FEATURED: “Focus report – Topics for the 88th Legislature” provides Texans with an easy-to-understand guide to 61 top issues, from abortion to water, facing the Texas Legislature, reports attorney Omar Ochoa.
Photograph By RICHARD HERNÁNDEZ
“Focus report – Topics for the 88th Legislature” provides Texans with easy-to-understand guide to 61 top issues, from abortion to water, facing the Texas Legislature, reports attorney Omar Ochoa
DAVID A. DÍAZ
The Texas Legislature may consider a variety of topics during its regular session that began on January 10, 2023, including property tax relief, border security initiatives, school choice, rural health care, and how to allocate an expected budget surplus, according to the House Research Organization, which is the main research arm of the Texas House of Representatives.
The House Research Organization (HRO) is a nonpartisan independent department of the Texas House of Representatives. It provides impartial information on legislation and issues before the Texas Legislature.
The House Research Organization is governed by a broadly representative steering committee of 15 House members elected by the House membership to set policy for the organization, approve its budget, and ensure that its reports are objective.
“Focus report – Topics for the 88th Legislature, is an excellent guide for all Texans about the major issues that are facing state lawmakers during the current 140-day regular session, which is beginning to pick up speed,” said attorney Omar Ochoa.
“Everyone in Texas is going to be affected by what the Texas Legislature does and doesn’t do in the next few months, and this publication by the House Research Organization very much helps people to be informed, which means they can help shape the laws that matter most to them,” he added.
Among its more important issues is how Texas lawmakers are going to deal with the largest budget surplus in the state’s history, he noted.
“The Biennial Revenue Estimate issued by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts at the beginning of the legislative session indicates that the state will have $188.23 billion for general-purpose spending for fiscal 2024-25,” Ochoa quoted the report. “This is a 26.3 percent increase from the corresponding amount of funds available for the previous biennium. The available funds include an expected $32.69 billion surplus at the end of fiscal 2023 due to increased sales tax and severance tax revenues.”
Ochoa provided the topics of abortion and water as examples of how Focus report – Topics for the 88th Legislature provides summaries of complicated, controversial legislation that may face state lawmakers and Texans during the ongoing regular session.
In encouraging the public to view anddownload the report – for free – from the Internet, Ochoa is maintaining his reputation of being an advocate for transparency in government.
He also provides regular reports to the public on federal, state, and local laws that impact journalism, communications, freedom of speech issues, and transparency in government.
Ochoa was the editor-in-chief of the prestigious Texas Law Review at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, becoming the first Latino to serve in that position.
In the context of law school, a law review is an entirely student-run journal that publishes articles written by law professors, judges, and other legal professionals; many law review journals also publish shorter pieces written by law students called “notes” or comments.
According to Ballotpedia, which is a nonprofit and nonpartisan online political encyclopedia that covers federal, state, and local politics, elections, and public policy in the United States:
• Openness, accountability, and honesty define government transparency.
• In a free society, transparency is government’s obligation to share information with citizens. It is at the heart of how citizens hold their public officials accountable.
• Governments exist to serve the people. Information on how officials conduct the public business and spend taxpayers’ money must be readily available and easily understood.
This transparency allows good and just governance.
Government transparency is traditionally broken into three different types: proactive disclosure, requesting public records, and campaign finance disclosure.
“Focus report – Topics for the 88th Legislature” is available online at:
The main subject matters and the specific issues reviewed by “Focus report – Topics for the 88th Legislature” follow:
Appropriations and Spending
Economic Stabilization Fund;
Supplemental appropriations for fiscal 2023; and
Strategic fiscal review of certain agencies.
Taxes and Revenue
Property taxes; and
Sales tax exemptions.
Economic Development and Business Regulation
Tax incentive agreements;
Sexually oriented businesses.
Criminal Justice and Public Safety
TCOLE limited scope review;
Officer pay and benefits;
Civil asset forfeiture;
Bail and pre-trial detention;
Prosecution and court procedures;
Grand jury proceedings;
Drug Offenses; and
Recidivism and re-entry.
Health and Human Services
Postpartum Medicaid coverage;
Preventing hospital closures;
Foster care and child welfare;
Price transparency; and
Sunset review of health-related agencies.
Public and Higher Education
13th check for retired teachers;
Community college finance; and
Cost of higher education.
Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources
Energy grid and supply;
PUC and ERCOT Sunset reviews;
Water infrastructure and supply;
TWDB Sunset review;
TCEQ Sunset review; and
TSSWCB Sunset review.
Publicly funded lobbying;
Municipal jurisdiction; and
During legislative sessions, the House Research Organization publishes the Daily Floor Report, which includes analyses of all legislation, except local and consent bills, scheduled for floor debate on the daily House calendar.
Each bill analysis consists of a digest of the bill’s provisions, background, arguments for and against the bill, and additional pertinent information.
Year-round, the House Research Organization produces research reports on a wide range of issues affecting state government.
These reports include:
• Policy Reports, including Interim News articles and more in-depth Focus reports, provide an analysis of issues of current interest in the state of Texas;
• State Finance Reports take an in-depth look at the state budget process;
• Legislative Session Reports include a summary of significant legislation considered during each regular session, a report on the governor’s vetoes, a preview of major topics likely to arise during an upcoming session, and reports on legislative procedures for committees and how a bill becomes law;
• Constitutional Amendments reports summarize major ballot propositions submitted for voter approval and arguments for and against each proposition; and
• Legislative Staff Lists provide a comprehensive list of the staff of members and committees of the Texas House and Senate for each regular legislative session.
House Research Organization publications are not an official part of the legislative process nor an official expression of the views of the Texas House of Representatives.
The information included in the supporting or opposing arguments does not reflect the opinions of the House Research Organization or its researchers, but represents information gathered from a broad range of sources.
From the House Research Organization, Ochoa provided summaries and related links to other legislative resources that are free for use by the public, including:
Texas House of Representatives
The lower house of the Texas Legislature, consisting of 150 members elected from districts of roughly equal population, all of whom are elected every two years for two-year terms.
The upper house of the Texas Legislature, made up of 31 members elected from districts of roughly equal population, one-half of whom are elected every two years for four-year terms.
A nonpartisan legislative agency that provides bill drafting, computing, research, publishing, and document distribution services to the Texas Legislature and the other legislative agencies.
An Internet site maintained by the Texas Legislative Council that includes a complete record of bill texts, committee reports, and fiscal notes. The bills are searchable by author, subject, committee, and text.
An independent agency of the Legislature that performs research for Texas legislators, their staff, and legislative committees. The library also assists the public and other state agencies with legislative research.
A permanent, joint committee of the Texas Legislature that develops budget and policy recommendations for legislative appropriations for all agencies of state government and completes fiscal analyses for proposed legislation.
Texas Sunset Advisory Commission
A permanent oversight committee of the Legislature charged with reviewing the policies and programs of state agencies, assessing the need for a state agency to exist, and recommending improvements in agency efficiency and effectiveness.
The independent auditor for Texas state government, which operates with oversight from a permanent standing committee of the Texas Legislature.
The office of the chief executive of Texas.
A clearinghouse for information on Texas state agencies, including agency and staff contact information, maintained by the State Library and Archive Commission.
Texas Courts Online, a collection of information and statistics on the Judicial branch maintained by the Office of Court Administration.
Thomas – Legislative Information
A website operated by the Library of Congress that provides a wide array of options for searching federal legislative information.
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).