Article by the Texas Military Department Government Affairs Office
During the Regular Session of the 86th Legislature, the Government Affairs Office (GAO) closely tracked 501 of the 7851 bills filed by the Texas Legislature. Additionally, GAO maintained situational awareness of and expertise on all issues relating to military and state agency topics. In addition to these monitoring responsibilities, GAO remained in constant contact with legislative offices to serve as a resource and knowledge base for both members and staff. A consistent presence in the Capitol allowed TMD to answer questions and engage with offices on a daily basis. Education for legislative staff and members was provided by Texas Military Department (TMD) General Officers, GAO and Office of Executive Director (OED) personnel through meetings with members, testimony provided at Committee Hearings and numerous staff-to-staff engagements. The Regular Session of the 86th Legislature gaveled in on 8 January 2019 and gaveled out on 27 May 2019. Of the 7851 bills filed, 1323 were passed by the Governor and 58 bills were vetoed.
Governor Abbott, in his State of the State address, laid out issues of particular importance and declared school finance reform, teacher pay raises and property tax relief as emergency items, allowing them to be taken up by the legislature in the first 60 days. These emergency items were in addition to other items of interest such as school safety, disaster response and mental health.
This year the GAO added new team members to its staff. These team members were quick to adapt to their new roles and quickly established relationships with key legislative members and their staff. TAG, OED and GAO staff met with every Senator and Representative on the Finance and Appropriations committees. Moreover, GAO staff regularly met with members of the Defense and Veterans’ Affairs, and Veterans’ Affairs and Border Security committees.
CPT Owen Williams along with the GAO team worked tirelessly on coordinating an Army Day event with members of the legislature. The intent of this event was to familiarize Texas legislators and their staff with the Texas Military Department, showcase our capabilities and engage in productive conversation. The intended outcome for was event was to recoup diminished funds from previous legislative sessions. The event’s success was so well received by the Adjutant General and Deputy Adjutant Generals, that CPT Williams was tasked with coordinating a second Army Day. This event was as successful as the first.
Throughout the interim, GAO will continue outreach to members and legislative staff, including but not limited to: armory visits, district engagements, change of command ceremonies, interim committee hearings, TMD legislative days and other engagements as appropriate.
Bills passed by 86th Legislature that directly benefit the TMD:
- SB 1598/HB 2241 by Senator Hall and Rep. Tinderholt: Relating to hazardous duty pay for security officers employed by the Texas Military Department.
This legislation amends the Government Code to allow a security officer employed by the Texas Military Department to receive hazardous duty pay, subject to applicable eligibility requirements.
- SB 1597/HB 3391 by Senator Hall and Rep. Shine: Relating to awarding certain medals for military service performed individually or as part of a crew.
This legislation amends the Government Code to expand eligibility for the Lone Star Medal of Valor, Texas Outstanding Service Medal, and Texas Medal of Merit to include certain acts of military service performed as a member of a crew or team.
- SB 602/HB 1326 by Senator Hall and Rep. Flynn: Relating to the continuation and functions of the Texas Military Department. (SUNSET)
Relates to the Sunset Review of TMD. This bill guarantees the continuation of the Texas Military Department as a state agency until September 1, 2031.
Successes in Budget:
At the beginning of the 86th Legislative session, we requested funding for four exceptional items. This year, TMD was fortunate enough to receive funding in all four areas.
• Exceptional Item 1: State Guard Expansion – $2M
• Exceptional Item 2: Emergency Preparedness & Indirect Administration - $5M
• Exceptional Item 3: Facilities Management & Operations - $15.3M (STAR - $10M and Deferred Maintenance - $5.3M)
• Exceptional Item 4: Service Member Care $87K
Overall agency FTE cap increased from 569 to 641.