The Senate voted Saturday to send a proposed constitutional amendment to Texas voters which would define marriage as the union between one man and one woman, subject to voter approval. The amendment came in the form of House Joint Resolution 6, sponsored by Palestine Senator Todd Staples. Last session, the Senate created a law that similarly defined marriage, but there was concern from some Senators that this law could face a constitutional challenge in state court. Staples said this proposed amendment, if passed, would prevent that from happening. "We want to continue the law that was passed last session, protect the institution of marriage and place that to the will of the voters to take it out of the hands of the court," said Staples. Barring a veto from the Governor, the voters will decide whether to add this definition of marriage to the Texas constitution in November.
Also Saturday, the Senate passed the Omnibus Transportation Bill, House Bill 2702, which makes a number of changes to transportation-related statutes in Texas. The bill would require that whichever governmental entity that operates a toll road, be it state, county, or local,determine the toll rate on that road. It also facilitates the building contracts between the Texas Department of Transportation and private companies. Several amendments were added to the bill, including one that would require that drivers who pass cyclists on the road move to a safe distance and slow down to a safe speed to avoid hitting the bicycle.
The Teacher's Retirement System of Texas, which covers pensions and health care for retired teachers, would get an overhaul under a bill passed by the Senate Wednesday. HB 1691, sponsored by Lubbock Senator Robert Duncan, attempts to address a future shortfall in the system by changing how teacher pensions are calculated, increasing the member contribution, and raising the retirement age from 55 to 60. Most current teachers would be grandfathered in under the bill, so they would likely see little change to their retirement benefits. Duncan said the state needs to address this problem sooner rather than later. "If we don't take the steps today to bring the fund into actuarial soundness, then we may never catch up," said Duncan. "The cost will be too great."
Also Wednesday, the Senate approved a measure that would require parental consent for minors who are seeking an abortion. HB 1150, sponsored by Senator Chris Harris of Arlington, would make it necessary for a parent to agree before a minor 17 years of age or younger could terminate a pregnancy. The bill allows for a judge to overrule this requirement in the face of extenuating circumstances, such as a health risk to the minor in giving birth, or if obtaining parental approval could result in physical or sexual abuse. Doctors who violate this law would face a $10,000 fine.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, May 23, at 11 a.m.