News & Press: Member Update

86th Legislative Session Convenes

Thursday, January 31, 2019  
Posted by: Michael Hancock
Share |


Member Update

January 14, 2019






The new year brings a number of new developments for the engineering industry, including a legislative session and staffing changes for ACEC Texas. Steve Stagner, the long-time President and CEO of our organization, retired at the end of 2018 (although he will continue to work with us on a contract basis).


He will be replaced by Peyton McKnight, who has been ACEC Texas’ General Counsel and Legislative Director for many years. In addition, Scott Stewart, an experienced Austin government relations professional, joined our staff late last year as Vice President of Legislative Affairs. Michael Hancock and Suzanne Essler will continue to manage administrative, financial, membership, educational, and related aspects of the organization.


Peyton McKnight, ACEC Texas President

Scott Stewart, ACEC Texas Vice President of Legislative Affairs


“We believe these changes will maintain our public affairs effectiveness and put us in a strong position to continue to grow our organization,” said Gary Raba, Chair of the ACEC Texas Board of Directors.


On the legislative front, the 86th Regular Session of the Legislature convened last Tuesday. Most notably, with the retirement of Speaker Joe Straus, the House will be led by a new speaker – Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton). Bonnen is a banker and businessman who has represented his coastal district since 1997.


The new speaker, along with Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Patrick, have been united in their message that the priority issue for the 2019 Legislature will be he associated goals of fixing Texas’ broken school finance system and lowering local property taxes.


High property taxes have been a flash point for a number of years, but much of the attention has focused on limiting the growth rate of cities and counties. But the largest part of the average citizen’s property tax bill is school taxes. As the state’s share of public education spending has been reduced, local school taxes have climbed. The leadership intends to address that this session.


The danger for the business community is that to make a serious dent in local school property taxes, the state’s overall share of school spending must increase, which makes it possible if not likely that revenue (tax) increases of some kind could be required. One of the items that is quietly being discussed is a sales tax on services, partly because this can be plausibly pitched as a tax base expansion rather than a tax increase. This proposal has been debated before. Taxes on services that are primarily intellectual and can be performed anywhere are difficult to administer and create an incentive to move jobs out of state. ACEC Texas will be involved in this debate if the issue develops.


On Monday, Comptroller of Public Accounts Glenn Hegar released the biennial revenue estimate for the FY2020-21 biennium, which will be the basis for the Legislature’s work in writing a budget for the period. This is a very difficult piece of economic forecasting, since it involves estimating where the overall state economy will do two years out – September 2019 through August 2021.

Not surprisingly, Hegar suggested that the near term holds significant uncertainties for the Texas economy – falling and fluctuating oil prices, volatility in financial markets, uncertainty about trade policy (a significant issue for a state that is the nation’s leading export state).


Generally, he forecast continued growth but at a reduced rate. He told legislators that they will have approximately 8 percent more available for spending in the upcoming biennium than they had in 2018-19 and that the state’s Rainy Day Fund could be expected to have a balance of more than $15 billion if it is not tapped for other purposes. This number makes doing something about school funding easier and also suggests that a portion of the Fund could be used for one-time investments to improve flood resiliency.



2019 ACEC Texas Project Management Training Seminars


ACEC Texas has scheduled several Project Management Training Seminars in January and February. Our two-day Project Management Training, conducted by John Geddie, will be held January 21st & 22nd in DFW, January 28th & 29th in Houston, and February 11th & 12th in San Antonio. To register for any one of these PM Training Seminars, please click on this link:


To view the full calendar of events for ACEC Texas, please click on this link: 2019 ACEC Texas Meeting/Conference Schedule


2019 Calendar of Events

  • January 21st-22nd: ACEC Texas Project Management Seminar - Hilton Hotel - Arlington, Texas
  • January 28th-29th: ACEC Texas Project Management Seminar - HESS Club - Houston, Texas
  • February 11th-12th: ACEC Texas Project Management Seminar - Omni Colonnade Hotel - San Antonio, Texas
  • March 22nd-23rd: ACEC Texas Annual Meeting - Four Seasons Resort - Irving, Texas
  • March 23rd: ACEC Texas Engineering Excellence Awards - Four Seasons Resort - Irving, Texas
  • May 15th-16th: ACEC Texas Business Conference - Crowne Plaza Hotel - Addison, Texas
  • July 11th-14th: ACEC Texas Summer Public Affairs Conference - Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada

In The News

Go to for current articles on construction, engineering, public works, transportation, politics and more including:

  • Houston Spaceport Phase 1 infrastructure development begins in February
  • Legislature convenes with a big list of issues to tackle
  • Analysis details wind energy's impact on the local economy
  • Top three state leaders present a united front
  • Part of cleaning up oil production is building more natural gas pipelines
  • County turns its back on Cibolo toll road
  • Texas politicians, including some Republicans, are skeptical of a wall
  • New Braunfels eyes updated bond plan
  • Goose Creek ISD poised to call May bond election
  • Galveston: Don't miss a second chance to sound off on the coastal barrier plan
  • and much more . . .



ACEC Texas Chapters


1001 Congress Ave., Suite 200 - Austin, Texas 78701

512-474-1474 - fax 512-474-1490

Follow Us On Social Media



Community Search
Sign In


ACEC San Antonio Chapter Meeting-08/19/20