Voting Rights and Election Laws - The brief story of the 2017 Session for voting rights and elections: nothing really bad was passed and a few minor process improvements were made. The most talked about bill approved this session was SB 5, the Lt. Governor’s high priority Voter ID bill. This is not the last word, however, as the litigation continues.
Zombie item! Voter fraud by mail. We will monitor carefully to ensure no voter suppression items are not brought back to life.
Public Education - The Senate and House had very different legislative priorities when it came to public education. The most critical were evident in the way the two bodies approached the need to revise our public school finance system. Chairman Huberty and the House Committee for Public Education used a collaborative approach, listened to many experts on public education finance and needs, and developed HB 21. While this commendable effort passed the House, the Senate gutted the funding and tacked on an Education Savings Account voucher amendment before passing it.
Zombie items we will fight!
The dreaded voucher bill which robs money from local public schools and to fund private and religious schools, and homeschoolers with no accountability!
Limiting property taxes which pay for schools and local services and overhaul the property appraisal and tax rate process. This directly affects fast growth communities ability to raise taxes to provide needed public services.
Women’s Health and Reproductive Choice - In the end only one of the many anti-abortion measures filed in the session was enacted and became law, but unfortunately, that one is particularly heinous. SB 8 (Schwertner) requiring burial or cremation of fetal remains after an abortion and also banning the donation of aborted fetal tissue for medical research – and also banning so-called “partial birth abortions” which are already prohibited by federal law.
Zombie items we will fight!
- Prohibit local governments from using taxpayer money to fund Planned Parenthood or any abortion provider.
- Ban abortion insurance coverage in private and government plans - all aspects of Women’s Health should be covered.
- Require unnecessarily strict reporting of complications from abortions - unnecessary!
- Create a task force to study Texas extremely high maternal mortality rate. Great idea! Possibly a good zombie bill!
Special Session Zombie Bills
Equal Opportunity - We fought long and hard to protect vulnerable children who are transgender during the session. Now we start the fight again.
Zombie item we will fight: limiting transgender-friendly bathroom policies.
Land Use - LWV-TX opposed several bills introduced this session to remove land use powers from local governments. SB 744 will dictate to local governments how developers can mitigate for tree removal, not allowing for local conditions regarding tree regrowth.
Zombie items we will watch carefully.
- Reducing local control of tree removal rises from the dead! Trees ordinances should stay local. The state will not protect the trees in your community rather they will protect developer’s rights to remove them.
- Reducing local governments control of construction projects in your community.
- Speeding up local government permitting processes.
Transportation - Transportation policy bills did not get very far in the 85th Legislature. High-speed rail bills, toll road bills, red light camera bills and other bills to address important transportation issues in the state went either unheard or did not make it far enough in the process. One of the few significant Transportation policy bills, HB 62, signed by the Governor is a statewide ban on texting and driving.
Zombie item: Pre-empt all local ordinances that limit the use of mobile devices in vehicles. That would include limiting local bans on talking and driving.
Texas League Issues
Air Quality/Climate Change - Bills relating to air quality were filed in abundance this legislative session. Many of them, however, did not see the light of day. HB 2 (Zerwas) HB 402 (Huberty) relating to money used by certain counties for the low-income vehicle repair assistance, retrofit, and accelerated vehicle retirement program and local initiative air quality projects made it to the governor.
Behavioral Health - The 85th Texas Legislature dedicated key resources to renovating state mental health facilities, reducing waiting lists for services, and establishing matching grants to support community initiatives. 24 bills we supported passed! Remember the House Select Committee on Mental Health from the past interim? Well their work paid off. Chairman Four Price passed four significant bills: HB 10, HB 13, HB 1486, and HB 3083.
Child Abuse and Neglect - Overall, the 85th Texas legislature has been a very productive session for child protection with significant investments made in the CPS workforce to reduce turnover, increases in foster care rates to address capacity and some prevention funding. 14 bills passed including HB 4by Rep. Burkett The bill provides better support to kinship caregivers.
Drug Policy - Lots of support but no movement on HB 2107 medical use of marijuana bill.
Early Childhood - Numerous cross-agency bills were proposed with only three bills overcoming political stalemate and the Legislature cut appropriations for pre-k, eliminating the funding for the high-quality 2015 grant program. One bill was HB 2039 created an early childhood teacher certification to teach students Pre-K through grade three.
Gun Safety - There are two bad bills that made it to the Governor’s desk. SB 16 which decreases the fee for obtaining a Concealed Handgun License (CHL) and SB 263 the caliber of handguns used to demonstrate handgun proficiency to obtain a CHL.
Human Trafficking - We made progress in this legislative session for awareness of and laws to address human trafficking in Texas. We have three bills that passed both House and Senate. All votes were Yeas. One law requires successful completion of a training course in recognition and prevention of human trafficking by applicants for a commercial drivers license, CDL.
Immigration - The 85th Legislative session has been the most divisive session in recent history for the Immigration with the passage of SB 4 overshadowing the issue. The only real Immigration bright spot this session was that the House let SB 1018 “the Baby jail” bill die.
Texas Political Nerds!
The Texas Tribune is offering League members a special discount for the Texas Tribune Festival,September 22-24! Regular ticket is $300. Right now it is only $200, for League members if you register by9/5/17.Then the discounted ticket is $250 until the Festival.Click on the image or here register.
June 28 - 7th Annual Stonewall Celebration and Rally.