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The Legislative Machinery Grinds On...

Lots of committee action on both sides of the Dome. We've got a sampling of the ground covered this week.

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Senate Finance this week passed out legislation aimed at increasing the number of residency slots for physicians in training.

SB 18 was authored by Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. The bill would create incentives to set up residency slots for practice areas in high demand across the state.

The bill also creates a new long-term source of funding for residency slots. The legislation will be helped by $60 million written into the Senate’s version of the budget for expansion of residency slots.

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Ahead of Tuesday’s floor debate on the budget, the House on late Wednesday afternoon adopted a calendar rule to require amendments to be pre-filed.

The deadline to submit amendments is noon on Saturday. Also in keeping with standing practice, the House specified that amendments that increase spending must find offsetting savings elsewhere in the budget.

The House intends to take up the supplemental appropriations bill, which will close the books on the current fiscal biennium, on Wednesday. Amendments for that legislation must be turned in by 10 a.m. on Sunday.

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The House Energy Resources Committee this week discussed HB 40 – Rep. Drew Darby's bill to limit municipalities' regulatory domain to "surface activity" associated with oil and gas productions when rules are "commercially reasonable." It's one of nearly a dozen bills filed on the issue and among those more likely to advance.

In a video released Monday morning, the Texas Oil & Gas Association, which supports the legislation, said a patchwork of local drilling ordinances – including setback requirements – are harming energy protection and threatening the "Texas miracle."

“Extreme setbacks on energy development are not necessary to protect health and safety,” the video said. 

Advocates for local control disagree, and they say Darby's bill could jeopardize long-standing drilling ordinances across Texas.

"The industry is seeking to wipe out hundreds of city ordinances that have protected residential neighborhoods all across the state from adverse impacts of drilling,” Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League, said in a statement early Monday.

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With a 7-1 vote, the Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development this week sent Chairman Troy Fraser's bill – SB 931 — to the full Senate. It would declare the program over and would also end Texas’ Competitive Renewable Energy Zone initiative, which regulators used to build the $7 billion in power lines that mostly connect windy West Texas to larger electricity-thirsty cities.
 
Most of that project — which boosted the state’s wind energy portfolio — was completed in late 2014.
 
Fraser has said his effort is merely intended to declare "mission accomplished."

Texas manufacturers and free-market think tanks support the bill.
 
Advocates of renewable energy worry about the message it would send solar and wind companies — and the impact on the value of the “renewable energy certificates” that companies have traded under the program.

Disclosure: The Texas Municipal League is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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