Author Archive

Texas Failing 2020 Census & Covid-Killing Air System for Schools

August 24, 2020

Complete the 2020 Census: Why Does it Matter?

Texas ranks 39th with only 59.4% of Texans responding to the census.  The deadline to complete the count is September 30, 2020, just around the corner. 

Much of the federal funding that comes to Texas is allocated on a per capita basis.  Federal funding comes from your hard earned taxed dollars that were sent to Washington, DC.  So, regardless of how we feel about federal programs, we want to get as much of our money back in Texas as we can to help fund roads, hospitals, first responders, schools, etc (over 100 federal programs).  Let’s not stand for our tax dollars going to another state.  

Also, the 435 U.S. Congressional seats are apportioned between states based on population.  Prior to the pandemic, estimates of a full count suggest Texas could have 39 seats, three more than our current 36.  However, at the current response rate, we could actually lose congressional representation.  That just sends Texas’ clout to other states.  

Finally, an accurate census lets us know where people reside along with other basic demographic information.  This helps state and local governments (and business) more efficiently allocate resources for everything from transportation to water to education.  As with everything, unreliable data leads to poor planning and mistakes.  

If you haven’t already, please join me in completing the Census by visiting https://my2020census.gov/.  

Slidell ISD in Wise County first school district to deploy COVID-killing air filtration system

 I could not be more proud of Slidell ISD.  This technology will provide unparalleled safety and peace of mind.  This just shows you don’t have to be big to lead in Texas – just smart, innovative and willing to take a different path.

To read more about IVP system featured in Wise County Messenger click HERE.

Clay Shoot Tournament

On September 24th I will be hosting a Clay Shoot Tournament to support my re-election campaign.  I have an opponent in the general election.  If you are interested in forming a team, shooting as an individual or just joining for lunch please let us know!  Hope to see you there.  For more information click HERE.   

My Thoughts on Police Powers and Community Prayer Gathering

June 7, 2020

Editorial in Fort Worth Star Telegram 

To download click HERE

Prayer Gathering  

Please join me tonight at Heritage Park at 7:00 pm.  Let’s join together and pray for our nation. 

Property Owner Protections & CARES Act Funds for Local Jurisdictions

May 13, 2020

Higher Burden After Successful Appraisal Protest

Many times I’ve heard constituents complain of appealing their new property tax appraisal, prevailing in that appeal, only to see their valuation raised right back up at the next appraisal. This hasn’t been unique to Parker and Wise counties. Last year I was able to pass a property owner protection measure to address this problem. (Honestly, I knew it would help but it is apparently having a much broader impact than I expected.) 

HB 1313, which went in to effect Jan. 1, prohibits an appraisal district, after a successful appeal by a property owner, from increasing a valuation during the next appraisal cycle without “clear and convincing” evidence to justify the increase. Clear and convincing is the highest standard of proof in civil law. 

So how does this play out? State law requires county appraisal districts to reappraise all property at least once every three years.  In Parker County, for example, which reappraises every other year, this means without clear and convincing evidence your valuation could be locked in for four years.  In Wise County, where property is reappraised annually, for two years.  

In this article published Monday in the Fort Worth Star Telegram the chief appraiser credited HB1313 with holding down appraisal increases in Tarrant County. “Of Tarrant County’s 662,100 residential and commercial accounts, 171,345 didn’t change in market value and 283,345 saw a decrease, said Jeff Law, Tarrant County’s chief appraiser. … One big reason for the smaller than average increases in appraisals, Law said, is because of a new law that went into effect Jan. 1.”

Let’s hope HB1313 produces the same help to property owners all across Texas.


Counties and Cities Eligible for Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund 

Texas received $11.24 billion from the United States Department of Treasury to direct toward coronavirus related expenses.  Within the funding provided by the federal CARES Act, 45% of Texas’ allocation – approximately $5.06 billion – was designated for local governments.  Unfortunately, the fed required priority to local jurisdictions with over 500,000 in population meaning that just six cities and 12 counties in Texas will receive $3.2 billion of the available funding for local jurisdictions.  That leaves approximately $1.85 billion that the state can make available to all other cities and counties in Texas. 

These charts, produced by the state, show what these allocations could look like for Parker and Wise counties.  (Note – there are a few incorporated jurisdictions that were left off unintentionally that my office is working to correct.) 

The Texas Capitol remains closed to the public but I want you to know that my office is open for business. You can reach me anytime at 512-463-0738 or phil.king@house.texas.gov. The same is true for your Parker County and Wise County local elected officials. Although this is unprecedented territory for local government, they have done a remarkable job. I have never seen the level of coordination and cooperation between jurisdictions. It’s one of the reasons that Parker and Wise will be among the first to recover from this shutdown.

Open Texas for Business

April 20, 2020

I am so frustrated over the scope of this shutdown. I represent about 200,000 constituents in the Texas House. Thirty have tested positive for COVID-19. Yet thousands have lost their job or seen their income drastically reduced.

Sheltering is a double-edged sword. Its intent is to protect our health and every life is precious. But when you lose your job you also lose the ability to pay for your child’s asthma medicine or your heart medicine or spouse’s cancer treatment. It’s also hard to think about the greater good when you’re afraid you’ll lose your home or the ability to otherwise provide for your family.

Leaders are in a tough spot. If they err they want to err on the side of public safety. Nonetheless, our Texas hospitals are now prepared, the public is educated on risks, it’s time to go back to work.

Unemployment Benefits, School Testing and Hospital Bed Capacity

April 5, 2020

Update from the Texas Workforce Commission

Staggered Access to Unemployment Benefit Services

Over half a million Texans have filed unemployment claims in the last 18 days as a result of COVID-19. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) will soon outpace the total number of claims received in all of 2019.

This unprecedented increase has led to long wait times, overwhelmed call centers and technical issues with the Unemployment Benefit Services portal. TWC staff is working around the clock to expand the capacity to take claims but needs your support. Effective immediately, TWC recommends that Texans stagger their calls and access to the online portal based on applicant’s area codes.

“The outbreak of COVID-19 has reminded each of us the importance of acting with others in mind,” said TWC Executive Director Ed Serna. “Just as with the virus, we can treat this problem far more effectively if we work together and space out the demand rather than having everyone call at the same time. I know there are Texans worried about being out of work and missing their paychecks. We keep working until every Texan that needs help gets help. We are asking for you to join the effort.”

Effective immediately, TWC asks that Texans use their area code to find their proposed call and access times listed below. See below chart for recommended call and access times:

Texans will not be penalized for a delay due to call or user volume. Claims for individuals affected by COVID-19 are eligible to be backdated. Staggering claims will provide help to reduce frustrations for many Texans and provide better access to needed services.

For more information on COVID-19 and unemployment benefits follow this link.

Update from the Texas Education Agency

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Waiver Approved

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) received approval from the U.S. Department of Education on March 30, 2020, to waive statewide assessment and accountability requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), for the 2019–2020 school year.

Additionally, for 2020 state academic accountability, all districts and campuses will receive a label of Not Rated: Declared State of Disaster.

Background

As announced in the To the Administrator Addressed letter dated March 18, 2020,Governor Greg Abbott used his statutory authority under Texas Government Code, §418.016 to suspend annual academic assessment requirements for the remainder of the 2019–2020 school year. As a result, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®) are not being administered for the 20192020 school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

TEA submitted a federal assessment and accountability waiver on March 24, 2020, and will issue labels indicating Not Rated: Declared State of Disaster for 2020 to recognize that the closure of schools during the state’s testing window inhibited the ability of the state to accurately measure district and campus performance.

Update from the Office of the Governor

Conference on COVID-19, Hospital Capacity

Governor Greg Abbott  held a press conference to provide an update on Texas hospital capacity. During the press conference, the Governor and Dr. Zerwas presented an overview of statewide hospital bed capacity, as well as a detailed analysis of bed availability by region. They also explained the state’s preparations to bring additional facilities online to provide supplementary healthcare capacity if needed. Hospital bed availability in Texas has increased by more than 140% since March 18th.

Actions Taken to Expand Hospital Capacity:

March 22nd: An Executive Order was issued to expand hospital bed capacity. Under this order, the Governor directed all licensed health care professionals and facilities to postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient. The order also suspends certain regulations to allow for increased occupancy of hospital rooms.

March 24th: An Executive Order was issued requiring Texas hospitals to submit daily reports of hospital bed capacity to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

March 25th: A temporary waiver was implemented for certain hospital licensing rules and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) adopted an emergency rule to meet Texas’ need for additional hospital capacity.

March 29thAnnounced a joint effort between the state, the Texas Military Department (TMD), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to identify and equip additional locations to serve as health care facilities in the event that hospital capacity is exhausted. The Governor announced the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas as the first of these sites.

View the presentation on Texas’ hospital capacity.

Guidance on Payment Assistance and Franchise Tax Extension

April 2, 2020

One of the many concerns for those that have lost income or their job is paying their bills.  Please take initiative in advance to reach out to your electric, phone, natural gas and water utilities for deferred payment options before things get to the disconnect stage.  The same goes for your creditors.  I would highly encourage you to work out deals before you get to foreclosure, eviction or shut off of services stage. 

We have been talking with the different utility providers in our district and all of our local entities have reassured us of their commitment to working with customers during these difficult times.  These companies and providers have all emphasized we are all neighbors and we will help our neighbors.  They key though is communication with your providers.  This does not give the green light to customers to not pay their bills.   

 Rental Assistance

The Texas Supreme Court has temporarily suspended residential evictions.  This is critical to many Texans who are beginning to feel the economic impact of COVID-19.  The Texas Apartment Association also has a resource page related to COVID-19 impact.  Again, I would strongly encourage you to be proactive and work with landlords on deferred payment plans because evictions will soon again be available through the courts.


Electric Service Payment Assistance

All of our electric providers have announced they will be temporarily suspending disconnections or working on deferred payment plans upon request from the customer.  I am really proud of our utility providers as they historically have always worked with their customers, many of whom live in economically disadvantaged areas.  Several electric providers are providing financial assistance resource webpages so I would suggest looking at their social media pages and websites. 

The Public Utility Commission ordered all the Retail Electric Providers to immediately offer a deferred payment plan and suspend disconnections.  Here is an additional FAQ from the Public Utility Commission about their recent order.  However, again this does not mean customers are not liable for their electric bills.  Disconnects will eventually be reauthorized.

In addition to the REPs, we have reached out to the electric co-ops and municipal electric providers to gather their COVID-19 announcements.

CoServ Electric 
CoServ announced that it is suspending disconnections, penalties and late fees for nonpayment for residential members and customers through April 13.

Pentex Energy 
Pentex announced that their member services division will be aiding their members on a case-by-case basis to offer deferred payment plans.

Tri-County Electric Cooperative 
Tri-County EC announced that their member services division will be aiding their members on a case-by-case basis to offer deferred payment plans.

Wise County Electric Cooperative 
Wise County EC announced that it is suspending disconnections, penalties and late fees for nonpayment for residential members and customers through April 16.

Weatherford Municipal
Weatherford has announced that it is suspending disconnections temporarily and penalties that are associated with late payments.    

Bridgeport Municipal
Bridgeport is currently directing customers with financial hardship to assistance programs with these community resources:  http://cityofbridgeport.net/458/Utility-Assistance

Franchise Tax Extended

Today Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced that there will be an extension to all franchise taxpayers.  The new due date for 2020 franchise tax reports will be July 15 which is consistent with the IRS extension.  This is automatic and taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms and will apply to all franchise taxpayers. 

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation 

Part of the Federal CARES Act is a newly created program for unemployment assistance for individuals who historically aren’t currently eligible for unemployment benefits through the state.  This program will be administered through Texas Workforce Commission but the state agency is still waiting for instructions from the federal government for implementation.  This new program will provide assistance for self-employed, independent contractors and workers with limited work history.  At this time, this new federal program application process is not open.  When we receive more details on who qualifies and how it will be administered through Texas Workforce Commission we will provide an update.  Here is a press release announcing the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) fund. 

I would encourage you to keep checking the Texas Workforce Commission website for updates.  In addition to this new program, the federal CARES Act also gave additional funding to supplement and extend the current state unemployment benefits program to 39 weeks (additional 13 weeks) plus increased funding at an extra $600 per week.  See TWC announcement here.   

I know everyone is still having a hard time getting through on the phones and computer to file for unemployment benefits.  Keep checking back.  They are rapidly increasing their workers at the call centers, bringing on new representatives every day.  They also implemented a new chat bot that should answer some of the more general questions.  Please let us know if we can be of further assistance. https://www.twc.texas.gov/

Small Business Owners Guide to the CARES Act

March 30, 2020

Many of us are trying to work through the Small Business Administration new Paycheck Protection Program application process right now. Here is a short FAQ on the PPP that I found helpful.  Another more thorough report is the Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act.

I have also had multiple calls with the Texas Workforce Commission about processing unemployment benefits. I know many of you have called our office and are having trouble getting through on their phones and website. They are seeing an unprecedented amount of traffic and are working very hard to increase their capacity and streamline the process. Information for employers, jobseekers and information related to childcare can be found here. 

On a personal note, my son Josh wed on Friday.  Although COVID-19 disrupted their original wedding plans, it was a perfect immediate family wedding with the pastor on Zoom!  You have to find some laughter and joy in everything.  

Guidance for Small Business Owners & Federal CARES Act

March 25, 2020

Many of you that own a small business have reached out looking for guidance.  I have pulled together resources that have been shared with our office from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) that I hope you will find helpful.  I have also included a summary of the current federal CARES Act being considered by Congress.  If there is something specific that is not addressed below, please don’t hesitate to reach out and we will try to help.  

  • This NFIB website is dedicated to updates regarding the status of federal legislation.  That can be found here.
  • NFIB also has a site that they’re using as a clearing house of small biz info regarding Covid-19.  That can be found here.  While this site is updated regularly, it currently contains links to the CDC and SBA, a recording of a webinar and a host of other information. 
  • NFIB Texas also has a resource page with state specific information that can be found here.
  • An SBA loan resource page, including a link to determine eligibility and apply for a loan, can be found here.  While this application is available now, there may be Business Interruption loans included in the second legislative package currently being debated in Congress.  These BI loans could be used for payroll, debt obligations, rent/mortgage, etc. and could potentially be forgiven depend on how they are utilized.  As the details for these BI loans become more clear, we will update that.
  • The TWC has a shared work program for employees who have had their hours cut back.  That page can be found here.
  • Small Business Development Center continues to be an excellent resource for small businesses.  You can find their regional contact information and a Covid-19 resource page here.
  • Finally, I have attached an FAQ sheet from the Texas Workforce Commission specifically for small business owners.  It can be downloaded here.  Following the social media accounts for Texas Workforce Commission is also another great way to stay up to date: FacebookTwitter and YouTube.   (Please note TWC has seen an enormous increase of traffic on their website and call center.  They are rapidly increasing capacity and technology to streamline and handle the volume.) 

Summary of Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act
(Note: This information was provided by the House Republican Whip Coalitions Coordinator)

  • Provides grants and loans to small businesses to meet payroll and pay rent.
  • Sends direct checks to individual Americans of up to $1200.
  • Allows regulatory relief so banks can grant loan forbearance for otherwise healthy businesses struggling while business has been shut down.
  • Provides Treasury and the Fed the ability to provide several trillion in assistance to distressed industries, including airlines, through guaranteed loans while also including accountability protections.
  • Rushes resources to hospitals, doctors and other front line providers. 
  • Expands the use of Telehealth medicine to surge capacity and diagnose and treat patients in safe and faster environment.
  • Temporarily expands unemployment insurance to provide life line for those who have lost their jobs.
  • Provides tax policy incentives, such as fixing key technical corrections from the tax cut and Jobs Act, including QIP and NOL.
  • Provides liability protection for providers who volunteer (Good Samaritan).
  • Allows HSA to be used to purchase over the counter medicines.
  • Extends expiring health extenders to November. 
  • For a more detailed summary, click here.  

Cutting Through The Noise

March 24, 2020

Friends –

This week we’re witnessing the beginnings of real hardship on friends, families, neighbors and local businesses.  We’re also getting way overloaded with information. Myself, I’m on conference call after call with other state officials and receiving new reports with information all the time. It’s a lot for all of us to filter through.

I could pass on to you a lot of resources but I know you can already find most online or hear it from a news source. So what I’ll try to do over the near term is help you cut through the noise.

The first step is to know that my office is available. Please call (512-463-0738), email (phil.king@house.texas.gov), whatever is easiest for you. We will do our best to help address problems.

Next, as plans and processes get worked out on financial support, unemployment comp., health care services, emergency loans for businesses, etc., I’ll try to get the relevant information to you in a timely and succinct form.

Finally, would you please pray for me and all the other federal, state and local officials. This is fast paced, uncharted territory. I am very encouraged at a lot of things I see falling into place in emergency services. And I see people working together in Texas like never before.

I’ll be getting briefed by the Texas Workforce Commission tomorrow. I will let you know if I learn anything to pass on.  I just finished a call with the leadership of our Texas State Guard. I can tell you that your Texas National Guard and State Guard are ready to assist helping Texans at the Governor’s call.

For now always remember His provision.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Local COVID-19 Update & Help

March 19, 2020

Dear Constituents:

Are you still trying to wrap your head around our temporary new norm of social distancing, take-out meals and virtual learning?  We may wonder is this all necessary but given what we know today and what we have learned from our past—the closures, social distancing, staying home and all the caution is the right thing to do.  So please be patient.  And be grateful we’re in Texas with great leadership and amazing resources to soon put this day behind us.     

The primary goal remains delaying and slowing the spread of the virus to protect our health care system and vulnerable population.  This is a shared responsibility for all of us.  As things are quickly evolving with COVID-19, I wanted to share some resources that I have found informative and helpful. 

The Department of Health Services has many answers to frequently asked questions like what do you do if you’re sick, information on testing and prevention tips.  This will also include updated numbers of cases in Texas.  See link HERE.   DSHS is also regularly sending updates through social media accounts available by following TexasDSHS on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.  Here are a few simple, common sense measures we can all implement to slow the spread.   

How can Texans slow the spread of COVID-19?

  • The next two weeks are critical in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Texans must act now.
  • Stay home as much as possible, especially if you are sick, older, and/or have a medical condition.
  • If you are sick, stay home except to access medical care. If you are able to take care of yourself, stay home. If you need to see your doctor, call ahead.
  • Avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and non-essential trips into public.
  • Cancel events of more than 10 people.
  • Limit close contact (at least six feet) with other people. Employers should allow alternative work options as much as possible.

Who can be tested for COVID-19?

DSHS broadened the public health criteria on March 15th so that people can get tested through the public health system under a variety of scenarios. Public health labs will test individuals (including health care workers) who have fever and/or symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) AND:

  • have had close contact with a confirmed case;
  • have traveled to a location with ongoing transmission of COVID-19;
  • have risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19; or,
  • are hospitalized with fever and symptoms suspicious for COVID-19 even if they do not have any risk factors.

Texas’ response to COVID-19 outbreak has been impressive and ongoing with Governor Abbott declaring a State of Disaster, allowing Texans and local business relief for various hurdles and strains they are facing during this difficult time.  Here is a summary of various waivers and exemptions that have been provided by the State just this week.  I would expect more to follow in the coming weeks as we continue response efforts and discover new challenges.   

Update on State Waivers and Exemptions in Effect

Statewide Television Townhall – March 19th at 7:00 PM

Governor Greg Abbott announced he will be holding a live virtual Town Hall meeting on Thursday, March 19, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. CT. The Governor will discuss the statewide response to the current coronavirus outbreak and will be joined by top officials from the Department of State Health Services, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, and the Texas Education Agency. For additional information, follow the link here

Impact on May 2020 Local Elections

A proclamation on March 18,  2020 suspending provisions of the Texas Election Code to allow political subdivisions to postpone their 2020 local elections.  This means local governments now have the ability to postpone their May 2, 2020 elections until November 3, 2020. To view the  press release on this topic, please visit here.

TxDPS to Waive Expiration Dates on Certain Licenses and IDs

Department of Public Safety (DPS) will temporarily waive expiration dates for Driver Licenses, Commercial Driver Licenses, and other identification forms. This action falls within the State of Disaster Declaration and is part of the ongoing effort to reduce to spread of COVID-19. This suspension will be in effect until 60 days after DPS provides further public notice that normal Driver License operations have resumed. In addition to this suspension, drive license offices across the state are closing immediately.  This temporary closure will not apply to those seeking an initial Commercial Driver License (CDL).   To view the press release on these topics, please visit announcements here and here

Certain TDI Regulations on Telemedicine Waived

The State has waived certain regulations related to telemedicine care and directed the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) to issue an emergency rule to help patients with state-regulated insurance plans gain telemedicine access so doctors across Texas can help additional patients while mitigating the spread of COVID-19. To view the press release on this topic, please visit here.

Request for Loan Assistance for Small Businesses

On March 17, 2020, the State requested designation from the Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Declaration in order for small businesses across the state of Texas to access the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. If granted, the SBA would provide relief through long-term, low-interest loans to qualifying Texas businesses. To view the press release on this topic, please visit here.

Activation of the Texas National Guard

Texas has activated the Texas National Guard so they are prepared to assist with response efforts for COVID-19 if needed. This preparative step will ensure that the Texas National Guard can assist in various forms throughout the state at a moment’s notice. Healthcare workers and first responders who are members of the Texas National Guard are excluded from this activation so that they can continue serving the people of Texas in their respective fields. To view the press release on this topic, please visit here.

TxDMV to Waive Rules on Disability Parking Placards and Vehicle Registration and Titling

Governor Abbott has announced that Texas is waiving certain rules relating to vehicle registration, parking placards for persons with disabilities, and titling to aid the state’s efforts to combat COVID-19. These suspensions will allow Texans to avoid penalties for failure to timely title or register a vehicle, or renew a parking placard. The waivers fall within the actions the are being taken under the State of Disaster, and are part of Texas’ efforts to reduce in-person contact among Texans and slow the spread of COVID-19. To view the press release on this topic, please visit here.

Waiver of Certain Regulations to Allow Delivery of Alcohol from Restaurants and to Support Hospitality Industry

The State issued a waiver that will allow restaurants to deliver alcoholic beverages with food purchases to patrons, including beer, wine and mixed drinks.  Also Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) will waive certain provisions to allow manufacturers, wholesale and retailers of alcoholic beverages to repurchases or sell back unopened product.  This is an effort to support retailers, restaurants and their employees.  To view the press release on this topic, please visit here

Update from the Texas Education Agency
Following the announcement last week to waive the STAAR test requirement for the 2019-20 school year, Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath sent a letter to school administrators today cancelling the STAAR test for this year. TEA will work with the United States Department of Education to request waivers from federal testing and accountability requirements for the 2019–2020 school year.

To read Commissioner Morath’s letter, follow the link here.

I will do my best to keep you updated as we continue to make decisions that are in the best interest of all Texans.  My office is still fully operational as we work from home and respond to all emails and calls.  If you have any questions or need assistance with state services, please don’t hesitate to call us at 512-463-0738 or email to phil.king@house.texas.gov.  I hope everyone will enjoy the extra time with family and that we will soon have this behind us.

Sincerely,

Phil King
State Representative

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  Psalms 20:7