The Texas Legislative Guide was designed and developed by Becca Aaronson, Emily Albracht, Daniel Craigmile, Annie Daniel, Ben Hasson and Ryan Murphy for The Texas Tribune. The Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that promotes civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government and other matters of statewide concern.
As the 84th legislative session started, the Texas oil boom that helped fuel the state’s “miracle” economy was slowing, with the per-barrel price of West Texas Intermediate oil — the U.S. benchmark — falling below $50 in January, less than half of what it was in June.
Several major oil companies have sliced their budgets, and the Texas Railroad Commission began issuing fewer drilling permits in late 2014. The state’s economic outlook is less rosy than it was in the months before the session, though there was no sense of panic.
The state has learned plenty since the 1980s, when an oil crash unleashed a flood of red ink in government and delivered hard times to Texas communities. The state has since diversified its economy, and state officials stashed away money to cushion the blow of future financial troubles. And low oil prices bring some benefits: Manufacturers, motorists and others, for instance, are enjoying cheaper fuel. And those savings should spill into other parts of the economy. Some analysts, however, suggest those positives will be too small to ward off a Texas recession. Oil still makes up some 14 percent of the state’s economy, according to Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business.
During the legislative session, lawmakers focused on creating a wider market for the state’s oil. They approved a resolution — that Gov. Greg Abbott has signed — calling for the federal government to lift its 40-year-old ban on crude exports.
Disclosure: The Texas Association of Business is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
Updated: May 29, 2015
- Combating local drilling ordinances
- Responding to volatile oil prices
- Acting on the EPA's "Clean Power Plan"
- Incentivizing shift to natural gas vehicles
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