EducationEnergyFederalHealthcareIssuesInfrastructure, Energy, Education Mark Legislative Priority Issues for West Texas as Session Nears

With the Texas Legislature about to convene, issues relating to infrastructure, oil and gas, and education will be among those most watched by West Texans.
January 3, 2023
While lawmakers and their staff move into the capital of Austin to “gavel in” the 88th session of the Texas Legislature on January 10, political pundits and citizens from around the state are turning their attention to see where the issues important to them fall in the priority rankings – and for West Texans, there will be plenty near and dear to their part of the state.

The midterm elections saw several of those issues highlighted in the Republican primary, which largely dictates who will serve in the Legislature from West Texas.


A common complaint among residents in West Texas is the growing pain associated with the booming energy industry, namely, wear and tear on public highways and infrastructure that wasn’t meant for so many people.

During past sessions, state Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland) proposed a solution, dubbed the “Generate Recurring Oil Wealth” or GROW Fund, that would take a portion of state revenues generated by oil and gas production in West Texas to be kept in a special fund and reinvest back into the region.

Craddick has already filed legislation ahead of this session, House Joint Resolution (HJR) 27, that will put forward a proposed amendment to the Texas constitution authorizing the GROW fund. If that passes the Legislature, it must then survive a statewide vote at the ballot box.

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Healthcare has also been a part of the West Texas infrastructure conversation during the interim.

A nonprofit coalition of major energy companies called the Permian Strategic Partnership (PSP) told The Texan earlier this year that the group has been exploring a variety of solutions to the problem of getting higher-quality healthcare options in the Permian Basin.

The discussions have ranged from expanding the availability of telehealth to better connect area providers to more lofty goals such as a “healthcare hub” that would include extensive plans for new academic medical facilities to be built between Midland and Odessa.

During the previous session, the Texas Legislature approved $40 million to construct a new behavioral mental health care facility located between Midland and Odessa, and with the remaining funds set to be matched by both philanthropic donors and an additional state appropriation, construction is expected to soon be underway.

Craddick has also filed legislation, House Bill (HB) 492, establishing a “mental health services district” that will oversee the facility.

With regional stakeholders like the PSP looking to partner with the state on healthcare infrastructure, the issue is certainly one to watch this session.


With the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Biden administration evaluating a designation of vast regions of Permian Basin oil fields as “non-attainment” zones, citing “unsafe” levels of ozone detected by monitors located in El Paso and Carlsbad New Mexico, Texas officials have pushed back.

The regulatory impact of the designation would result in higher costs for oil and gas producers, who also worry the move would also scare off energy investors, further harming the industry.

Gov. Greg Abbott has slammed federal regulators and the White House, writing that the move is based on “faulty data” and jeopardizes “25 percent of our nation’s gasoline supply.” Texas lawmakers have also looked for new ways the state can push back against the regulations.

While there isn’t a lot the state can do legislatively to push back on the EPA beyond what it is doing in the courts, a bill has been filed that limits any state agency from helping enforce federal regulatory laws on oil and gas that do not reflect existing state policy.

The proposed legislation, HB 33 by Rep. Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa), limits state agencies and employees from providing any assistance in the enforcement of federal laws if the law “purporting to regulate oil and gas operations” or ”imposes a prohibition, restriction, or other regulation that does not exist under the laws of this state.”

Two other issues on the minds of West Texans relating to the energy industry, but so far have no offered legislative solutions, include the frequent earthquakes attributed to the injection of wastewater disposal wells and orphaned wells that are contaminating private ranchlands.


Texas Tech University in Lubbock is the best-known institution of higher education in West Texas, and a growing grumble from regional lawmakers to secure endowment funding similar to the Permanent University Fund (PUF) remained constant all last year.

With the release of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s legislative priorities signaling his support on the issue, a plan of some fashion is likely to materialize.

The PUF is a multi-billion dollar endowment funded by royalties from mineral interests, largely from West Texas oil fields, that may only be spent in support of the University of Texas (UT) and Texas A&M.

State Representative-elect. Carl Tepper (R-Lubbock) has discussed plans in the past to create a new endowment fund that both Texas Tech and the University of Houston would benefit from, saying it’s time Tech was treated as a “flagship university.”

With Patrick’s priority language expressly calling for a new fund, the issue is one that higher education supporters in West Texas will watch keenly as it unfolds.

Last but not least, the issue of school choice is poised not only to be a statewide battle this session but a hot topic on the ground in West Texas.

Proponents of school choice have gained powerful allies on the issue this past year, with Gov. Greg Abbott campaigning on the issue during the midterms. In Lubbock, Tepper has stated that he wants to see at least some money, if not all of the education funding, “follow the student.”

Opposing school choice, Ector County Independent School District in Odessa has put together a list of legislative priorities to lobby the Texas Legislature on, including opposition to all forms of school choice, including vouchers.

The Texas Legislature reconvenes on January 10 for a 140-day session that expires on May 29.


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.

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Matt Stringer

Matt Stringer is a reporter for The Texan who writes about all things government, politics, and public policy. He graduated from Odessa College with an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Leadership. In his free time, you will find him in the great outdoors, usually in the Davis Mountains and Big Bend region of Southwest Texas.