April 29th, 2009 at 3:29 pm
The 81st legislative session is rapidly drawing to a close. The House and Senate have each passed their version of the budget for the next two years. A conference committee made up of members from each body will soon be named and get to work reconciling the differences in the two bills. A budget is the only piece of legislation that is constitutionally required to pass every legislative session. The Senate passed their budget on April 1 and the House worked to the wee hours of the morning of Saturday, April 18 to pass their version. Many reporters and other observers noted the relatively uncontroversial debate on the budget in the house which eventually passed unanimously, 149-0.
The remaining weeks of the session will be marked by an increased pace on the floor of both the House and the Senate as they each consider many of the hundreds of bills that have been reported by committees thus far. Legislators, lobbyists, advocates and citizens alike will be working hard to insure that their favorite bills find a place at the very busy table. The month of May will bring numerous deadlines that will determine the fate of bills that have not made it far enough in the legislative process to pass this session. Many bills that are doomed to fail on their own will likely be added as amendments to other bills with similar subject matter.
As with every session the CLC has a long list of bills that we have been working to pass or to prevent from passing. The following list is made up of key bills in each of our issue areas along with where they are in the legislative process. We have included links to other organizations that are also working in Austin on these bills. Please contact the CLC in our Austin office to find out how you can best lend your voice to support or oppose a bill that you care about.
Alcohol & Addiction
SB 1344 – Sen. Watson (D-Austin) Heard in Senate Ed on 4/16 Suzii testified recommended for local and uncontested. 4/21 This bill would require the State Board of Education, in adopting the essential knowledge and skills for the health curriculum, to adopt essential knowledge and skills that address the dangers, causes, consequences, signs, symptoms, and treatment of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning. Requires the Texas Education Agency to compile a list of evidence-based alcohol awareness programs from which a school district is required to choose a program to use in the district’s middle school, junior high school, and high school health curriculum.
HB 2096 – Rep. Eissler (R-The Woodlands) This bill would create a keg registration program in Texas that would attach information regarding the purchaser to a keg of beer. This law would help law enforcement officials easily identify an individual who has served alcohol to a minor in a party setting that is raided by police. The CLC testified in favor of this bill and it is currently pending in the Licensing and Administrative Procedure Committee.
Children & Family Issues
SB 2248 – Sen. Zaffirini (D-Laredo) This bill directs public school systems to provide transition assistance students in foster care to ease the process of changing schools. Passed Senate Education and recommended for local and uncontested calendar.
SB 282 – Sen. Nelson (R- Lewisville) This bill creates a nutrition outreach program through the Texas Department of Agriculture to promote better health and nutrition programs and prevent obesity among children in this state. It also creates a grant program that promotes nutrition education. Passed the Senate on 4/21 and will move to the Hosue.
SB 867 – Sen. Lucio (D- Brownsville) This bill seeks to increase participation by low income students in the summer nutrition program. Passed the Senate on 4/24 and will move to the House.
HB 109/SB 1098 – Choose Life License Plates
HB 109 Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) and SB 1098 Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) The Choose Life license plate will promote infant adoption. Funds raised from the sale of the plates will be available for organizations that assist pregnant women who might consider adoption, including pregnancy resource centers, Gabriel Projects, maternity homes, and adoption agencies. Of the $30 annual fee for the plates, $22 will go to this mission; $8 will go for administrative costs.
SB 182 – Sen. Patrick (R-Houston) This bill amends the Woman’s Right to Know Act to require physicians to provide an obstetric ultrasound on a pregnant woman at least two hours before performing an abortion. Passed the State Affairs Committee and placed on the Senate Intent Calendar to be debated and voted on on 4/24.
Church & State
HB 492 – Rep. Zerwas (R-Katy) aims to expand the outreach capacity of small and medium sized faith- and community-based organizations to serve Texans in need of basic social services. The bill also establishes governmental liaisons, an interagency group, a non-profit task force, and an advisory committee that will all function to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of faith- and community- based organizations and improve the collaboration between state agencies and these organizations.
HB 788 – Rep. Thompson (D-Houston) & SB 115 – Sen. Ellis (D-Houston) These bills would establish a Texas Innocence Commission to look at the cases that resulted in an exoneration after a conviction to determine what went wrong in the case and recommend to the legislature any improvement in law that might help prevent wrongful conviction. The CLC provided testimony in support of HB 788. It is currently pending in House Criminal Jurisprudence.
SB 1 – Floor Amendment #85 – Rep. Heflin (D-Crosbyton) The amendment states that “none of the funds appropriated above may be spent to pay for a public education voucher program or a public education voucher pilot program.”
SB 1313 – Shapiro (R-Plano) Career and Technology Education and Adult Education Funding
SB 1726 – West (D-Dallas) Dropout Prevention and Recovery
HB 821 –Rep. Leibowitz (D-San Antonio) This bill would create a TV recycling program with manufacturer responsibility much like the computer take back law passed last session. The CLC supports this bill and spoke in favor of passage at a press conference on 4/22/09.
SB 184 – Sen. Watson (D-Austin) This bill, often referred to as the “no regrets” bill, would direct the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to compile a list of strategies for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in this state. SB 184 requires that the strategies either result in net savings for consumers or businesses or can be achieved without financial cost to consumers or businesses.
SB 545 – Sen. Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) This bill would greatly expand the renewable solar energy industry in Texas. SB 545 provides for the establishment of a distributed solar generation incentive program by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC), and requires the state energy conservation office of the comptroller’s office to establish a pilot revolving loan program for solar energy for school buildings. This bill passed the Senate on 4/21/09 and will now move to the House.
SB 16 – Sen. Averitt (R – Waco) This bill is a very broad clean-air bill that furthers the goals of SB 12, from last session by modifying and enhancing the Texas Emissions Reduction Program and the Low Income Vehicle Repair Assistance, Retrofit, and Accelerated Vehicle Retirement Program. The bill also contains provisions that help to incentivize the adoption of innovative clean air technologies including a rebate program for plug-in hybrid passenger vehicles and support for electricity storage projects related to renewable energy. The bill also provides incentives for new, point source-oriented air quality technologies, modifies and enhances existing state air quality programs, and establishes appliance standards and energy efficient building codes. SB 16 passed the Senate on 4/16/09 and will next be considered by the House Environmental Regulations Committee.
HB 222 – Rep. Menendez (D-San Antonio)
House Bill 222 erroneously purports that poker is a game solely of skill, and has no element of chance. The presence of chance in poker is introduced through the shuffling of the deck of cards prior to the deal and is also demonstrated in the proposed electronic poker tables through the existence of a random number generator program that shuffle the electronic facsimiles of the playing cards.
CLC Recommends – Vote No on House Bill 222 (pdf)
Health & Long Term Care
SB 6 – Sen. Duncan (R-Lubbock) This bill, known as the Healthy Texas program would provide access to health insurance for small employers, including qualifying churches through a public/private partnership between the State of Texas and small business.
TX Impact – texasimpact.org
Immigration & Trafficking
Things are looking good for the major trafficking legislation, SB 89 and HB 639.
Other significant bills that have passed out of committee:
HB 530 – Anchia – Relating to law enforcement training relating to the trafficking of persons.
HB 533 – Anchia - Relating to civil liability for the trafficking of persons.
HB 639 – Thompson (house companion to SB 89 Van De Putte) Relating to trafficking of person or certain forced or sex-based labor, law enforcement training relating to trafficking of persons, and the creation of the trafficking of persons investigation and prosecution account.
HB 1372 – Shelton - Relating to the definition of victim in relation to certain crime victims’ rights.
HB 2740 – Rep. Bolton (D-Austin) This bill would license and regulate overnight youth recreational facilities that are not already covered by state law regarding youth “camps.” The bill passed the House Human Services Committee on Thursday, April 23.
HB 3744 – Rep. Marquez (D – El Paso) This bill would amend the Finance Code so that credit service organizations that obtain, facilitate, or assist a consumer in obtaining an extension of credit, including a motor vehicle certificate of title, must be licensed by the Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner (OCCC). The licensing requirement would help the state better regulate payday lenders that many consider a predatory business. In addition, the OCCC must establish a database to monitor the compliance of credit service organizations. The bill was heard on 4/21 and left pending in the Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee.
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