The content of this Email Update is to provide a recap of highlighted issues from the recently concluded 80th Session of the Texas Legislature. I am fortunate to have had a great number of my constituents from the 16th District contact me and share their views on many of the issues considered during the session. I was very grateful to have had this input during our legislative deliberations.
The content of this update is divided into the following subject areas:
- Health and Human Services
- Criminal Justice
- Natural Resources
- Business/Economic Development/Utilities
- Transportation/Homeland Security
- Other Bills of Interest
- Other Issues that Failed to Pass
- Governor's Vetoes
The budget is the only bill the Legislature is required to pass during the regular session. The budget, HB 1, is written for the fiscal biennium that begins on September 1, 2007, and ends on August 31, 2009. Excluding $14.2 billion that the Legislature appropriated for property tax relief, the final budget passed by the Legislature expends $152.45 billion, with $80.14 billion of that being state general revenue funds.
Texas was in an enviable position going into the session with the Comptroller announcing that the State had a $14.3 billion "surplus". Although much of this so-called surplus was already accounted for to address growth in our public and higher education school populations, health and human services program caseloads, and other programs, the final budget left more than $7 billion unspent. Since it is unclear exactly how much revenue the revised franchise tax will generate when it goes into effect January 1, 2008, the Legislature felt it prudent to leave this money in reserve to avoid a deficit in coming years.
Education, both public and higher, and Health and Human Services are the two biggest sections of the budget, comprising 40% and 33.5% of the budget respectively.
Following are the highlights of the budget:
- An increase of $302.7 million for the Children's Health Insurance Program.
- An increase of $82 million to fund mental health crisis services.
- An increase of $95 million for additional reforms to Child Protective Services.
- $342.8 million for teacher incentive programs passed during the third special session of the 79th Legislature.
- $280 million for public educator salary increases.
- An increase of $145.5 million for higher education financial aid.
- $233.4 million for the construction of three new prisons.
- $170 million to fund low electric utility assistance programs during the summer months.
The budget is also the only bill in which the Governor has line-item veto authority, meaning he can veto specific sections of the bill, while still signing the bill into law. Governor Perry vetoed $650 million in spending in HB 1. Sections of the budget that were vetoed by Governor Perry include $154 million for group health insurance contributions for community/junior college employees. Additionally, he vetoed $35.8 million in other higher education special projects that were written as line-items in the budget.
The budget for the 2006-07 fiscal biennium was written during the 2005 regular session. Since the Legislature writes the budget on a biennial basis, it is often necessary to make adjustments to the current biennium's budget. This adjustment is typically made through passage of a supplemental appropriations bill. HB 15 was the supplemental appropriations bill this session. The bill appropriated $285 million and reduced other appropriations by $502 million, resulting in a reduction of over $216 million.
The Legislature maintained its commitment to reduce property taxes by passing HB 2. The bill appropriates $14.1 billion to the Texas Education Agency. This money will be distributed to local school districts throughout the state to offset property tax reductions.
Seniors and disabled Texans did not receive the property tax relief passed by the Legislature last year because property tax rates for seniors and disabled Texans are constitutionally frozen. Early this session, the Legislature passed SJR 13 to extend this relief to these groups. Voters in a statewide election on May 12, 2007 adopted this constitutional amendment.
During the 2006 Special Session, the Legislature revised the business franchise tax as part of the school finance and property tax reforms. This session, HB 3928 was passed to make technical corrections to the new business franchise (or margins tax as some refer to it). These changes will go into effect January 1, 2008. Among numerous changes, the bill modifies the calculation of tax for taxable entities with total revenue between $300,000 and $900,000 by applying a sliding discount scale ranging from 80% for taxable entities with total revenue less than $400,000 to 20% for taxable entities with total revenue greater than $700,000 but less than $900,000. Taxable entities with total revenue of less than $300,000 owe no tax. Prior to the passage of HB 3928, small businesses with total revenue over $300,000 would have been subject to 100% of the revised business franchise tax. Making technical corrections to the tax and closing certain loopholes balanced the revenue lost from this change.
With the Legislature's passage of SJR 65, Texans will have the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment authorizing the issuance of $1 billion in general obligation bonds. The revenue from these bonds will go towards projects already authorized by the Legislature including the construction of three new prisons and repairs at many of our state parks.
3. Health and Human Services
In an effort to control the rising costs of state and federal programs, SB 10, a comprehensive Medicaid reform bill, was passed by the Legislature. In 1997, 14% of the state budget was for Medicaid. It currently accounts for 25% of the budget. The measure includes many reforms intended to emphasize preventative care and healthy life-styles. To further reduce costs, the bill also expands fraud and abuse prevention efforts and allows hospital emergency rooms to charge co-pays to Medicaid patients for non-emergency visits.
In reaction to the deaths last summer of three children who were in the care of foster homes, SB 758 was passed to make numerous reforms to our state's foster care system. The bill requires annual, unannounced inspections of foster homes and reduces the reliance on private contractors for certain management and investigative activities. It will also accelerate the privatization of the recruiting of foster homes and arranging adoptions.
In order to increase enrollment in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Legislature passed HB 109. When the state was facing a $10 billion budget deficit in 2003, numerous changes were made to CHIP. The effect of these changes was to reduce the overall enrollment. HB 109 reverses many of these changes, including basing income eligibility levels on net rather than gross family income, increasing a family's allowable asset limit to $10,000, and increasing the enrollment period from six to twelve months. It is estimated that under HB 109 an additional 127,000 children will be eligible for CHIP.
In an effort to find a cure for cancer, the Legislature passed HB 14 and HJR 90. HB 14 establishes the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute, while HJR 90, if approved by voters on November 6, 2007 will authorize $3 billion in general obligation bonds. These bonds will give $300 million a year for ten years to universities, hospitals, and other cancer research institutions to be used for the purpose of scientific research of all forms of human cancer.
In response to concerns surrounding the use of call centers to determine eligibility for many of our state's social service programs, the Legislature passed HB 3575, which increases legislative oversight of these call centers. Among other things, the bill aims to increase the quality of, and client access to, services provided through call centers; implement more efficient business processes that will reduce processing times for applications for program benefits; and implement simplified application and enrollment processes for various health and human service programs.
Health and Human Services legislation that failed to pass:
*HB 9 would have enacted a statewide smoking ban in most public buildings.
*SB 439 would have extended the time period a hospital or other health care facility must provide life-sustaining treatment to individuals when such care is found to be medically futile.
Following tuition deregulation in 2003, the state closed enrollment in the Texas Tomorrow Fund since it was no longer possible to predict future tuition rates. With the passage of HB 3900, the Legislature created the Texas Tomorrow Fund II to help provide Texas families more predictability in planning for the cost of higher education. The program allows families to purchase units, each worth one-percent of one year's tuition and fees at a public university with the units available in three tiers corresponding to the highest, medium, and least expensive colleges and universities. The funds from the purchase of these units will be invested and if universities raise tuition and fees at a slower rate than the earnings on the investment, they will make money on the program; if increases in tuition and fees outpace the return on investment, the universities will have to make up that difference.
Under current law, there is no standardization of the calculation of high school students' grade point averages (GPA). Since GPA is used as a factor in college admissions and for certain types of financial aid, the Legislature addressed this lack of standardization by passing HB 3851. The bill requires the Higher Education Coordinating Board to establish rules for computing high school GPAs. The methodology will be based on a 4.0 scale, but also allow weight for honors courses, allowing for GPAs that are above a 4.0.
Higher Education legislation that failed to pass:
*Legislation that would have re-regulated tuition to state higher education institutions.
*SB 101 would have capped the number of incoming students admitted under the top 10% law.
*SB 105 would have authorized the University of North Texas System to establish a law school in downtown Dallas. Later attempts by the bill's author to amend such language to another bill also failed to pass.
In previous sessions, the Legislature appropriated funds to reduce high school dropouts. This session, the Legislature passed HB 2237, which creates the High School Completion and Success Initiative Board to oversee the administration of these funds and many of the state's dropout prevention programs. The bill also establishes a number of pilot programs, such as an intensive technology-based academic intervention program and a program to provide funds for intensive academic summer programs to promote college and workforce readiness to at-risk students.
High school athletes will be randomly tested for steroids under SB 8, which was passed by the Legislature this session. The University Interscholastic League (UIL) will administer the program, and the state has budgeted $3 million to fund the testing. Athletes who test positive or refuse to be tested could be suspended from play although the UIL has flexibility to set rules and penalties. SB 8 will be implemented in time for the upcoming school year.
In response to various complaints about the state's testing program, the Legislature passed SB 1031. The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test will be replaced with comprehensive end-of-course exams for students in grades 9 through 12. The TAKS test has faced criticisms that many teachers were teaching to the test, detracting from time spent on course instruction. Proponents of end-of-course testing argue that it will provide a better assessment of what material students have learned and retained and provide more valuable measurement of students' academic progress.
The Legislature passed SB 1517, strengthening the no-pass, no-play rule. Current law provides an exemption for honors and advanced placement courses. This exemption was enacted to make sure that students would not be discouraged from taking such courses. However, some school districts have classified classes such as choir and photography as honors courses, contrary to the intent of the original exemption. SB 1517 would only allow honors classes in core-subject areas to be exempt from the no-pass, no-play rule.
With the passage of SB 530, elementary and middle schools will be required to place a greater emphasis on PE and other physical activity. The bill requires students in kindergarten through fifth grade to have at least 30 minutes of "moderate or vigorous" daily physical activity through either PE or structured recess. Middle-school students will be required to take 30 minutes of daily exercise for four semesters. Furthermore, the bill requires schools to evaluate the physical fitness of every student each year and report the results to the state. SB 530 will take effect for the upcoming school year.
Two bills that address religion in public schools were passed by the Legislature this session. HB 1287 allows school districts to offer elective courses on the Old and New Testament. Any courses offered under this bill must follow applicable laws in maintaining religious neutrality and accommodating the diverse religious views, traditions, and perspectives of students in each district. The Texas Education Agency and the State Board of Education will develop guidelines to aid school districts that offer such courses. HB 3678 clarifies when religious speech may be used in public schools and allow schools to create a limited public forum at events such as graduations in which students may invoke religion.
The Legislature passed two bills designed to improve school bus safety. The first, HB 323, will require that new school buses purchased after September 1, 2010 be equipped with three point seat belts. The bill does not require districts to retrofit their current fleet of buses, nor does it require districts to comply with the legislation unless the Legislature appropriates funds for that purpose. However, school districts are authorized to raise private funds to pay for the seatbelts. HB 3190 addresses many other school bus safety issues. Individuals convicted of offenses such as vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence, and leaving the scene of an accident will now be prohibited from operating a school bus for ten years rather than the current seven years. The bill also requires school bus drivers to wear seat belts if the bus is equipped with one and requires school districts to develop a school bus evacuation training program, which must be practiced with all students and teachers twice a year.
SB 9 will require teachers and other school employees, as well as certain volunteers, to undergo criminal background checks. The State Board of Educator Certification may revoke a teacher's certification if that teacher is found to have been convicted of certain felony or misdemeanor offenses. Furthermore, the bill requires a school district to discharge or refuse to hire an applicant who has been convicted of certain felonies: an offense that requires registration as a sex offender, or an offense in which the victim is under the age of 18 or registered in public school.
The Legislature passed SB 1846, which modifies the Teacher Retirement System (TRS). The bill raises the state's contribution to the TRS fund to 6.58% for the current biennium, which translates to an additional $640 million. The bill also provides for an additional "13th check" for retired teachers in September 2007, provided the TRS Board determines the fund is actuarially sound.
Public Education legislation that failed to pass:
*SB 1643 would have modified the teacher evaluation process.
*SB 1000 would have created a voucher program for students with autism.
*SB 4 would have established stricter performance standards and sanctions for charter schools.
5. Criminal Justice
HB 8, also known as Jessica's Law, strengthens the penalties for sexual assault of a minor. The bill extends the statute of limitations for reporting cases of sexual abuse against children, strengthens the penalties for cases of child prostitution and child pornography, allows the Texas Attorney General to assist local prosecutors in child molestation cases, and requires a 25-year minimum sentence for those convicted of violent sexual assault against young children. In addition, the bill creates a new offense, "Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child or Children." The new law is designed to give district attorneys the tools they need to get convictions and put dangerous child predators in jail. The bill also gives prosecutors discretion in seeking the death penalty or life without parole in cases dealing with repeat violent offenders. SB 6, which the Legislature also passed, strengthens penalties for Internet solicitation of a minor and creates new tools for law enforcement to fight such offenses.
Following revelations of sexual abuse of inmates by guards at Texas Youth Commission (TYC) facilities, the Legislature enacted numerous reforms to the agency. The Legislature passed SB 103 which increases the number of guards and their training, provides for the separation of inmates by age and crimes, and allows the Attorney General to offer assistance to local prosecutors in prosecuting crimes occurring within TYC facilities. The Legislature also passed HB 914, which establishes an Office of Inspector General to investigate crimes committed at TYC facilities. The bill also requires peace officers, who will report to the Inspector General, to be placed in TYC regional offices and certain facilities.
The Legislature also passed SB 909, which makes numerous reforms to Texas' adult corrections and parole system. Among these reforms, SB 909 will allow judges to recommend early termination of parole for low risk offenders and improve inmates' access to and quality of healthcare. The bill also allows district judges to permit the early release of state jail inmates, who pose no threat to public safety because of their medical conditions.
Texas, along with most other states, is experiencing an upsurge in the theft of copper. A major factor in this increase is that copper has nearly doubled in price over the past year. Losses from copper theft include not only the value of the stolen copper but also losses from damage done during the process of extracting copper wire from property and equipment. This session, the Legislature passed three bills to address the copper theft problem. SB 1154 requires purchasers of certain metals, including copper, to collect and maintain certain information about the seller. The information has to be reported to and maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety. HB 1766 classifies the theft of copper, aluminum, or bronze wiring or cable, valued under $20,000, as a state jail felony. HB 1767 makes it a third degree felony for damages to transportation communications equipment valued over $100,000, since equipment such as this is often severely damaged as a result of its wiring being stolen.
The Legislature passed two bills addressing cruelty to animals. The first, HB 1411, makes it an offense to unreasonably chain a dog. In passing the bill, the author noted that chained dogs are often a greater danger to public safety and the source of numerous noise complaints. The Legislature also passed HB 2328, which expands animal cruelty offenses that are eligible for prosecution.
Dog owners will now be held responsible for attacks by their dog. Under HB 1355, a dog owner can be charged with a third degree felony, which is punishable by up to 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, if their dog makes an unprovoked attack and seriously injures someone. If the victim dies, the charge could be upgraded to a second degree felony, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The Legislature passed SB 378, the so-called "Castle Doctrine" bill. This bill expands the circumstances in which an individual is allowed to use deadly force against another individual and removes the duty for an individual to make a reasonable effort to retreat before using deadly force.
Criminal Justice legislation that failed to pass:
*HB 3930 would have removed certain restrictions relating to the number of appeals in cases relating to the disposition of animals.
6. Natural Resources
The Legislature passed HB 3, HB 4, and SB 3 to address the critical issue of managing Texas' water supply while balancing the often competing needs for water throughout our state. SB 3 is the most comprehensive of the bills and ended up including the provisions of HB 3 and HB 4. Among its numerous provisions, the bill creates a process to address environmental flows, which is the amount of water needed for a river, wetland, or coastal zone to maintain their natural ecosystems. And of great importance to the Dallas area, the bill designates 19 sites to be protected for potential development as reservoirs. This was a particularly contentious issue and was not resolved until the closing days of the session.
To address the growing problem of electronic waste, which is the primary source of heavy metals such as lead and mercury in U.S. landfills, the Legislature passed HB 2714. The bill makes computer manufacturers responsible for the recycling of their computers.
The Legislature passed SB 12, which increases the scope of the Texas Emissions Reduction Program (TERP) and the Low-Income Vehicle Repair Assistance, Retrofit, and Accelerated Vehicle Retirement Program (LIRAP). These two programs are aimed at reducing emissions from mobile sources. TERP provides financial incentives for commercial projects to reduce emissions of NOx, while LIRAP provides assistance to qualified low-income individuals whose vehicles fail an enhanced state inspection program because of unacceptable levels of NOx emissions. SB 12 also seeks to reduce statewide emissions from electrical generation units by providing for the updating of building energy codes to encourage the purchase of efficient appliances; and providing efficiency standards for school districts, institutions of higher education, state agencies, and governmental entities in counties.
The budget increases funding for state parks by over $180 million over the biennium. Among other things, the increased funding would be used for much-needed repairs to many of our parks and other capitol improvements. Also, HB 12 raises the cap on the amount of the "sporting goods" sales tax revenue that can go towards state parks. This bill also transferred 18 historic sites from Texas Parks and Wildlife to the Texas Historical Commission.
The Legislature took steps to balance the need for reliable and affordable electric power with the need to protect our environment and the air we breathe by passing HB 3732. Clean coal (a term that refers to power generation techniques distinct from current coal burning power plants), biomass, petroleum coke, and solid waste have the potential to reduce air emissions while ensuring the availability of affordable energy. These techniques are also more expensive than other energy generation techniques, so the bill creates an incentive program to be administered by the State Energy Conservation Office. The bill also streamlines the permitting process for the installation of ultra clean energy while maintaining the public's right to notices and hearings.
With Texas' growing population and economy, the need for electricity is growing as well. While new generation capacity is required, a great deal of this electricity need could be addressed through greater energy efficiency. To that end, HB 3693 proposes a wide array of energy efficiency measures. Among these are: requiring state agencies, state universities and local governments to adopt energy efficiency measures; and increasing incentives for businesses and individuals to conserve more energy. The bill also exempts energy efficient appliances from sales tax during the Memorial Day Weekend.
Natural Resources legislation that failed to pass:
*Legislation that would have placed a moratorium on the development of new coal plants in the state.
7. Business/Economic Development/Utilities
Recognizing the need to ensure access to telecommunications and other technology services for public schools, libraries, higher education institutions, and non-profit hospitals throughout the state, the Legislature created the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund (TIF) in 1995. TIF was funded by a 1.25% assessment on telecommunications services. Since that time, the original goals of TIF have been achieved; therefore, the Legislature passed HB 735 to abolish the TIF and the 1.25% assessment that funded it.
The Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC) was created by the Legislature in 2003 to, among other things, assist in disputes between homebuilders and homeowners. Builders are also required to register with the TRCC. HB 1038 gives the TRCC more disciplinary authority by allowing TRCC to penalize builders who do not register with the state and fine builders up to $100,000 for fraud or misappropriation of funds.
In recent years, surrounding states such as Louisiana and New Mexico have established incentive programs that target film and related industries, attracting millions of dollars in projects away from Texas. In response, the Legislature passed HB 1634, which creates the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program. The program will provide grants equal to 5% of in-state spending, including wages paid to Texas residents, for eligible productions such as television programs and commercials, feature films, and video games. The program was funded at $22 million for the biennium.
Other Business and Commerce/Economic Development legislation that failed to pass:
*SB 482 and SB 483 would have made numerous reforms to the recently deregulated retail electric market.
*SB 896 would have required the Public Utilities Commission to approve the sale of more than 50% of a public utility, such as the proposed sale of TXU.
8. Transportation/Homeland Security
As Texas grows, it is essential that our transportation infrastructure keeps pace. However, the Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) aggressive push for toll roads and comprehensive development agreements (CDAs), in which the state contracts with a private entity to build and operate a toll road, has led to an unbalanced approach in the minds of many legislators and caused a great deal of public concern. To address these concerns, the Legislature passed SB 792, creating a two-year moratorium on CDAs, except for specific projects and areas where local leaders requested exemptions. SB 792 also includes a provision to ensure that local toll authorities have the first option to build new toll projects and may use state right of ways as needed. The bill also sunsets the CDA statutes in 2009 and in the meantime subjects these agreements to safeguards such as a limitation on noncompete agreements, stronger buyback provisions, and reviews by the Attorney General, Legislative Budget Board, and State Auditor. SB 792 requires TxDOT to make CDA and toll project details available to the public. Additionally, it permits the Texas Transportation Commission to issue bonds secured by the State Highway Fund up to $6 billion instead of the current $3 billion cap.
Overweight trucks damage roads and the fees charged by the state do not cover all the damages caused by such vehicles. HB 2093, addresses these problems by increasing certain fees for overweight truck permits with a portion of the increase to be used to address the timely issuance of permits and enforcement efforts against violators of the motor vehicle size and weight laws of this state. The bill provides administrative penalties against shippers and motor carriers, sets forth the administrative hearing process, and provides for injunctive relief. Finally, this bill authorizes the Texas Department of Transportation to deny, suspend, or revoke the registration of a person who violates overweight truck statutes.
Revenue for transportation is insufficient and overly reliant on toll roads and other unreliable sources. To address this transportation funding issue, the Legislature passed SJR 64, which I authored. If approved by voters on November 6, 2007, it will authorize up to $5 billion in general obligation bonds for transportation.
Although cities have been utilizing red light cameras under a loophole in the state law, the Legislature had never established guidelines for their use, the distribution of the revenue they generate, or the maximum fine that may be assessed for running a red light that is monitored by a red light camera. SB 1119, which the Legislature passed, regulates the cameras, requires cameras to be warranted by traffic studies before installation, allows cities to retain sufficient revenue for the camera programs, and directs half of the remaining revenue to local traffic safety programs, and the other half to regional trauma care and EMS.
Current law regarding visibility of license plates is too broad. In some instances, individuals were getting tickets for having license plate frames that obscured purely cosmetic features such as the cowboy on the horse. SB 369 clarifies that a vehicle is not in violation of the law as long as the state in which the vehicle is registered and the license plate number are not obscured or altered.
SB 11 is a comprehensive homeland and border security bill that addresses numerous issues relating to criminal activity along the Texas-Mexico border and natural and man-made disasters. Among its numerous provisions, the bill creates a near-real-time database for temporary tags, making it safer for law enforcement that approach vehicles with temporary tags and reducing crime and fraud associated with these documents. It expands the use of wiretaps to include kidnapping, human trafficking, and money laundering; enhances information that can be collected in a criminal street gang database; allows school boards to close meetings when discussing school security plans; provides resources for higher education institutions to address safety in response to the Virginia Tech incident; establishes a baseline mutual aid agreement to reduce red tape in disaster response; provides training for local officials on emergency management and the Emergency Alert System; gives large cities access to funds to enforce truck safety; increases the availability of amateur radio and search/rescue volunteers for disasters; and creates a Border Security Council to advise the Governor.
In Louisiana, during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, police were confiscating firearms from homes and from people who were not violating any laws. To ensure that incidents such as this do not happen in Texas, the Legislature passed SB 112, which prohibits the confiscation of firearms unless a law is being violated.
Transportation and Homeland Security legislation that failed to pass:
*SB 137 would have expanded county authority to regulate billboards.
*SB 459 would have prohibited members of the Texas Transportation Commission from accepting gifts from individuals with business before the Texas Department of Transportation.
*Legislation that would have raised more state funds for transportation infrastructure by indexing the motor fuels tax to the highway construction index and reducing the diversion of transportation funds to purposes other than transportation.
9. Other Bills of Interest
Under HJR 19, Texans will have the opportunity to vote on an amendment to the Texas Constitution that will require that each house of the Legislature record and make available on the Internet votes on final passage of substantive legislation, excluding certain local bills.
Concealed handgun licenses will no longer be subject to open records requests under HB 991, which the Legislature passed this session. The bill still allows state or local law enforcement agencies to find out if an individual has a concealed handgun license. Supporters of the bill say that the state should protect the privacy of the holders of concealed handgun licenses and that the public availability of such information can put license holders at risk.
HB 1495 establishes a Landowner's Bill of Rights, which any entity seeking to acquire property through eminent domain must provide to the most recent landowner. The bill of rights will inform property owners of notice of the proposed property acquisition, a good faith effort to negotiate on the part of the entity proposing the use of eminent domain, an assessment of damages to the owner that would result from the acquisition, and their right to a hearing and to an appeal of any consequent judgment.
HB 2685 increases the marriage license fee from $30 to $60 and establishes a premarital counseling course. For those couples who complete the course, the marriage license fee, as well as the 72-hour waiting period after issuance of the license, shall be waived.
Following the success of the Amber Alert Program for missing or abducted children, SB 1315 establishes a Silver Alert for missing seniors. The bill requires the Texas Department of Public Safety to develop an alert system for missing senior citizens.
HB 3101 strengthens and clarifies tenants' rights. Among its protections, the bill places reasonable limits on late fees, requires landlords to give prospective renters details about the rental criteria used, and ensures that all leases have information about a renter's rights regarding repairs.
HB 1034 will add the words "under God" to the Texas Pledge. The pledge will now read: "Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible."
Following the passage of HB 3430, individuals will now have greater access to state spending. The bill creates a single, searchable, and publicly available online database of state expenditures.
Under HB 3319, backpacks will now be exempt from sales tax during the annual back-to-school sales tax holiday.
10. Other Issues That Failed to
*SB 785 and SB 920 would have made changes to our state's abortion laws.
*SJR 49 would have restricted the service of a gubernatorial appointee whose term has expired.
*HJR 59 would have created a five day special session, during which the Legislature could conduct no other business than overriding gubernatorial vetoes.
*HB 218 would have required an individual to show a photo ID, or some other form of identification, to vote.
*HB 2017 would have moved primary elections to the first Tuesday in February.
*HB 626 would have required an individual to verify citizenship when registering to vote.
*SB 59 would have established standards for law enforcement agencies to conduct sobriety checkpoints.
*Legislation that would have expanded the state's role in enforcing federal immigration laws.
*Legislation that would have suspended collection of the state gas tax this summer.
*SB 1359 and SJR 45 would have allowed the development of casinos in Texas, as well as other gambling expansion measures.
*HB 110 and HB 111 would have established campaign contribution limits.
*Governor Perry's initiative to sell the Texas Lottery; proceeds from the sale of the lottery would have funded cancer research and other initiatives.
*SB 270 would have required disclosure of the sales price of real property.
11. Governor's Vetoes
This past Sunday, June 17, 2007, was the deadline for Governor Perry to veto legislation. Governor Perry vetoed 51 bills that were passed by the Legislature. Among the bills he vetoed:
*HB 2006 would have placed restrictions on local governments' ability to condemn property through eminent domain.
*HB 770 would have required the state to notify ex-convicts of their right to vote.
*HB 1205 would have prohibited an employer from firing an employee, who is also a volunteer emergency responder, for being absent or late to work due to their responding to an emergency.
*SB 711 would have allowed Texas businesses to apply and pay for certain state permits online.
*SB 1234 would have directed the Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop a master plan addressing such issues as financial aid and the need for more public flagship universities.
For a complete list of vetoed bills, click here.
In Closing . . .
Although the content of this update was lengthy, it was not exhaustive. If you have an interest in a bill or subject that was not included, please contact my office for a follow up. The next edition of the Email Update will return to our regular format.
Enjoy our Texas summer!
State Senator - District 16
|Capitol Office||District Offices|
|P.O. Box 12068|
Austin, TX 78711
|8080 N. Central Expy.|
Suite 1440, LB 44
Dallas, TX 75206
|5401 N. Central Expy.|
Dallas, TX 75205