It’s impeachment season. In fewer than 30 days, the current Texas Attorney General will face his impeachment jury made up of the 31 Texas senators, including his wife. The judge, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (nonlawyer), will oversee at least some portion of the trial and make judgments on the various legal questions that arise. Gen. Paxton’s legal team is working hard at suggesting the Senate drop many of the 20 impeachment charges. Only time will tell how successful that effort is.
The discussion around additional special sessions has, at least for the moment, been put on the back burner until impeachment proceedings conclude. The impeachment hearing is a “Senate only” event and does not require the Governor, or anyone else for that matter, to be involved. The assumption is the Governor will call the legislature back into session upon the conclusion of the impeachment hearing. The subject matter for that session will more than likely be some type of school voucher program. This should occur sometime later this fall.
With no other real legislative activity currently under consideration, it is member retirement/campaign announcement/fundraising season. Five current House members have already announced retirements: Tracy King (D-Uvalde), Four Price (R-Amarillo), Lina Ortega (D- El Paso), Abel Herrera (D-Robstown), and Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler). There undoubtedly will be more to come.
It’s summer in Texas, so it must be hot. Just how hot this year? As of August 16, we are at 38 consecutive days of 100-degrees-plus in Austin. This is the longest streak in recorded history. Most of Texas is in a moderate drought or worse. At the beginning of this month, Gov. Abbott renewed and expanded the current drought declaration to 189 counties. That number will probably be expanded. In addition, Gov. Abbott recently issued a disaster declaration for 191 counties in response to widespread wildfire activity. August is usually our hottest month and, traditionally with no rain projected till sometime in mid to late September, the drought situation and the fires will simply get worse. 2011 is the current one-year drought of record. We will see if we break that this year.
This past legislative session SB 28 passed, which authorizes (if the constitutional amendment passes in November) spending $1 billion on “new” water and fixing local water infrastructure (leaky pipes). Drought seems to the norm now rather than the exception. Hopefully those who typically vote in November constitutional elections will vote in favor of this provision. $1 billion sounds like a considerable sum, but in the case of both new water and repairing infrastructure, it is an actual drop in the bucket, but better than nothing.
An additional item on that ballot is a substantial increase in the “homestead” exemption. This would raise this benefit for homeowners from the current $40,000 exemption to $100,000 exemption. The cost of this increase accounts for the majority of the $29 billion price tag on all the November constitutional amendments—that cost being approximately $18 billion.
This past session, language was added to the appropriations bill that required the TABC study wine permits. This language was not added in a forthright manner. No hearings were held; no stakeholders were consulted. There are several provisions within the “study” language, but the item of most interest to those in the wine industry was the provision requiring that TABC “study the feasibility of creating a separate permit specifically for persons that grow grapes and manufacture wine from those grapes.” The Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association is working with TABC on this issue. The TWGGA Board has appointed a committee to study the issue and develop a plan to address the study request. The committee has met with the TABC leadership and is working on answering the study request at this time. More to come on that issue.
TWGGA has undertaken the creation and development of a GPAC to better represent the industry during the upcoming and future election cycles. For this effort to be a success everyone will have to be involved and participate. The alcohol industry is becoming increasingly competitive both in the marketplace and at your state capitol. When the opportunity arises please do all you can to support your industry. More to come on this effort in the near future.
—TWGGA Legislative Advocate Kyle Frazier