FEATURED: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and his wife Erica E. Canales were at the U.S. Capitol Building on Tuesday, February 7, 2023, for the State of the Union address by President Joe Biden, as special guests of U.S. Congresswoman Mónica De La Cruz, R-Edinburg.
Photograph Courtesy REP. TERRY CANALES FACEBOOK
Rep. Canales chosen by Speaker Phelan to third two-year term as Chairman, House Committee on Transportation; also winds up as member of Rep. Ryan Guillen’s House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety
By DAVID A. DIAZ
Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, on Wednesday, February 8, 2023 was chosen by Speaker of the House Dave Phelan, R-Beaumont, for a third two-year term as Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation.
The House Committee on Transportation is responsible for what often is the first debate and vote on major proposals that shape the development of roads, highways, airports, railways, and ports in Texas – among other committee duties and authority – for action by the full House of Representatives.
A committee is a group of legislators appointed by the presiding officer of the House of Representatives or the Senate to which legislation is referred or a specific task is assigned.
Legislation is proposed or enacted law or group of laws.
The chairman or chairwoman of each House and each Senate committee has the authority to decide which bills are scheduled for public hearings in their respective committee. Because of the high number of bills that are introduced by the 181 state lawmakers, many pieces of legislation never even receive a committee hearing, which is the only time that members of the public can testify for, against, or about legislation.
A bill is type of legislative measure that requires passage by both chambers of the legislature and action by the governor in order to become effective. A bill is the primary means used to create and change the laws of the state.
When he was first chosen by Phelan in 2019 as Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation, Canales became the first Hispanic state lawmaker to lead that influential group of 12 fellow state representatives.
Canales also is the first state representative from the Rio Grande Valley in more than 50 years to serve as Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation.
“The Speaker has the foresight to recognize that institutional knowledge improves our ability to govern, exercise oversight, and create impactful policy changes. It is undebatable that transportation infrastructure requires long-range planning and vision,” Canales said. “To be appointed as Chairman for a third consecutive session is both an honor and a responsibility.”
From Wednesday, February 8, 2023 through Tuesday, December 31, 2024, the 13-member House Committee on Transportation will command legislative jurisdiction over all matters handled by the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Transportation Commission, and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
Canales said his focus will include “the current supply chain issues that have highlighted the impact that transportation infrastructure has on every industry in our state. As Chairman I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure Texas’ infrastructure is adequately prepared for the future.”
According to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts:
• Global supply chains — the networks between a company and its suppliers that produce and distribute goods to the final consumers — are hugely beneficial, creating value and contributing to lower consumer and production costs and increasing economic efficiencies; and
• Supply chains are the arteries of the highly connected and interdependent global trade system, 80 percent of which is driven by multinational corporations. In summer 2021, Texas and the global economy remained beset by a wide variety of product and commodity shortages, stemming from the economic fallout of COVID-19. The pandemic, however, only exposed and exacerbated existing vulnerabilities and risks to the supply chain network.
House Resolution 4, approved in mid-January 2023 by state representatives, established the rules of the 150-member Texas House of Representatives, including providing details on the roles and the jurisdiction of each House committee.
Details, House Committee on Transportation
House Resolution 4 spells out the powers of the House Committee on Transportation.
The committee shall have 13 members, with jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to:
• Commercial motor vehicles, both bus and truck, and their control, regulation, licensing, and operation;
• The Texas highway system, including all roads, bridges, and ferries constituting a part of the system;
• The licensing of private passenger vehicles to operate on the roads and highways of the state;
• The regulation and control of traffic on the public highways of the State of Texas;
• Railroads, street railway lines, interurban railway lines, steamship companies, and express companies;
• Airports, air traffic, airlines, and other organizations engaged in transportation by means of aerial flight;
• Water transportation in the State of Texas, and the rivers, harbors, and related facilities used in water transportation and the agencies of government exercising supervision and control thereover;
• The regulation of metropolitan transit; and
• The following state agencies: the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Department of the Texas Transportation Commission, and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
The chief duties of the Texas Department of Transportation are to delineate, build, and maintain all state highway and public transportation systems; issue permits for the use of heavy trucks; and register motor vehicles. Administrative control of the department is vested in a three-person commission and an engineer-director.
The Texas Department of Transportation is governed by the five-member Texas Transportation Commission and an executive director selected by the commission. Commission members serve overlapping six-year terms and are appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Texas Senate.
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is one of only a handful of state agencies that raises revenue for the state. These funds are primarily used to build and maintain the state’s roads and bridges. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is overseen by a nine member, governor-appointed board that is the agency’s policy-making arm. Daily operations are overseen by the agency’s executive director.
Each year the agency registers almost 24 million vehicles; regulates vehicle dealers; credentials buses and big trucks for intrastate and interstate commerce; issues oversize and overweight permits; and awards grants to law enforcement agencies to reduce vehicle burglaries and thefts.
In the House of Representatives, a Chairman, such as Canales, or a Chairwoman, of a committee has great power and duties.
The Chairman or Chairwoman of each committee shall:
• Be responsible for the effective conduct of the business of the committee;
• Appoint all subcommittees and determine the number of members to serve on each subcommittee;
• In consultation with members of the committee, schedule the work of the committee and determine the order in which the committee shall consider and act on bills, resolutions, and other matters referred to the committee;
• Have authority to employ and discharge the staff and employees authorized for the committee and have supervision and control over all the staff and employees;
• Direct the preparation of all committee reports. No committee report shall be official until signed by the chair of the committee, or by the person acting as chair, or by a majority of the membership of the committee;
• Determine the necessity for public hearings, schedule hearings, and be responsible for directing the posting of notice of hearings as required by the rules; and
• Preside at all meetings of the committee, and control its deliberations and activities in accordance with acceptable parliamentary procedure; andHave authority to direct the sergeant-at-arms to assist, where necessary, in enforcing the will of the committee.
House Committee on Homeland Security
In a related action, Phelan also appointed Canales to the Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety – which has a new chairman, Rep. Ryan Guillén, R-Rio Grande City.
In 2021 and 2022, Guillén served as chairman of the House Committee on Resolutions Calendar.
The House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, which has nine members including Guillén and Canales, has jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to:
• Law enforcement;
• The prevention of crime and the apprehension of criminals;
• The provision of security services by private entities;
• Homeland security, including the defense of the state and nation including terrorism response, disaster mitigation, preparedness and recovery;
• The following state agencies: the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement; the Department of Public Safety, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Emergency Management Council, the Texas Forensic Science Commission, the Texas Military Preparedness Commission, the Commission on State Emergency Communications, and the Texas Crime Stoppers Council.
Texas schools to see enrollment decline for the next 10 years, according to State Commissioner of Education
After years of blockbuster student growth, Texas public school enrollment rates are forecast to go down for the next 10 years, according to testimony offered by the state commissioner of education before the Senate Finance Committee on Monday, February 6, 2023.
While COVID changed the trajectory of enrollment growth, Mike Morath told senators the big factor has nothing to do with the pandemic.
“After the great recession of 2011, people started having fewer babies,” he said.
Morath described it as a “negative enrollment bubble” that’s moving through Texas school populations, where each incoming class is a little smaller than the one before it.
“Enrollment is actually going to begin trending negative on a net basis for the next decade in Texas because of this decrease in birth rates,” said Morath.
Though an individual district here or there may still be seeing robust growth, on the whole, all regions of the state are seeing the same decrease.
National data, too, bears this out, with the National Center for Education Statistics forecasting a decline of around two million students enrolled in American public schools through 2030.
Texas Education Agency data shows that Texas has seen close to linear growth in student population for many years.
Between 2012 and 2019, the state added almost half a million students, with a rough growth rate of around ten percent.
In 2020, the pandemic drove enrollment rates down for the first time, though they snapped back to similar levels of growth starting in 2021.
TEA is now projecting a small, but sustained decrease in student enrollment through 2025. It’s a modest downturn, forecasting a decrease of about 50,000 students out of around 5.5 million, but it’s a sharp change from the last 10 years.
“For the last two decades, student enrollment in public school in Texas has been growing by leaps and bounds,” said Morath. “We added probably 70,000 kids a school year for the better part of ten or fifteen years. To put that in perspective it’s sort of like an Austin ISD-sized school system emerges from whole cloth every single year.”
He said that growth meant that the state had to increase spending on schools by hundreds of millions of dollars every year just to keep pace with current levels of per-student funding. This expected decrease in enrollment is all happening despite historic numbers of new residents moving to Texas from other states.
“The people who move here have less kids than the people that are here,” said Morath. “Everybody is essentially having less children post-great recession than they were pre-great recession…this is a demographic shift.”
International net inbound migration is also down from a decade ago, he added.
Education spending makes up by far the largest chunk of the state budget, with nearly $60 billion in discretionary state revenue – about 45 percent of all such money – going towards public and higher education over the next two years.
A decrease in student population could have significant implications as lawmakers prepare a spending plan for the next biennium.
“If enrollment is flat or declining, that actually provides appropriators far more flexibility in the next decade than you had in the last decade,” Morath told members.
Some of that flexibility is being exercised in the size of property tax cuts planned for the session, with $15 billion being set aside in both the Senate and House budget drafts to lower local levies.
With enrollment projected to go down, that means that the state can address property taxes while actually increasing per-student funding totals at public schools.
“Comments that we don’t have enough money because we’re doing property tax relief, or we’re not doing enough for schools, et cetera, when you look at the real numbers you see an increase in a per-ADA (average daily allotment) level of funding by the state,” said Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston.
Curtis Smith contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).