News from the Capitol

Governor and Texas Legislative Leaders Respond to School Shooting in Uvalde

Governor Greg Abbott sent a joint letter to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan requesting the Texas legislative leaders convene special legislative committees following last week’s tragic shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. He requested that committees review what steps previous legislatures have enacted, what resources the State has made available to local school districts, and make recommendations to the Legislature and the Executive Branch on the following topics to prevent future school shootings:

· School safety

· Mental health

· Social media

· Police training

· Firearm safety

Read the full letter here.

In response to the Governor’s letter, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued the following statement announcing the Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans. Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, will serve as Chair. Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, will serve as Co-Vice Chairs.

“In response to Gov. Abbott’s request today, as President of the Texas Senate, I am naming the following members to the Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans:

  • Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, Chair
  • Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, Co-Vice Chair
  • Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, Co-Vice Chair
  • Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston
  • Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury
  • Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels
  • Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen
  • Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Tyler
  • Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock
  • Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas
  • Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo

“Chairman Nichols is an engineer by profession, Sen. Creighton is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education and Higher Education and Sen. Kolkhorst is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. These three leaders have the experience and knowledge to lead this important committee. The committee members also represent a cross section of school districts and communities of all sizes across the state.

“Gov. Abbott has asked us to study 5 important areas: School Safety; Mental Health; Social Media; Police Training; and Firearm Safety.”

“I have asked Chair Nichols to hold his hearing on June 23 or a date shortly thereafter,” said Lt. Governor Patrick. “I want to give the families and the community of Uvalde time to complete all funeral services before beginning hearings so those who wish to testify may take part. I have asked Chair Nichols to coordinate with the House of Representatives Chair to hold their hearings on the same date, if possible, to accommodate both invited and public witnesses.

“Before creation of this committee, last week, I sent a letter to the Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, Mike Morath, to request an extension through the end of the next legislative session for applying for school safety grants, which were set to expire on May 31. There is still nearly $14 million in the fund that schools could still request.”

“We will also be working with Attorney General Paxton’s office to ensure payments from the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund, once approved, are expedited.

“All of us working together is the answer. Now is not the time for politics. It is all about doing all we can so that we never see another tragedy like this happen again in Texas.”

House Speaker Dade Phelan issued the following response: “Following last week’s tragedy in Uvalde, conversations about the issues outlined by Gov. Abbott are already underway in the Texas House and will continue to be a top priority in the months leading up to the next school year and the legislative session. There are two things that are owned to the victims, their families, the Uvalde community, and the entire State of Texas – solutions and answers. The misinformation swirling in the days since the shooting has been nothing short of troubling, and the investigations into these matters must be swift and thorough. Our chamber will get to work immediately, taking a well-informed and comprehensive approach to crafting the House’s response to this horrific tragedy, as we await the results of these investigations to help inform the work we have been called to conduct.”

Then today, Speaker Phelan established the Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary Shooting to conduct an examination into the circumstances surrounding the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

“The fact we still do not have an accurate picture of what exactly happened in Uvalde is an outrage,” said Speaker Phelan. “Every day, we receive new information that conflicts with previous reports, making it not only difficult for authorities to figure out next steps, but for the grieving families of the victims to receive closure. I established this investigative committee for the dedicated purpose of gathering as much information and evidence as possible to help inform the House’s response to this tragedy and deliver desperately needed answers to the people of Uvalde and the State of Texas.”

The following individuals have been appointed to the committee:

• Rep. Dustin Burrows, Chair

• Rep. Joe Moody, Vice Chair

• The Honorable Eva Guzman, Member

Speaker Phelan added, “these individuals possess decades of experience in civil and criminal litigation matters – skill sets I believe make them best equipped to meet the objectives of this committee and its investigation. I know each of them to be diligent, thorough, and focused professionals whom I trust will do everything in their power to deliver facts and answers at a time when they are needed most.”

The investigative committee, which possesses the power of subpoena and is authorized to conduct depositions and initiate discovery, has been tasked with collecting and analyzing evidence from law enforcement, making comprehensive findings, and reporting its conclusions as soon as possible to help inform the work of the House.

In addition to the formation of this new investigative committee, Speaker Phelan also issued a series of joint charges to the Select Committee on Youth Health & Safety and Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee. Six additional House members have been appointed to the Select Committee on Youth Health & Safety – five of whom represent cities that have experienced a mass shooting in recent years. The following members have received appointments:

• Rep. Greg Bonnen (representing Santa Fe)

• Rep. Mary Gonzalez (representing El Paso)

• Rep. Tracy King (representing Uvalde)

• Rep. John Kuempel (representing Sutherland Springs)

• Rep. Brooks Landgraf (representing Odessa)

Rep. Drew Darby has also been appointed to serve on this committee, as he recently served as the Chair of the House Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention & Community Safety, which was formed in the 86th Legislature to study the occurrence, impact, and prevention of mass violence in the State of Texas.

To view the proclamation authorizing the creation of the Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary Shooting, click here.

To view the joint charges for the Select Committee on Youth Health & Safety and the House Homeland & Public Safety Committee, click here.

To view the amended proclamation for the Select Committee on Youth Health & Safety, click here.

State Revenue Outlook

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced state sales tax revenue totaled $3.69 billion in May, 8.6 percent more than in May 2021. Annual revenue growth of 8.6 percent suggests modest growth in underlying taxable economic activity, in view of the current inflationary environment with Consumer Price Index inflation at 8.3 percent in April.

The majority of May sales tax revenue is based on sales made in April and remitted to the agency in May.

“Strong, double-digit growth was seen once again in sectors driven primarily by business spending, with receipts from the oil and gas mining sector continuing to exhibit particularly robust growth compared to a year ago,” Hegar said. “Receipts from the construction and wholesale trade sectors also continue to show strong growth.

“Receipts from the services sector posted another substantial gain compared to the same month last year. Spending at sporting events and concerts was especially strong last month as consumers continue to spend more on live entertainment after being restricted during the pandemic. Receipts from restaurants also increased compared to May 2021.

“Increases in these consumer-driven sectors, coupled with a decrease in receipts from the furniture and general merchandise sectors compared to a year ago, may further indicate that sectors that benefited from pandemic spending patterns will face continued headwinds due to a shift in consumer spending patterns from goods to services.”

Total sales tax revenue for the three months ending in May 2022 was up 15.7 percent compared to the same period a year ago. Sales tax is the largest source of state funding for the state budget, accounting for 59 percent of all tax collections.

Texas collected the following revenue from other major taxes:

• motor vehicle sales and rental taxes — $603 million, up 9 percent from May 2021;

• motor fuel taxes — $319 million, up 1 percent from May 2021;

• oil production tax — $595 million, up 64 percent from May 2021;

• natural gas production tax — $413 million, the highest monthly collections on record, up 216 percent from May 2021;

• hotel occupancy tax — $69 million, up 44 percent from May 2021; and

• alcoholic beverage taxes — $154 million, the highest monthly collections on record, up 22 percent from May 2021.

Fiscal 2022 franchise tax collections totaled $5.16 billion year-to-date through May. Last year, the reporting deadline was deferred to June from the usual May 15 due date. Compared to collections through June 2021, year-to-date franchise tax collections were up 21.6 percent.

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