The Texas Legislature meets for 140 days at the beginning of every odd-numbered year. We are now 53 days in with 87 to go (not that we are counting). It is a busy session so far and TSLAC has a number of matters of interest under consideration in this session.
Budget – As is the case every session, we are following the progress of our budget request as it is considered by both the House and Senate. Included in our budget is a very large request for new funding–nearly $38 million. Of that figure, $30.8 million is for expansion of storage space to allow us to continue to store records for state agencies, one of the most important services that TSLAC offers to the state. Without new funding, we will be completely out of records storage capacity by the end of 2019. That request is currently included in the House version of the budget, but not the Senate version. We have also asked for funding to add much more e-book content to our very popular and heavily used TexShare and TexQuest online information services. That item was not included in either budget, but has been pended for further consideration in the House version. Other exceptional funding requests for TSLAC include hiring an agency general counsel, providing for cybersecurity needs, conducting a statewide outreach program, and securing salary increases to recruit and retain agency staff.
Sunset bills – Every twelve years, most state agencies have to go through a reauthorization process known as sunset review. This session TSLAC is up for reauthorization and two bills have been filed to maintain the agency until 2031. SB 618 by Senator Hall, and HB 1962 by Representative Lambert are identical and would continue the agency with no loss of authority and with a number of statutory changes that will strengthen our work. Further, the legislation would expand our authority to allow the agency to purchase advertising to promote agency services, most notably the Talking Book Program, and would also allow us to sell educational materials such as reproductions of archival materials.
Other bills – We are following a number of other bills in this session that either name TSLAC directly or would impact our work. Such bills include:
- HB 679 by Rep. Guillen that would also give us the ability to advertise services and sell educational materials.
- HB 700 by Rep. Guillen that would add libraries and schools to eligibility to participate in a skills development fund.
- HB 703 by Rep. Harris that would extend the date at which birth and death records are made available to the public from 75 to 125 years.
- HB 1960 by Rep. Price that would establish a Governor’s Broadband Council.
- HB 1784 by Rep. Capriglione that would codify recommendations contained in the Texas Digital Storage Study published in 2018, including to create at TSLAC the new position of State Information Governance Coordinator.
- HB 2422 by Rep. Anderson relating to the coordination of broadband projects by the Texas Facilities Commission.
We will continue to monitor the progress of our budget, our sunset bills and these other bills as the session continues. Be sure to let us know if you have any questions about any of these issues.