HBA-CBW C.S.H.B. 7 77(R)BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisC.S.H.B. 7 By: Chisum Land & Resource Management 3/23/2001 Committee Report (Substituted) BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Promoting economic development and ensuring the general welfare of rural communities in Texas is a continuing challenge for Texas state government. Social and economic forces in rural Texas have led to post offices and hospitals being closed or consolidated; home-owned cafes, department stores, and banks being replaced by national chains; smaller and smaller graduating classes; downtowns being bypassed by highway loops; and empty storefronts on main street. It is clear that rural Texas is in a state of transition. The future of rural communities lies in how well rural Texas communities adjust to the changes. Recognizing that government is an economic pillar in rural areas, Speaker James E. "Pete" Laney appointed the House Select Committee on Rural Development whose mission it was to search for ways state, local, and federal governments can improve the quality of life in rural Texas. A major issue identified by the select committee is that there is no focus point at state or federal levels for rural policy formulation or implementation, which results in fragmented policies spread among a myriad of governmental agencies. All levels of government have a hand in developing and implementing rural policy and cooperation and coordination are essential to maximizing the effectiveness of policy programs. C.S.H.B. 7 creates the Office of Rural Community Affairs as a stand-alone executive branch agency to assure a continuing focus on rural issues, monitor governmental actions affecting rural Texas, research problems and recommended solutions, and to coordinate rural programs among state agencies. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that rulemaking authority is expressly delegated to the executive committee of the Office of Rural Community Affairs in SECTION 1 (Sections 487.052, 487.104, 487.109, 487.112, 487.159, 487.163, 487.204, 487.252, and 487.253, Government Code) and to the Office of Rural Community Affairs in SECTION 1 (Sections 487.302 and 487.304, Government Code) and in SECTION 9 (Section 204.104, Occupations Code) of this bill. ANALYSIS C.S.H.B. 7 amends the Government Code to create the Office of Rural Community Affairs (office) and sets forth provisions and procedures to establish the role of the office. The bill provides that the office is abolished on September 1, 2007, unless continued pursuant to the Texas Sunset Act (Sec. 487.002). The bill establishes the executive committee of the office (committee) as the governing body of the office and provides that the committee is composed of three members appointed by the governor, three members appointed by the lieutenant governor, and three members appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives. The bill sets forth provisions regarding the appointment of committee members, terms of the committee members, and the election of a presiding officer of the committee (Sec. 487.021). The bill sets forth standard provisions regarding conflicts of interest, committee member training, committee member removal, policy implementation by the committee, public testimony, the implementation of an equal employment opportunity policy, standards of conduct, and the maintaining of written complaints. The bill authorizes the committee to hire an executive director (director) to serve as the chief executive officer of the office and perform the administrative duties of the office (Secs. 487.022 - 487.030). The bill provides for the initial appointment of committee members, the employment of a director, and selection of a presiding officer (SECTION 11). The bill requires the office to develop a rural policy, work with other state agencies and officials, develop programs to improve the leadership of rural community leaders, monitor developments relating to rural Texas communities, administer the federal community development block grant nonentitlement program, administer programs supporting rural health care, and perform research (Sec. 487.051). The bill authorizes the committee to adopt rules as necessary to implement these provisions (Sec. 487.052). The bill authorizes the office to accept gifts, grants, and donations and sets forth standards by which these gifts and grants may be accepted (Sec. 487.053). The bill requires the committee to call an annual meeting to discuss rural issues and requires the following agency heads to meet: _the commissioner of agriculture; _the executive director of the Public Utility Commission of Texas; _the director of the Texas Agricultural Extension; _the presiding officer of the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund Board; _the executive director of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs; _the commissioner of health; _the executive administrator of the Texas Water Development Board; _the executive director of the Parks and Wildlife Department; _the commissioner of human services; _the commissioner of higher education; _the comptroller of public accounts; and _the executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation (Sec. 487.054). The bill authorizes the committee to appoint advisory committees to assist the committee in performing its duties and sets forth provisions regarding the advisory committees (Sec. 487.055). The bill requires the office to submit a report to the legislature not later than January 1 of each odd-numbered year that includes the activities of the office (Sec. 487.056). The bill requires the office to develop, implement, and update a rural health work plan and sets forth provisions relating to the plan (Sec. 487.057). The office is required to enter into an interagency contract with another state agency to provide routine administrative services for the office (Sec. 487.058). C.S.H.B. 7 transfers the administration of the federal community development block grant nonentitlement program and the community affairs and community development program from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs and the Texas Department of Economic Development to the office and provides that the community development block grant funds shall be allocated to eligible counties and municipalities under office rules (Secs. 487.351-487.353, and SECTIONS 13 and 14). The bill authorizes the office to enter an interagency agreement with, and monitor the activities of, the Department of Agriculture (department) to reimburse the department for providing services relating to federal community development block grant funds on behalf of the office. The bill requires the office to allocate not more than 20 percent of the federal funds received by the office to the department to be used for economic development activities (Sec. 487.352). The bill also transfers from the Center for Rural Health Initiatives to the office the following: _outstanding rural scholar recognition and loan program; _ health careers promotion and education program; _ medically underserved community-state matching incentive program; _ Texas health service corps program; and _ program for rural health facility capital improvement from the authority of the center to the authority of the office (Secs. 487.104-487.112, 487.151-487.163, 487.201-487.204, 487.251-487.256, and 487.301-487.304). C.S.H.B. 7 repeals provisions regarding the Center for Rural Health Initiatives (center) and certain duties of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, abolishes the center, and transfers all powers and duties, including rulemaking authority, from the center to the office (SECTIONS 10,12, and 13). The bill updates references to the center in the Occupations, Health and Safety, and Education codes to reflect the change (Secs. 38.011, 51.918, 58.007, Education Code; Sec. 86.011, Health and Safety Code; and 204.104, Occupations Code). EFFECTIVE DATE September 1, 2001. Provisions relating to training for members of the executive committee of the Office of Rural Community Affairs take effect September 1, 2002. COMPARISON OF ORIGINAL TO SUBSTITUTE C.S.H.B. 7 modifies the original bill by requiring specified agency heads to meet at least once each year to discuss rural issues, rather than creating an advisory committee consisting of such agency heads. The substitute also adds the comptroller of public accounts and the executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation to the list of agency heads for the annual meeting. The substitute removes the ability of agency heads to designate a representative to head such a meeting (Sec 487.054). The substitute authorizes the executive committee of the Office of Rural Community Affairs (executive committee) to appoint advisory committees to perform certain duties and sets forth provisions regarding the advisory committees (Sec. 487.055). The substitute requires the Office of Rural Community Affairs (office) to enter into an interagency contract with another state agency to provide routine administrative services for the office (Sec. 487.058). The substitute repeals provisions regarding certain duties of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) (SECTION 11). The substitute provides that a community must be willing to forgive repayment of a scholar's loan for the executive committee to be authorized to provide for loan forgiveness for a scholar who practices in another rural community under the outstanding rural scholar recognition and loan program (487.109). C.S.H.B. 7 modifies the original by providing that the community affairs and community development program, including appropriations, is transferred from TDHCA to the office (SECTION 14). C.S.H.B. 7 authorizes the executive director of the office to change the duties of any employee transferred to the office (SECTION 15). The substitute requires the Legislative Budget Board to resolve any disputes relating to the transfer of duties to the office (SECTION 16). C.S.H.B. 7 provides that the office is subject to the Texas Sunset Act (Sec. 487.002).