Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Joe Straus each announced legislative issues that will be studied by senate and house committees during 2010, leading up to the next Texas legislative session in 2011. The results of these studies (such as promoting Texas as a leader in emerging technologies, economic growth and energy initiatives) may ultimately be filed as bills during the legislative session.
These studies provide a great opportunity for you to become involved in the Texas legislative process by weighing in on issues that impact your industry and how you do business in Texas. Changes in state law could result in a more friendly business environment for your industry or create hurdles that could increase the costs of doing business in the state. It is important for you to be active in legislative matters because in all likelihood, your competition will be involved.
The interim studies will include public hearings, during which opportunities exist to educate legislators and staff on the relevant topics. The studies also lead to the generation of written reports that are circulated to all members of the legislature. Thus, opportunities exist for your position on an issue to be included in — or excluded from — the results of a legislative study.
Technology Issues of Key Importance
As provided by Lt. Governor Dewhurst and Speaker Straus, the following is the list of study topics that are likely to be important to your industry:
- Identify promising technologies being developed that could establish Texas as a leader in emerging industries. Examine the adequacy and focus of research in these areas and the state's efforts to commercialize proven technologies. House Committee on Technology, Economic Development and Workforce.
- Study and make recommendations relating to the development and implementation of wind energy. Assess the total impact of wind energy, including additional costs (if any) to consumers buy-back provisions and pricing, the need for alternative energy sources at times when wind does not generate electricity, impact on the ERCOT grid, development of battery storage and other storage methods, and economic development impacts. Senate Committee on Business and Commerce.
- Study options for reducing demand for electricity, including innovative pricing options relating to the use of smart meters, programmable thermostats, and other demand side management and behavioral response strategies. Review current consumer education programs to reduce demand, decrease energy prices, and improve air quality. Consider benefits and costs of alternative energy sources such as geothermal and solar, and current incentives for electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The study should include recommendations on improving consumer knowledge and usage of these strategies in lowering overall electric usage, promoting energy efficiency and improving the reliability of the ERCOT grid. Senate Committee on Business and Commerce.
- Study and make recommendations about the state's role for facilitating the exchange of health-care information in the future, including using the Medicaid exchange, as a framework for the statewide exchange of health information between healthcare providers to improve quality of care; what information the state should provide; how to use this information to improve care management, prevent medical errors and reduce unnecessary services; and policies and statutory changes needed to ensure that privacy is protected. Study the feasibility of developing multiple regional health-information technology exchanges in Texas. Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.
- Review the types of human stem cell and human cloning research being conducted, funded or supported by state agencies, including institutions of higher education. Make recommendations for appropriate data collection and funding protocols. Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.
- Study and make recommendations to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of testing done in Texas forensic laboratories, including DNA and blood/alcohol testing. Assess and make recommendations to improve the capacity of Texas criminal laboratories to process evidence, identify ways to reduce the backlog of DNA evidence processing, identify ways to encourage qualified applicants for crime lab jobs, ensure adequate training for new crime lab technicians, ensure the availability of efficient crime lab processing to all regions of the state, and determine the impact of additional collection requirements on the capacity of Texas crime labs to process evidence. Consider the costs and benefits of creating a statewide crime lab. Senate Committee on Criminal Justice.
- Study opportunities to expand broadband access in underserved communities through innovative new technologies and identify whether federal funding sources may be utilized. House Committee on Technology, Economic Development and Workforce.
- Study and make recommendations about methods of emergency notification during a natural disaster. Look into alternative systems and new technologies for rerouting 911- type calls to become more efficient and effective. Prior to the an emergency or disaster, study and make recommendations to streamline the process of informing impacted citizens about re-entry and aid. Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations, Subcommittee on Flooding & Evacuations.
- Monitor the implementation and use of open-source textbooks, electronic textbooks and technological equipment in public schools. Senate Committee on Education.
- Study the state's ability to respond appropriately to the H1N1 influenza pandemic by examining issues related to vaccine distribution and capacity. Consider the benefit of providing the state's independent school districts and various health authorities with standardized protocols for issues including, but not limited to, vaccine administration, absenteeism, and the cancellation of school and other school-related events. Assess the state's ability to track and record H1N1 vaccinations, through the ImmTrac registry, and to review statutes governing ImmTrac to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of immunization information systems. Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.