2015 State Legislative Action Plan


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2015 State Legislative Action Plan Presented to the 84th Texas State Legislature

The Bryan/College Station Chamber of Commerce has, as its foremost mission, the continuation and cultivation of a vigorous local economy. Through many of its programs the Chamber enhances the ability of companies in the Brazos Valley to grow and prosper. As the voice of local business, we take a proactive approach to ensure that those who represent us nationally in Washington D.C., state-wide in Austin and locally in Bryan/College Station hear about the business interests of our community. The purpose of the State Legislative Action Plan is to summarize the important legislative goals and areas of concern to our community. We respectfully request your support on the issues outlined in this plan. Please contact the B/CS Chamber of Commerce if you need clarification or additional information.

Rich White

Chairman of the Board

Royce Hickman President/CEO

Transportation Transportation is a core concept to every aspect of daily life in any community. Travel, whether for freight and goods, personal or recreational is supported by infrastructure that provides this foundation for all societies. This infrastructure is constantly strained either through age or with increasing usage and/or infrequent maintenance. To maintain a healthy business climate and quality of life, the priority for this infrastructure must not only be its maintenance but also its expansion in times and areas of high growth. Because of the lack of currently allocated resources necessary to achieve this priority, the state must find ways to augment current funding mechanisms. Therefore, the B/CS Chamber of Commerce supports the following legislative priorities for 2015: »»

Strengthen the local planning process and support the outcomes.

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Prioritize transportation funding for top priority projects as approved by local elected officials via their Metropolitan Planning Organization.

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Develop new funding mechanisms.

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Follow and implement statewide multimodal policies.

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Streamline environmental approvals.

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What’s Next?

Economic Development Economic development in Texas is enhanced by strong support of transportation infrastructure, health care, education, water and natural resources. We encourage actions on the following vital initiatives specific to economic development. Texas Enterprise Fund and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund »» Champion legislation and/or approve legislation to continue supporting funds similar to Texas Enterprise for very large projects considering relocation to Texas, and Texas Emerging Technology Fund, which requires a relationship with a university, under a new model that allows for non-political approval and oversight of awards and streamlined transparent compliance. Texas Economic Development Act, Chapter 313, Texas Tax Code »» Support extending the Texas Economic Development Act sunset date, Tax Code, Chapter 313, especially to support investments in large-scale projects in industries such as manufacturing, energy, and research and development. Texas Franchise Tax »» Support maintaining the no tax due threshold amount of $1,000,000 indefinitely, thus eliminating the effective date of January 1, 2015, on which the threshold is automatically reduced to

$600,000. The Chamber supports making permanent the exemption from franchise tax obligations of certain small businesses with total revenue less than or equal to $1 million. (See Franchise Tax-Tax Code, Chapter 171; Section 171.002 (d) Rates; Computation of Tax.) University Interscholastic League (UIL) »» Support Legislation to require the UIL to allow qualified Texas universities and communities to bid for the chance to host athletic, academic, theatric and music competitions. Currently, only one university in Texas host UIL academic events. Opening the competition for those events would allow high-performing student to see numerous campuses and yield a positive economic impact to communities. Workforce Development »» Target high school and community college vocational training programs to the needs of local employers, which are enhanced by local Manufacturing Councils, Skills Development Funds and HB5. Research and Development »» Continue R&D tax credits and similiar resources, which enable Texas to stay in the forefront of economic development and to lead our nation to greater prosperity.

Higher Education Formula Funding For Texas A&M to continue in an upward trajectory, it is requested that the state fund the additional students who have enrolled since the FY 2014-2015 appropriations. »»

Support funding the Health-Related Institution formulas at the Formula Advisory Committee’s recommended rates.

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Support for additional funding to the HRI Research Enhancement Formula.

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Support for new funding to increase, sustain, and innovate Graduate Medical Education positions.

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Requests that the Competitive Knowledge Fund (CKF) be restored to the original rate of $1M for every $10M in total research expenditures.

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Biosafety Laboratory Level 3 Facility (BSL-3): ($95M project cost/$85M request). The BSL-3 for large animals continues to be a critically important priority as it is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence.

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Medical Research Facility: ($100M project cost/$80M request). This facility is critical to support the expansion of the College of Medicine class size and house additional basic research faculty and clinical researchers

Texas A&M Engineering Academy at Blinn »» In order to meet the severe shortage of Engineers in the State of Texas, Blinn College is requesting $8 million from the 84th Texas Legislature to assist with expansion of the Texas A&M Engineering Academy at Blinn. The proposed expansion would allow Blinn and Texas A&M to meet the state’s everincreasing demand for STEM education and empower the Academy to continue training future engineers with a program that could be replicated throughout the State. Community College workforce training »» In order to continue to support new and expanding businesses, the Legislature should enhance and expand resources such as the Skills Development Fund and the Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) program.

Public Education Help school district infrastructure in fast growing communities »»

Increase capacities of local districts to fund rapidly increasing enrollment in growing areas like the Brazos Valley by modifying or eliminating the $0.50 debt test.

Decrease the performance gap for our youngest learners »»

Provide funding for full day pre-kindergarten for educationally disadvantaged students.

Improve assessment and accountability systems »» »»

Reduce the tests given in grades 3-8 to those tests required by No Child Left Behind: reading and math (3-8) and science in one grade between 6th and 8th grade. Reduce the number of curricular standards assessed on the STAAR tests for accountability purposes, allowing teachers to teach to greater depth.

School Finance »» »» »»

Continue to provide funding for districts to provide the 1.5% contribution to TRS-Care called for under SB 1458 (2013). Increase the funding of the Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA) to a level that is adequate to provide instructional resources for all students. Revise and adjust various adjustments, allotments and weights to be more reflective of current costs.

Health Care Support “The Texas Way” proposal to help reduce the number of uninsured Texans »» A cost-effective plan to offer over a million uninsured Texans private health coverage, calling for personal responsibility and cost-sharing from recipients. Support continued funding of the Texas Trauma System from the fees and fines collected from the Driver Responsibility Program »» This is vital to maintain our trauma system. Support for additional funding to the HRI Research Enhancement Formula »» We request funding to support the contributions to science and medicine by state-funded Institutions. Improve the quality and delivery of patient care in Texas through support of palliative care services to residents »» Create a state advisory council to identify barriers preventing access to palliative care and create an educational program that ensures information is available.

Natural Resources & Energy The continued production of energy and stewardship of our natural resources is vital to a sustainable national and local economy. Electricity »» »»

Preserve local regulatory authority. Seek introduction and passage of bracketed legislation relative to the Texas Municipal Power Agency end of useful life issues and also Board authority and makeup.

Water »» »» »» »» »»

Continue to respect the role of the groundwater conservation districts and the desired future condition philosophy. Support legislation that would allow more uses of treated wastewater. Support legislation to streamline environmental approvals. Support legislation to prevent a Groundwater Conservation District from unfairly stopping an Aquifer Storage & Recovery (ASR) project. Support legislation to clarify that Groundwater Conservation Districts have authority over brackish groundwater, the same as fresh groundwater.

B/CS Chamber of Commerce Contacts Rich White

Kathy Krusie

Chairman of the Board HEB 979.779.8905 [email protected]

Chamber Board/Vice-Chair of Community Enhancement St. Joseph Regional Health Center 979.776-2446 [email protected]

Mary Lynne Stratta

Jason Ogle

Legislative Affairs Committee Co-Chair City of Bryan 979.209.5002 [email protected]

Legislative Affairs Committee Co-Chair Knowledge Based Systems, Inc. 979-260-5274 [email protected]

Royce Hickman

Burl Haigwood

President/CEO

Bryan/College Station Chamber of Commerce 979.260.5200 [email protected]

Director of Operations & Public Affairs

Bryan/College Station Chamber of Commerce 979.260.5200 [email protected]

“It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs.” - Albert Einstein

To receive more details or an electronic copy of this State Legislative Action Plan, visit www.bcschamber.org/Legislative Affairs or contact the Bryan/College Station Chamber of Commerce at (979) 260-5200 4001 East 29th St., Bryan, TX 77802