “[e]xamine the reporting of election results following an election to determine the reasons for any delays and inaccuracies in the initial reporting of elections results,” and “[m]ake recommendations to ensure that election results are reported in a timely and accurate manner following the closing of the polls.”
This comes after issues arose in certain parts of the state during the last week’s primary election — including Harris County’s debacle leaving out 10,000 votes and Starr County double counting votes.
Phelan listed a number of energy-related items such as the weatherization progress of power generators and natural gas suppliers; ways to increase Texas’ oil and gas production, as gasoline prices jump; expansion of natural gas underground storage capacity; and congestion of the electricity transmission system.
Included in this, but expanding beyond energy, Phelan has tasked a few committees with evaluating other Texas ties — financial, commercial, and more — to Russia in light of the country’s invasion in Ukraine.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar is in the process of evaluating how much of the state’s financial portfolio is tied to Russian assets or companies, including state pensions.
The state’s top two pension systems, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) and the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS), each have more than $30,000 in unfunded liabilities per member. TRS is only three-quarters funded while ERS’s funded ratio is lower at two thirds, meaning that for every dollar of benefits promised it can only account for 66 cents.
Phelan tasked the Committee on Pensions, Investments and Financial Services with evaluating the actuarial soundness of these and other state pension systems.
The House Ways and Means Committee has various items on its plate such as reform of the property tax appraisal process, the $3 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds earmarked for property tax relief, and a study of the effects of economic development incentive Chapter 313’s impending expiration — for which the speaker has indicated support of replacement in some form.
On public education, Phelan wants the House to “Study the effects of COVID-19 on K-12 learning loss and best practices that exist to address learning loss.”
“[Then] monitor the implementation of state and local plans to address students’ achievement gaps [and] make recommendations for supporting the state and local efforts to increase academic development,” read the charges.
In the same announcement, Phelan disclosed the creation of two new committees: the House Interim Study Committee on Criminal Justice Reform and the House Select Committee on Health Care Reform.
Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) will chair the former while Rep. Sam Harless (R-Spring) will oversee the latter.
These charges provide some insight into the priorities House leadership will advance when the body reconvenes in 2023.
View the full list of interim charges below.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.
Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.