Well the state legislature has finally passed the draconian budget bill, but they've been doing other things besides this, the sanctuary cities law, sonograms before abortions and voter ID law. Last year when I was looking through the laws passed by legislators I was frustrated by how tedious it was, so I decided to make it easier for Bexar County residents to see what bills their legislators passed this session by listing each bill with a brief explanation (for more detail click the links). I have the state representatives listed first in order of their district number and then the state senators. If you aren't sure who your representatives are click here. If you don't live in Bexar County you can check this website to see what laws your state representative passed. Just click on you legislators name, then go to the bottom of the page and click bills authored. For your state senator check this website, click on the senator's name and then go to the bottom of the page to click bills authored.
The last day of the Texas legislative regular session was May 30, 2011. Yep, they had to work on Memorial Day. Governor Rick Perry has until August 29, 2011 to sign the bills into law. If he vetoes a bill, it's dead, but if he doesn't sign it, the bill will become law anyway. By not signing a bill the governor shows that he doesn't expressly endorse the bill, but he's also not opposed to its passage. Since the legislature, particularly the House is so Republican this year, bills that are sent to the Governor's Office have a pretty good chance of becoming law.
Bexar County legislators have been hard at work and have filed over 700 bills. About 140 have a pretty good chance of becoming laws. So who was the most prolific? Well in the House it was Ruth McClendon Jones (D) District 120 with 14 bills and in the Senate it was Judith Zaffirini (D) District 21 who far outstripped her colleagues in both the Senate and the House with a whopping 31 bills. It will be a sad day for San Antonio if the Republicans force their will in the redistricting battle and we lose Senator Zaffirini.
This post is pretty long so I've tried to put a brief description of each bill in bold, so you don't have to read the longer description. (I tried to make jump links to go to each legislator but I couldn't make it work.) If you want to know more about the bill click on the link.
Trey Martinez Fischer (D) District 116
HB 2973 (passed H and S)
Protection of Citizen's rights to petition, free speech and association without fear of lawsuits
Citizen participation is the heart of our democracy. Whether petitioning the government, writing a traditional news article, or commenting on the quality of a business, involvement of citizens in the exchange of idea benefits our society. Yet frivolous lawsuits aimed at silencing those involved in these activities are becoming more common, and are a threat to the growth of our democracy. The Internet age has created a more permanent and searchable record of public participation as citizen participation in democracy grows through self-publishing, citizen journalism, and other forms of speech. Unfortunately, abuses of the legal system, aimed at silencing these citizens, have also grown. These lawsuits are called Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation or "SLAAP" suits. C.S.H.B. 2973 amends current law relating to encouraging public participation by citizens by protecting a person's right to petition, right of free speech, and right of association from meritless lawsuits arising from actions taken in furtherance of those rights.HB 1199 (passed H and S)
Higher penalty for intoxication assault with a motor vehicle if the victim is in a persistent vegetative state
Under current law, a person who commits a driving while intoxicated offense and causes serious bodily injury to another individual can be charged with intoxication assault, which is a third degree felony, with certain exceptions. Serious bodily injury is defined as an injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ. Currently, there is no distinction between a driving while intoxicated offense that causes serious bodily injury and such an offense that leaves a person in a persistent vegetative state.HB 3727 (passed H and S)
C.S.H.B. 1199 seeks to address this issue by creating a penalty for an intoxication assault if the commission of the offense leaves a person in a persistent vegetative state.
Alternate method for determining market value of temporary production aircraft
The property tax on tangible personal property may be based on the property's market value. Interested parties argue that a temporary production aircraft, or an aircraft being manufactured and assembled in Texas and only temporarily located in the state, is not yet ready for registration or flight by a certified air carrier, so the published list price for a completed aircraft is not an accurate indication of the actual market value of the aircraft while it is still in production.
H.B. 3727 seeks to address this situation by establishing an alternate method for determining the market value of a temporary production aircraft that is reflective of the value of the property in its current state of manufacture.
John V Garza (R) District 117
HB 2144 (passed H and S)
Uniform Election Date Exceptions
In recent years, the Texas Legislature revised the Election Code to provide for uniform election dates. The legislators responsible for these reforms may not have taken into account the unique circumstances for newly incorporated municipalities, some of which may have to wait until the next general election date to elect an initial city council. This can leave a new city without local government for many months. C.S.H.B. 2144 seeks to address the unique election situation of newly incorporated municipalities by exempting the initial election of a newly incorporated city from uniform election date requirements and allowing a city to choose its general election date from among the available general election dates.HB 2596 (passed H and S)
Allows 25 mile per hour speed limit on one lane roads
Dangerous conditions may exist on one-lane public roads in Texas that are used for two-way traffic. Interested parties observe that current law allows a municipality to lower the speed limit on certain roads to 25 miles per hour but does not include one-lane roads.Joint Author
C.S.H.B. 2596 amends current law relating to the authority of certain municipalities to lower speed limits on certain highways.
HB 1503 (passed H and S)
Relating to the qualifications to serve as a special peace officer at a polling place
Under current law the presiding judge in an election precinct is responsible for the management and conduct of the election, including selecting the appointment of special peace officers. However, there are no qualifications regarding who can serve as a special peace officer.The amendment requires that the person is only qualified to be a special peace officer if they are already a licensed peace officer.
H.B. 1503 amends current law relating to the qualifications to serve as a special peace officer at a polling place.
HB 1559 (passed H and S)
The preservation of scores of written relics of Texas history is being threatened because of the simple need to create space for more recent documents in Texas courthouses. The Texas Supreme Court recently established a court records preservation task force charged with the preservation and appropriate distribution of these irreplaceable documents. Interested parties assert that although there is a moratorium on the shredding of documents before a certain date, other documents after that date remain at risk. C.S.H.B. 1559 seeks to preserve examples of Texas history by making changes relating to the retention, storage, and destruction of certain court documents.HB 2061 (passed H and S)
Requirement that death notices be sent to the state registrar (probably to keep voting records up-to-date)
Requires a person, including a local registrar, physician, midwife, or funeral director, who has information relating to a birth, death, or fetal death, on the state registrar's demand, to supply the information to the state registrar in person, by mail, or through the local registrar. Requires the person to supply the information on a form provided by the Texas Department of Health or on the original certificate.HB 3573 (passed H and S)
Limits disclosure for certain charitable organizations
Charitable giving through philanthropic organizations is an effective way to support those citizens who are in need while reducing demand for services provided by the government. Interested parties note that such organizations have a right to self-governance and to direct where donated money is allocated. H.B. 3573 seeks to establish provisions relating to limiting the disclosure of certain information regarding certain charitable organizations, trusts, private foundations, and grant-making organizations in order to encourage giving in the private sector.Joe Farias (D) District 118
H.B. 3573 amends current law relating to limiting the disclosure of certain information regarding certain charitable organizations, trusts, private foundations, and grant-making organizations.
HB 692 (passed H and S)
PE Waiver for Students with Disabilities
Physical education is a required curriculum element and an essential part of the state's basic educational program. Interested parties assert that every student is entitled to participate in a physical activity program, specially designed if necessary, as a well-planned, sequential program of physical education contributes significantly to the learning experience of all students, particularly students with disabilities. Certain students with extreme disabilities, however, have conditions which preclude them from active participation in general physical education. H.B. 692 seeks to allow a student who is unable to participate in physical activity due to disability or illness to substitute one credit in English language arts, mathematics, science, or social studies or one academic elective credit for the physical education credit.HB 826 (passed H ans S)
Facilitates school transfers for children place in a conservatorship of the state
When a child is placed in the conservatorship of the state, the child may be displaced from his or her school, depending on the location of available foster care. This change can have a detrimental effect on the child's development, particularly given the circumstances that lead to state conservatorship. Currently, there is no designated employee in a school district who monitors the transfer or enrollment of such children within public schools. H.B. 826 seeks to ease the negative effects of school transfers on a child in the conservatorship of the state by appointing at least one school district employee as a liaison officer to facilitate the enrollment in or transfer to a public school of such a child.HB 1426 (passed H and S)
H.B. 826 amends current law relating to facilitating the enrollment in or transfer to a public school district of a student in the conservatorship of the state.
Collection of Fees and Court Costs by Counties
Legislation enacted several years ago required certain counties to implement a collection improvement program in accordance with the model program developed by the Office of Court Administration of the Texas Judicial System. It is noted that current law does not name a commissioners court as an entity authorized to collect certain court costs, fees, and fines associated with the program and that any employee who handles the collected money must be an employee of an entity allowed to collect money under the collection improvement program. These statutory requirements can reportedly cause administrative problems. H.B. 1426 seeks to address these problems by allowing the commissioners court of a county in which the collection improvement program has been implemented to collect applicable court costs, fees, and fines.HB 1514 (passed H and S)
Veterans Driver's License Designation
Many businesses and organizations provide benefits to veterans, but veterans often must provide proof of military service to qualify for them. Some veterans have pointed out that it is cumbersome to constantly carry discharge paperwork with them. Adding a "veteran" designation to a driver's license issued to a veteran would make it easier for a veteran to provide proof of military service. H.B. 1514 would allow a veteran to present proof of military service to the Department of Public Safety and have a small endorsement added to the veteran's driver's license.HB 1784 (passed H and S)
Use the Public Assistance Reporting Information System to enroll veterans in Medicaid
Close to a decade ago, the State of Washington began using a United States Department of Health and Human Services national database called the Public Assistance Reporting Information System (PARIS) for a pilot program aimed at locating veterans who were on the state's Medicaid system, but were unknowingly eligible for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs or Department of Defense. If the federal benefits were of better quality than the ones provided by the state, the veteran could relinquish the Medicaid benefits and enroll in the federal system. The pilot program eventually grew into a statewide program that reportedly saved the state's Medicaid program approximately $18 million in just seven years by enrolling roughly 5,600 veterans and their families in federal benefit programs.HB 1789 (law)
The Legislative Budget Board recently recommended the use of the PARIS system as a way to save state funds by identifying veterans who are in the state Medicaid system but are also entitled to federal benefits. H.B. 1784 seeks to implement this recommendation by authorizing a memorandum of understanding among certain state agencies for the purposes of coordinating and collecting data from PARIS to identify new strategies for state agencies to use that data in ways that generate fiscal savings for the state and maximize the availability of and access to benefits for veterans.
Allows state funds to be paid directly to counties for elections
Currently, state funds may be used to pay expenses incurred by a political party in connection with a primary election. The secretary of state (SOS) is responsible for reviewing and approving payment of estimated expenses for the primary election to the county chair of each party. The county is reimbursed by the county chair for the costs incurred for the primary elections, which typically are conducted by a county election officer. H.B. 1789 will allow state funds to be paid directly to the county and assist in reducing any delay of payment.HB 2928 (passed H and S)
H.B. 1789 amends current law relating to the payment of state funds directly to an entity that conducts a primary election under contract in certain counties.
Parking privileges for Silver Star recipients
The Silver Star Medal is awarded to anyone in the armed forces who displays extraordinary heroism in action against an enemy, is engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly foreign forces is engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.Joint Author
However, Silver Star Medal recipients are not eligible for privileged parking in state-maintained parking lots and at state-maintained parking meters.
H.B. 2928, if adopted, would allow members who have the Silver Star Medal license plate to receive the same privileges under Section 681.008, Transportation Code. This would include free parking at any government-owned parking meter or parking lot other than those owned by the federal government.
HB 74 (law)
Disposition of Remains for Members of the Armed Services
Current law relating to the disposition of human remains does not provide for the accommodation of the express, written wishes of members of the United States armed forces through execution of the federally prescribed DD Form 93, or Record of Emergency Data. H.B. 74 includes this form among the written instruments that can be used to control the disposition of the remains of a service member who dies while on active duty or otherwise meets the criteria described in federal law.H.B. 74 amends current law relating to persons authorized to control the disposition of the remains of certain members of the United States armed forces.HB 559 (passed H and S)
Special license plates for Bronze Star recipients
Current law provides for specialty license plates to be issued for Purple Heart recipients and Distinguished Flying Cross medal recipients. Bronze Star Medal recipients are considered to have demonstrated extraordinary service in the performance of exceptionally meritorious conduct and achievement.HB 1300 (law)
Such service may warrant recognition in the form of a specialty license plate similar to those provided to Purple Heart recipients and Distinguished Flying Cross medal recipients. However, Bronze Star Medal recipients are not included in the provisions regarding military specialty license plates for extraordinary service.
H.B. 559 recognizes the exemplary service of Bronze Star Medal recipients by providing for the issuance of specialty license plates and other benefits.
Increase Funding Options for Texas Parks and Wildlife
A recent legislative report examining various ways to increase private contributions for state parks noted that, currently, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is limited in its authority to expand development of corporate partnerships and joint promotional campaigns. Consequently, the department is unable to develop a financially beneficial partnership with a private for-profit company. Consistent with the report's recommendations, C.S.H.B. 1300 amends provisions of law to expand the scope of the department's fundraising and partnership development activities to include a private entity.HB 1301 (passed H and S)
Option to donate to state parks when registering vehicles
The Legislative Budget Board's Government Effectiveness and Efficiency Report (January 2011) examines various ways to increase private contributions for state parks. One recommendation in the report is to provide a mechanism for individuals to make a voluntary contribution for state park operations and maintenance when registering vehicles initially or by renewal.HB 2592 (passed H and S)
C.S.H.B. 1301 amends current law relating to making a voluntary contribution to the Parks and Wildlife Department when registering a motor vehicle or renewing a motor vehicle registration.
Penalizes certain credit services (Pay Day Loan Services) for not meeting non disclosure requirements
HB 2594 (passed H and S)
C.S.H.B. 2592 amends current law relating to notice and disclosure requirements for certain credit services organizations regarding charges and consumer borrowing and provides an administrative penalty.
Regulates Pay Day Loan Services
H.B. 2594 amends current law relating to the licensing and regulation of certain credit services organizations and the regulation of certain extensions of consumer credit obtained by those organizations or with regard to which the organizations provide assistance and provides an administrative penalty.Roland Gutierrez (D) District 119
HB 1127 (passed H and S)
Notice of relief available to certain members of the military required to be provided in certain real property documentation.
HB 1488 (passed H and S)H.B. 1127 amends the Property Code to require a notice in regard to the sale of real property under a deed of trust or other contract lien that is served on a debtor in default under that trust or lien to include a statement to the effect that a tenant or debtor, as applicable, who is serving on active military duty may have special rights or relief related to that notice under federal law, including the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and under state law. The bill requires the notice to a defendant in the citation in a suit filed by a landlord seeking to recover possession of the premises to include a similar statement relative to a tenant's special rights or relief in regard to that suit if the tenant is serving on active military duty. H.B. 1127 adds a requirement for the notice that must be given to a property owner by a propery owners' association before the association is authorized to take certain actions against the owner to inform the owner that the owner may have special rights or relief related to the enforcement action under federal law, including the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, if the owner is serving on active military duty.
Exams for hiring in City of San Antonio municipal fire departments
Currently, the City of San Antonio has a procedure in place requiring that a fire recruit's entire eligibility for entrance into the fire academy be based on one high stakes test. This process is vulnerable to overlooking candidates who might possess desirable qualities for the fire academy, but have no ability to stand out amidst the empirical data. H.B. 1488 allows the City of San Antonio to use additional testing mechanisms, including personality-based examinations, integrity-based examinations, and structured oral interviews to be weighted alongside a written test in order to create a more complete profile for each candidate seeking to enter the profession of firefighting.HB 1486 (passed H and S)
Memorial sign for victims of drunk driving accidents
Currently, a highway sign placed by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) near the site of a crash to publicly memorialize the victim of an alcohol or controlled substance-related vehicle accident may be posted for one year, and a private memorial may remain indefinitely. Concerns have been expressed that signs posted by TxDOT are not posted long enough to commemorate the victim or raise awareness about the serious issue of drunk driving.HB 1936 (law)
H.B. 1486 amends the Transportation Code to extend from one year to two years the length of time that a sign posted under the memorial sign program for victims of alcohol or controlled substance-related vehicle accidents may remain posted.
Raises Alcohol Importation Fees from Mexico
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) staffs tax collection operations at ports of entry along the Texas-Mexico border. TABC collects the tax on alcohol and tobacco coming into Texas from Mexico. Population growth, increased operational costs, and the need to establish operations on new international bridges has led to TABC port operations becoming fiscally non-self sufficient.Joint Author
Current law authorizes TABC to exact a 50 cents administrative fee on alcoholic beverages. Current law also allows a Texas resident to import a quart of liquor but allows a non-resident to import a gallon.
H.B. 1936 increases the administrative fee leveraged on the importation of alcoholic beverages for personal consumption from 50 cents to $3. The proceeds collected from the increased administrative fee will be used by TABC for the purpose of paying for collection operations.
H.B. 1936 creates a uniform allowance for Texas residents and non residents of 24 twelve-ounce bottles or an equivalent quantity of malt beverages, three gallons of wine, and one gallon of distilled spirits.
HB 2702 (passed H and S)
Non Renewal of certain liquor licenses
Currently, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission or a county judge may refuse to issue or renew certain alcoholic beverage permits and licenses if substantial evidence exists that the manner in which the applicant or licensee conducts business does not benefit the general welfare, health, peace, morals, and safety of the local community. To maintain this standard, interested parties believe it is necessary to ensure that individuals with a financial interest are prohibited from assuming control and management of an establishment if the original license or permit is cancelled due to certain unlawful acts.
H.B. 2707 seeks to address this issue by prohibiting the issuance of certain licenses or permit authorizing on-premises consumption of alcoholic beverages if a license or permit previously held by the applicant or certain other parties with a business interest in the premises was canceled or not renewed in the three years preceding the date an application is filed as a result of a shooting, stabbing, or other violent act.
Ruth McClendon Jones (D) District 120
HB 118 (passed H and S)
Requires hospitals to advise patients that medical records will be disposed of in 10 years
The Texas hospital licensing law generally allows a licensed hospital to dispose of a medical record on or after the 10th anniversary on which the patient who is the subject of the record was last treated in the hospital. There are statutory exceptions to this 10-year retention requirement for the records of minors, and for records relating to any matter in litigation. Situations have arisen in which patients who may have been unaware of the existing retention law have requested copies of their medical records after the 10-year retention period has passed, and the record already has been lawfully disposed of by the hospital.HB 577 (passed H and S)
Allowing EMS to do their job without having to read through Do Not Resuscitate orders
Emergency services personnel who are first responders to an emergency outside of a hospital must quickly evaluate whether a patient needs immediate medical attention, life support measures, or rapid transport to the hospital. If such personnel are required to review, evaluate, and interpret written documents other than an out-of-hospital do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order, they could be prevented from attending to a patient's emergency medical needs at the scene or while traveling to a hospital.HB 1514 (passed H and S)
H.B. 577 allows emergency personnel to focus on the immediate medical needs of a patient when responding to an emergency outside of the hospital environment by establishing that such personnel have no duty to review, examine, interpret, or honor a person's written directive other than certain out-of-hospital DNR orders and by providing for the termination of cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the order of certain physicians or an emergency medical services system's medical director or online physician.
Realigns grant funding from the ABTPA to go where car thefts are the most frequent
Crime prevention advocates say that no correlation exists between grants awarded by the Automobile Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA) and the rate of automobile burglary or theft in the state. In addition, advocates say, grantees determine their own goals and assess their progress in meeting the goals through self-reporting. This bill seeks to remedy this situation by addressing statutory provisions relating to performance measures for grants, allocations of grants, and certain other related matters.HB 2325 (passed H and S)
H.B. 1541 would require ABTPA to develop and implement standard performance measures for each category of grants it provides, as well as ensure that grants are used to reduce the rates of automobile theft in Texas, increase the number of arrests for motor vehicle burglary and theft, and increase the recovery rate of stolen motor vehicles. The bill requires ABTPA to allocate grant funds primarily based on the number of motor vehicles stolen in, or the motor vehicle burglary or theft rate across, Texas rather than based on geographic distribution. The bill also authorizes the Department of Public Safety of the State of Texas (DPS) to administer the existing statewide motor vehicle registration program developed by ABTPA and requires DPS to collect data regarding theft rates and types of motor vehicles enrolled in the statewide motor vehicle registration program, the recovery rate for stolen motor vehicles enrolled in the program, and the clearance rate of burglaries and thefts of motor vehicles enrolled in the program.
Allow mass transportation authorities to raise the dollar limit on small contracts that won't have to go through the competitive bid procedure
Current law allows certain mass transportation authorities to negotiate certain contracts without competitive sealed bids, proposals, or postings if the amount involved in the contract is $25,000 or less. Some transit authorities have expressed an interest in raising the threshold amount to save additional taxpayer dollars on administrative costs and fees associated with posting smaller procurement contracts.HB 2351 (passed H and S)
H.B. 2325 increases the mass transportation authority procurement threshold for non-competitive purchasing from $25,000 to $50,000. Cities and counties already have this authority.
Allows the Bexar County Hospital District to hire physicians directly
In order to meet its obligations to its community and provide care for the needy and indigent population of South Texas, the Bexar County Hospital District needs greater flexibility with regard to the employment arrangements available to the district.HB 2396 (passed H and S)
H.B. 2351 allows the Bexar County Hospital District to employ physicians directly.
Allows Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authorities with populations less that 1.3 million to authorize bond issues without an election
Texas law authorizes an advanced transportation district created under provisions of law relating to metropolitan rapid transit authorities to issue bonds at any time and for any amounts the district considers necessary or appropriate for the acquisition, construction, repair, equipping, improvement, or extension of its transit authority system. The district's governing body, by resolution, may authorize the issuance of bonds payable solely from revenue. H.B. 2396 seeks to make changes relating to the pledge of advanced transportation district sales and use taxes to certain bonds.HB 3030 (passed H and S)
H.B. 2396 amends current law relating to the pledge of advanced transportation district sales and use taxes to certain bonds.
Allows intermunicipal commuter rail districts to make agreements with local governments
Authorizes an intermunicipal commuter rail district (district) to enter into an interlocal contract with one or more local government members for the financing of transportation infrastructure that is constructed or that is to be constructed in the territory of the local government by the districts.Joint Author
Prohibits the amount that is calculated on the basis of increased ad valorem tax collections that are attributed to increased property values in the zone, except as provided by Subsection (d-1), from exceeding an amount that is equal to 30 percent of the increase in ad valorem tax collections for the specific period.
(d-1) Authorizes a transportation infrastructure zone of a district established before January 1, 2005, to consist of a contiguous or noncontiguous geographic area in the territory of one or more local governments and requires that it include a commuter rail facility or the site of a proposed commuter rail facility. Prohibits the amount paid by a local government under Subsection (d) to a district established before January 1, 2005, from exceeding an amount that is equal to the increase in ad valorem tax collections in the zone for the specified period.
HB 114 (passed H and S)
Designates April as Minority Cancer Awareness Month
This bill is designed to encourage private funding of general education for the public, and to promote earlier, more effective diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Minority Cancer Awareness Month would be regularly observed by appropriate activities in public locations to increase recognition for minority cancer education, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. This awareness will also be promoted by explaining specific evidence-based effects, frequencies, and the impact of cancer on minority populations.
HB 1215 (law)
Making it an offense to capture others personal financial information
Recently, there has been a lot of publicity about tactics used by criminals to obtain personal financial data without the victim being aware at the time that the personal information is being stolen.HB 2017 (Passed H and S)
The purpose of H.B. 1215 is to protect people from identity theft by prohibiting the use of a device to capture personal information from a person's check or similar financial sight order, credit card, or debit card without that person's permission.
Allows the DMV to implement organizational and functional changes to improve efficiency
During the 81st Legislature, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) was created in order to separate the administrative management of permitting and registration of vehicles and trucks from the infrastructure development functions in the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Generally, the purpose of separating the functions of TxDMV and TxDOT was to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of both agencies in the service of Texas' transportation needs.HB 3324 (passed H and S)
During its two-year existence, TxDMV has identified several areas of improvement that can be addressed through organizational and functional changes to the agency. Thus, H.B. 2017 is a "clean-up bill" designed to implement an array of changes needed to update the governance, organization, duties, and functions of the current structure of TxDMV.
Provides for state oversight of Fusion Centers in Texas
There is currently no oversight at the state level for fusion centers in Texas. The United States Department of Justice has released guidelines for best practices in response to many concerns and obvious issues at some centers nationally, including one specifically in Texas.HB 2120 (passed H and S)
C.S.H.B. 3324 codifies a Texas Fusion Center Policy Council (policy council) recently created by the Department of Public Safety of the State of Texas (DPS). The policy council consists of representatives from the fusion centers and is given responsibility for, among other things, making recommendations to DPS on rules regarding governing the operations of fusion centers in Texas.
Allows more retired teachers to be on the board of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas
Interested parties assert that the number of retiree members on the board of trustees of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (board; TRS) should be increased because TRS is experiencing an increase in the number of retirees in its membership, many of whom are actively working on issues affecting TRS. In support of that assertion, H.B. 2120 proposes to change the composition of the board to provide an additional opportunity for the appointment of a retiree member.HB 2592 (passed H and S)
With Farias and Menedez
Requires Pay Day Loan Agencies to Conspicuously Post Fees
Requires Loan and Credit agencies to post in a conspicuous location and on websites accessible customers to a schedule of fees for services.
HB 2594 (passed H and S)
Restricts Pay Day Loan Agencies from charging prepayment fees and requires them to extend consumer credit
Requires Loan and Credit agencies to put in their contracts that there is no prepayment penalty and extend consumer credit
HB 2651 (passed H and S)
Allows persons with disabilities visiting in Texas to use special transportation without submitting documents
Currently, public providers of transportation services designed for people with disabilities may require individuals who reside outside of the provider's service area but are visiting in the provider's service area to submit certain documents before services can be rendered. Concerned parties report that, because there is little uniformity in processing such documents, visitors may have to wait days or weeks to obtain access to such transportation services. This can hinder a visiting person's ability to move freely in the state. H.B. 2651 seeks to address this issue by requiring public providers of transportation services designed for people with disabilities to determine a visitor's eligibility to use those services within a specific period.Lyle Larsen (R) District 122
H.B. 2651 amends current law relating to the eligibility of visitors to use certain public transportation services for people with disabilities.
HB 1499 (passed H and S)
Sets up the Scenic Loop Road--Boerne Stage Road--Toutant Beauregard Road Historic Corridor
Scenic Loop Road, Boerne Stage Road, and Toutant Beauregard Road are each of ancient lineage. These roads were once trails for historic tribes including Comanche and Lipan Apache, as well as stagecoach routes connecting Leon Springs to Boerne. They were also used to connect several early Texas settlements of German immigrants in the 1920s as part of the "Old Spanish Trail." This area is of historic and architectural significance and is considered a place of beauty because of its prehistoric sites, nineteenth century rock structures, historic farms and ranches, and scenic vistas.HB 3597 (passed H and S)
To give Public Improvement Districts the authority to exclude or annex land to impose taxes
Currently, public improvement districts in certain counties do not have authority to annex or exclude land and are required to obtain certain consents prior to the imposition of a hotel occupancy tax. H.B. 3597 authorizes certain public improvement districts to annex and exclude land and removes a requirement to obtain certain consent prior to the imposition of a hotel occupancy tax under certain circumstances.Joint Author
HB 1788 (passed H and S)
Lawful collection of reptiles and amphibians along Texas Public Rights-of-Way
Interested parties note that snake collecting along public roadways has been adversely affected by recently passed legislation. These parties contend that snake hunting was permitted and lawfully practiced in many regions of Texas until recently and all of these regions experienced significant economic benefit derived from the tourism associated with individuals, known has herpers, searching for or collecting reptiles and amphibians. Legislation is needed to authorize the nonlethal capture of reptiles and amphibians in public rights-of-way if the person capturing the animals possesses, along with a hunting license, a reptile and amphibian stamp issued by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. By reinstating the right to collect reptiles and amphibians in a safe and regulated manner, enthusiasts will be able to practice this activity and, in doing so, bring dollars back to Texas's rural communities.
Mike Villareal (D) District 123
HB 533 (passed H and S)
Makes it so that a person who is delinquent on property taxes doesn't have to render personal property (Furniture, Fixtures or Equipment) to pay for the taxes
HB 824 (passed H and S)
Fosters Father participation in the Prenatal Period of Pregnany
H.B. 824 seeks to increase a father's participation in the prenatal period of his child's life by requiring the attorney general to develop a publication describing the importance of a father's role during pregnancy for distribution to contractors and clients of the Women, Infants and Children program.HB 1887 (passed H and S)
Allows affiliates of property owners to make protests about property appraisals
HB 1964 (passed H and S)
Community Service for Juvenile Class C Misdemeanor Offenses
H.B. 1964 amends the Code of Criminal Procedure to authorize a justice or judge to require a defendant younger than 17 years of age who is assessed a fine or costs for a Class C misdemeanor to discharge all or part of the fine or costs by performing community service. The bill authorizes such a defendant to discharge an obligation to perform community service by paying at any time the fine and costs assessed. The bill requires the justice or judge to specify, in the justice's or judge's order requiring the defendant to perform the community service, the number of hours of service the defendant is required to perform and prohibits the justice or judge from ordering more than 200 hours of service.HB 3506 (passed H and S)
Authorizes School Districts to use Transportation Funding for Public Transportation
Currently, school districts are not permitted to use a transportation allotment authorized under the Education Code to pay for public transportation methods of transporting students to school. For some districts, it is inefficient to use district transportation methods to transport children, especially when the available public transportation option is less expensive or more efficient.Joint Author
The purpose of the bill is to allow districts to use transportation funding as efficiently as possible by using available transportation options as one way to transport children to school.
HB 9 (passed H and S)
Allowing higher education funding to help students complete their degrees
Texas has made significant gains toward meeting its higher education goals in student participation set by the Closing the Gaps by 2015 initiative. However, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board reports that Texas must award approximately 46,000 more degrees per year to meet the 2015 goals. Realigning state resources with the goal of improving institutional productivity and promoting student success could bolster the efforts to meet the Closing the Gaps goals in student success.HB 1090 (passed H and S)
Currently, formula funding allocations for institutions of higher education generally reward increasing enrollments. H.B. 9 emphasizes a funding model designed to provide incentives and reward a strong focus on helping students complete their degrees.
Lowers interest rates for tax refunds
When a property owner engages in litigation with an appraisal district over the value or exemption of the property, the property owner is required to pay the undisputed amount of the taxes at issue, but may pay the full tax bill as originally assessed. Once the litigation is resolved, if the owner ends up owing less taxes than were paid, the property owner gets a refund from the taxing units such as school districts, counties, and cities, with interest. That interest, on most refunds, was fixed in 1997 at eight percent, when eight percent interest was reasonable. Interest on refunds after religious exemption litigation was left, as all refunds had formerly been, to float with the T-bill. Now eight percent is a well above market rate. No taxing unit can hope to invest any money that it might have to refund at anything close to an eight percent return. Thus, litigants are encouraged to pay more than the undisputed amount of taxes, knowing that any resultant refund will earn far better interest than they can expect anywhere else. The taxing units, which do not control the litigation, are faced with large refunds accruing interest for which they cannot adequately account by investment of the disputed taxes. The Federal Reserve Board now refers to the rate in question as the secondary market rate. H.B. 1090 returns the interest rate paid on refunds after any litigation to the amount refunded calculated at an annual rate that is two percent, plus the most recent prime rate quoted and published by the Federal Reserve Board, but no more than eight percent calculated from the delinquency date for the taxes until the date the refund is made.HB 2403 (passed H and S)
Expands the definition of retail ownership businesses in Texas to include internet businesses to make up for the loss of sales tax revenue
Many businesses are using business models that allow them to exploit a physical presence loophole in the law and consequently to avoid state sales tax responsibilities, despite creating and maintaining markets across state lines through remote sales while having a physical presence in Texas. With the advent of the Internet and the emergence of e-commerce, the number of sellers maintaining a physical presence while making remote sales to customers has exploded, creating a significant and growing loss of sales tax revenue to the states. This loss of revenue is compounded by the fact that traditional retailers with a storefront presence who must collect state and local sales and use taxes are placed at a competitive disadvantage.HB 2476 (passed H and S)
H.B. 2403 seeks to address the situation by redefining "seller" and "retailer," defining "ownership" and "substantial ownership interest," and clarifying and expanding the conditions that constitute a retailer's being engaged in business in Texas.
Defines a single appraisal standard for heavy equipment dealers
The Texas Tax Code provides for separate treatment of heavy equipment dealers, similar to how car and boat dealers are treated under the Tax Code. However, there is some confusion regarding the applicability, calculation, and uniformity of business property taxes relating to businesses who primarily rent or lease heavy equipment.
While existing law works well for the sales of heavy equipment, the question of how to value rentals of heavy equipment has been the subject of extended litigation and multiple interpretations by different appraisal offices. C.S.H.B. 2476 imposes a single appraisal standard, creating consistent valuation of a dealer's inventory, providing predictability for the business owner and increased compliance for the state.
HB 3470 (passed H and S)
Expands requirements for the Texas Armed Services Scholarship Program
The Texas Armed Services Scholarship Program was created to encourage students to participate in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) at institutions of higher education in Texas by providing scholarships to qualified students. The program authorizes the governor, lieutenant governor, and each member of the Senate and House of Representatives to annually appoint applicants to receive up to $15,000. In addition to meeting and sustaining academic requirements, a student must enter into an agreement that includes a four-year commitment as member of the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air Force National Guard, or a commissioned officer in any branch of the armed services.
H.B. 3470 improves access to the scholarship program. It allows transfer students from community colleges or other colleges to qualify for the scholarship, changes the first year graduation requirement to a six-year graduation requirement, extends eligibility to students who enter in the United States Coast Guard and the United States Merchant Marine, and allows students who are currently under contract with one of the armed services to not be disqualified from consideration for this scholarship.
Joe Menendez (D) District 124
HB 35 (passed H and S)
Extension of the Bexar Cares youth behavioral health intervention pilot program
The purpose of H.B. 35 is to extend a Bexar County local behavioral health intervention pilot project to September 1, 2013. The program provides for diversion to a system of care including a behavioral health treatment placement for children and youth in Bexar County who are at risk of placement in an alternative setting for behavior management. The behavioral health intervention pilot program, known as Bexar Cares, was implemented to eliminate barriers to allowing the sharing of information and resources in order to provide coordinated and collaborative health care for children and youth. Prior to the program's implementation, children with behavioral health problems were served by many separate local agencies in Bexar County, which resulted in duplication of assessments, treatment modalities, and case management. Bexar Cares addresses this issue by requiring extensive information sharing among state entities and contracted workers. Currently, the program is set to expire on September 1, 2011.HB 46 (law)
Compensation for Texas Parks and Wildlife personnel
Current law provides that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) law enforcement personnel are compensated in a manner equal to the Department of Public Safety personnel. Prior legislation provided compensatory time for other state communications or dispatch personnel but did not include TPWD personnel in the same category. The purpose of the bill is to equitably compensate those employees for work performed.HB 308 (passed H and S)
Requires for hire passenger boats to carry one wearable personal flotation device per passenger.
HB 447 (passed H and S)
Defines what types of actions a Defense Base Development Authority may make regarding its holdings
Current law governing a defense base development authority is unclear about whether a local authority can sell, lease, or otherwise engage in financial transactions relative to real estate or property owned or controlled by the authority. C.S.H.B. 447 clarifies existing statutes by detailing the specific actions that a defense base development authority may take regarding the authority's holdings.HB 1128 (passed H and S)
Medical Treatment Consent for Inmates
In 1993, the legislature passed S.B. 332 creating the Consent to Medical Treatment Act. The bill authorized consent for medical treatment to be made by a surrogate decision maker on behalf of an incapacitated, comatose, or otherwise mentally or physically incapable patient in a nursing facility or hospital. At that time, only a competent adult patient or the patient's temporary or permanent guardian could consent to non-emergency medical or surgical treatment. However, doctors found that incapacitated patients needed immediate treatment for conditions that were important, yet not considered an emergency. As such, the Consent to Medical Treatment Act was created.
H.B. 1128 adds an adult inmate of a county or municipal jail to the Consent to Medical Treatment Act. Amending the statute would allow an additional avenue of relief for individuals in crisis. It would authorize a correctional facility to seek the speedy assistance of a loved one, without the need for a lengthy and expensive court proceeding. H.B. 1128 also provides guidance and protection for county and municipal jails who want to ensure that treatment decisions are made in the patient's best interest.
HB 1622 (passed H and S)
If you can understand what this bill does, more power to you.
H.B. 1622 amends current law relating to suits to enjoin gang activity that constitutes a public nuisance.
HB 2387 (passed H and S)
Moves the authority to hire general counsel from the chief appraiser to the board of directors of an appraisal district
Authorizes the chief appraiser to employ and compensate professional, clerical, and other personnel as provided by the budget, with the exception of a general counsel to the appraisal district. Authorizes the board of directors of an appraisal district to employ a general counsel to the district to serve at the will of the board. Requires the general counsel to provide counsel directly to the board and perform other duties and responsibilities as determined by the board. Entitles the general counsel to compensation as provide by the budget adopted by the board.
HB 8 (passed H and S)
Closes loopholes regarding private transfer fees on real property
The Texas Legislature, in a recent legislative session, enacted legislation to prohibit a real estate practice whereby a private entity could create a real estate transfer fee payable over a long period of time by placing a deed restriction on a property requiring such a fee in connection with a future transfer of the property. The current law includes certain exemptions, creating a situation that has resulted in substantial efforts by certain persons to circumvent the law through creative interpretation of the language. C.S.H.B. 8 seeks to close loopholes in current law by prohibiting future private transfer fees on real property, with certain exemptions, and providing clarity and notice requirements to properties with existing private transfer fees.
HB 1481 (passed H and S)
Changing mental retardation to intellectual disability in all state documents
Many Texas believe the term "retarded" is hurtful and offensive to persons with intellectual disabilities. Though the term is used as a medical diagnosis, it should not be used to describe a person or a person's character. National efforts are under way to change "mental retardation" to "intellectual disability" in the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders-Fourth Edition (Text Revision) anticipated to occur in May 2013.
Joaquin Castro (D) District 125
HB 399 (passed H and S)
Personal financial literacy training requirement
H.B. 399 amends the Education Code to require the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board by rule to require a general academic teaching institution to offer training in personal financial literacy to provide students of the institution with the knowledge and skills necessary as self-supporting adults to make important decisions relating to personal financial matters and to determine the topics to be covered by the training, which may include budgeting, credit cards, spending, saving, loan repayment and consolidation, taxes, retirement planning, and financing of health care and other benefits. The bill authorizes the coordinating board by rule to provide for the training to be offered in an online course. The bill adds a temporary provision, set to expire January 1, 2014, to require the coordinating board to require general academic teaching institutions to offer the training as soon as the coordinating board considers practical, but not later than the 2013 fall semester. The bill defines "coordinating board" and provides for the meaning of "general academic teaching institution" by reference.HB 650 (passed H and S)
Allow Junior Colleges to deal with abandoned property
H.B. 650 amends the Property Code to apply provisions relating to the report, delivery, and claims process for certain unclaimed property to a junior college that has opted, through a formal action taken by the junior college's governing board, to handle property presumed abandoned and valued at $100 or less in accordance with those provisions.HB 992 (passed H and S)
Dropped college course requirement
Currently, an institution of higher education may not permit a student to drop more than six courses, including any course a transfer student has dropped at another institution of higher education, under certain circumstances. In addition, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is restricted from including formula funding for an institution of higher education for semester credit hours earned by a resident undergraduate student that exceed the hours necessary to complete that student's degree program by 30 hours or more. H.B. 992 seeks to prohibit a general academic teaching institution from counting a dropped class for purposes of the six-course limit if the student drops the class while enrolled at a public junior college and the student transferred to a general academic teaching institution after earning at least 30 semester credit hours or an associate degree. The bill requires institutions of higher education to provide written notice of the limitations on the number of class drops to an undergraduate student before the end of the student's first semester at the institution. The bill also creates an additional exemption as it relates to the 30-hour cap for semester credit hours earned by a student before receiving an associate degree that has previously been awarded to the student.HB 994 (law)
Authorization to accept guilty pleas in Bexar County
C.S.H.B. 994 amends the Government Code to include among the criminal case proceedings a judge in Bexar County is authorized to refer to a criminal law magistrate in the county a proceeding involving a plea of nolo contendere from a defendant charged with a felony offense, a misdemeanor offense when charged with both a misdemeanor offense and a felony offense, or a misdemeanor offense. The bill specifies that such authorization applies also to a proceeding involving a plea of guilty from a defendant charged with such an offense, rather than a negotiated plea of guilty before the court. C.S.H.B. 994 authorizes a criminal law magistrate in Bexar County to whom a case is referred, except as limited by an order of referral, to accept a plea of guilty or nolo contendere from a defendant charged with a felony offense, a misdemeanor offense when charged with both a misdemeanor offense and a felony offense, or a misdemeanor offense, rather than only a plea of guilty for a misdemeanor from a defendant charged with both misdemeanor and felony offenses.HB 1244 (passed H and S)
Delivery of remedial college courses to increase student success rates
Developmental education is a sequence of non-credit-bearing higher education courses that are designed to remediate an incoming college student to the point of freshman-level academic competency in the areas of reading, mathematics, and writing. Some observers express concern that a significant percentage of the first-time degree seeking students in Texas who enroll in higher education each fall are required to take at least one developmental education course. Observers also indicate that students who require developmental education graduate at a rate lower than that of other students. H.B. 1244 seeks to reform the way developmental education is delivered at institutions of higher education with the intention of increasing student success.
HB 1666 (passed H and S)
Harassment protection on websites like Craigslist
The purpose of H.B. 1666 is to expand the scope of Section 33.07(a) to include targeted online harassment committed not only on commercial social networking sites, but also on any other Internet website, such as Craigslist.
HB 2935 (passed H and S)
Allows Bexar County criminal law magistrate to appoint an official court reporter
Current law that provides for the appointment of official court reporters does not expressly provide for the appointment of an official court reporter by a criminal law magistrate in Bexar County. H.B. 2935 seeks to respond to this issue by authorizing a full-time Bexar County criminal law magistrate, with the consent of the Bexar County Commissioners Court, to appoint an official court reporter to serve that magistrate.
HB 2936 (law)
Treat all Bexar County District Courts Consistently
Although a provision of law relating to judicial districts in Bexar County applies to most Bexar County district courts, it does not currently apply to all Bexar County district courts. C.S.H.B. 2936 seeks to treat all Bexar County district courts consistently under the Government Code by extending a provision of law relating to judicial districts in Bexar County to apply to the district courts in Bexar County that are not currently included.Joint Author
HB 33 (passed H and S)
Decrease the Cost of Textbooks through Transparency
C.S.H.B. 33 seeks to decrease the cost of textbooks to students and thereby ensure that students have access to affordable course materials. The bill also seeks to enhance transparency and disclosure with respect to the selection, purchase, sale, and use of course materials.
Carlos I Uresti (D) District 19
SB 115 (law)
Limits liability of space flight entities to encourage commercial space industry in Texas
C.S.S.B. 115 sets forth language relating to limiting the liability of space flight entities, which will encourage development of a commercial space launch industry in Texas. This bill uses the terminology found in federal regulations to avoid confusion and to be consistent with warnings given by launch service providers. C.S.S.B. 115 requires that launch service providers inform private citizens of the risks of space flight and prohibits them from being allowed to fly unless they choose to assume those risks. C.S.S.B. 115 clarifies that a person, after being informed of the risk and signing a waiver, assumes the risk of space flight absent gross negligence or wilful behavior by the launch company.
SB 116 (passed S and H)
Allows new partners to apply for protective orders against their significant other's Ex
Currently, in the event of dating violence, only a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend is eligible to apply for a protective order against his or her partner or ex-partner. Moreover, in the event of family violence, only members of a family or household can apply for a protective order against other members of the same family or household.
This bill would allow third parties to apply for a protective order against their current or former significant other's ex-partner. This bill would also allow third parties to apply for a protective order against their current or former significant other's family or household members.
SB 118 (passed S and H)
Allows an individual to have extended involutary outpatient mental health services even if they haven't been in a facility for 60 consecutive days
An individual considered appropriate for extended involuntary outpatient mental health services must have had at least 60 consecutive days of court-ordered inpatient mental health services within the preceding 12 months. With the number of authorized daybeds diminishing as a result of financial and institutional constraints, fewer consumers remain at a mental health facility for court-ordered inpatient mental health services in excess of 60 consecutive days. S.B. 118 seeks to ensure that a judge is able to assign lower-cost extended outpatient mental health services, if appropriate, to a proposed patient who has already been assigned involuntary inpatient or outpatient mental health services.
SB 201 (passed S and H)
Transferability of property tax exemption for disabled veterans
SB 201 allows a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran's property tax exemption to move with the veteran. The bill would allow a qualifying disabled veteran that sells their old home and purchases a new on to continue to use their property tax exemption for the duration of the year. SB 201 would also require that the new owner of the qualifying veteran's former residence pay the property taxes due for that residence for the portion of the year that the owner occupies that home.SB 271 (passed S and H)
Oversight of Bexar Metropolitan Water District
S.B. 271 would address board governance issues for the district [Bexar Metropolitan Water District]. Elements of the bill include board member term limits, continued oversight by the committee, board candidate qualifications, political contribution limits, board training requirements, ethics provisions, and board member recall provisions.
SB 341 (passed S and H)
Provisions to authorize the dissolution of the Bexar Metropolitan Water District
C.S.S.B. 341 seeks to address these issues by establishing provisions relating to authorizing the dissolution of the district, or perhaps rehabilitation, establishing various management and board reforms, and provides certain penalties.
SB 966 (passed S and H)
High School Diplomas for veterans
Currently, a high school diploma may be awarded to a veteran who was honorably discharged, who was scheduled to graduate from high school after 1940 and before 1975, and who left high school before graduation to serve in the armed forces during World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War. S.B. 966 seeks to authorize school districts to issue high school diplomas to certain other veterans.SB 993 (passed S and H)
Redefines parental child safety placement with a relative
Observers note that the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) will sometimes allow a parent to place the parent's child with a relative or other caregiver willing to temporarily care for the child when the child cannot stay with the parent due to a risk of abuse or neglect. This type of placement is known as a parental child safety placement and is currently governed by DFPS internal policy. There is concern that state law does not adequately address these types of placements. S.B. 993 seeks to address issues relating to certain arrangements to provide care for a child during an investigation of abuse or neglect.
The bill requires a parental child safety placement agreement to include terms that clearly state the respective duties of the person making the placement and the caregiver, including a plan for how the caregiver will access necessary medical treatment for the child and the caregiver's duty to ensure that a school-age child is enrolled in and attending school; conditions under which the person placing the child may have access to the child, including how often the person may visit and the circumstances under which the person's visit may occur; the duties of DFPS; the date on which the agreement will terminate unless terminated sooner or extended to a subsequent date as provided under DFPS policy; and any other term DFPS determines necessary for the safety and welfare of the child.
SB 1154 (passed S and H)
Reestablishes the statewide blue ribbon task force for child welfare
Alarming statistics from national and state child welfare organizations indicate the extent of child abuse and neglect in the United States and in Texas. Recently enacted legislation established a statewide blue ribbon task force to develop a strategy to prevent child abuse and neglect in Texas, which made significant strides in establishing such a strategy, as outlined in an interim report made available to legislators. In order for the important work of the task force to continue, S.B. 1154 reestablishes the task force for the development of a strategy to reduce child abuse and neglect and improve child welfare. The bill's goals include fostering cooperation among state agencies and local governments and ensuring that the agencies responsible for children receive a top-to-bottom review of their policies, procedures, and resources.
SB 1490 (law)
Seeks to prevent parents with dual citizenship from taking their child out of the country during a custody fight
S.B. 1490 is in response to a case which occurred in Bexar County in November of 2009. Jean Philippe Lacombe, the father of a child who was the subject of a custody battle, filed an international child custody determination with allegations of physical harm. Therefore the judge issued a warrant to take physical custody of the child. The child was immediately given to the father and the father was told to appear the next Monday for a hearing in order to make the custody determination. The father—who had dual citizenship— immediately absconded with the child to a foreign country. It took the parent who rightfully had custody of the child a year in order to get her child back.SB 1492 (passed S and H)
S.B. 1490 requires a record to be made of all proceedings and hearings when implementing Chapter 152 (Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act), Family Code, for only international child custody determinations or proceedings.
Regarding the Real-Edwards Conservation and Reclamation District Elections
The Real-Edwards Conservation and Reclamation District (district) was created by H.B. 447 in the 56th Legislature in 1959 to provide for the conservation, preservation, protection, and prevention of waste of the groundwater in the district.SB 1493 (passed S and H)
The district's nine-member board of directors (board) is currently elected at large within the boundaries of the district, which is composed of the counties of Edwards and Real. The board as well as the commissioners courts of both counties believe that it is in the best interest of the citizens of both counties to ensure near equal representation on the district board from both counties.
The proposed legislation would restrict candidacy to four seats from Edwards County, four seats from Real County, and one seat elected at large from either county. Although candidacy would be restricted, all voters would vote on all seats.
Defense adjustment management authority changes
Municipalities that have created a defense adjustment management authority to counteract the potential negative impact of a military base realignment or closure report that there is a need to update the statutes authorizing such an authority. S.B. 1493 seeks to amend current law relating to the directors of a defense adjustment management authority and to a study on the effectiveness of the authority.SB 1496 (passed S and H)
Clarification of scope and validity of correction property deeds
A long-standing practice in Texas is for a correction instrument to be filed in order to correct nonsubstantive errors in deeds of record. A Texas court recently considered a case involving foreclosure and the misuse of a correction deed and, in its opinion, seemed to suggest that certain correction instruments may be void, particularly a correction instrument pertaining to additional property. That court decision has created an uncertainty within the real estate industry as to what can be corrected and as to the validity of certain correction documents. S.B. 1496 seeks to address this uncertainty by amending statutory provisions relating to the scope and validity of correction instruments in the conveyance of real property.SB 1505 (passed S and H)
Changes the method for appraising real property interest in oil or gas for tax reasons
Real property interest in oil and gas in place is currently required to be taxed at current market value, which requires the calculation of an estimate of the prices of oil and gas in the coming tax year. To aid in the appraisal of property interest, the comptroller of public accounts is required to forecast future oil and gas prices using certain methods and calculate a market condition factor for the tax year. Interested parties contend that the frequent volatility of the prices of oil and gas render these estimates nearly impossible to complete with consistent accuracy. S.B. 1505 seeks to remedy this problem by changing the method for appraising a real property interest in oil or gas in place that takes into account the future income from the sale of oil or gas.SB 1521 (passed S and H)
Allows municipal court warrant officers to use the security fund for work done in the "field"
A warrant officer is considered an officer of the municipal court and, simultaneously, commissioned by the police department. The warrant officer's core duties include searching for and arresting individuals with outstanding warrants issued by the municipal court. Consequently, as an officer of the court, the warrant officer should be allowed to use the municipal court building security fund for expenditures related to his or her personal security when completing primary job duties in the field. In essence, the "field" becomes an extension of the municipal court building for the warrant officer and justifies equal protection.SB 1751 (passed S and H)
S.B. 1521 seeks to amend the Code of Criminal Procedure to include warrant officers and related equipment in the definition of security personnel, services, and items related to the buildings that house the municipal court.
Adds nondiscretionary retirement plans to deductions from income for child support payments
Noncustodial, obligor parents must pay child support in an amount based on the calculation of their net resources. In determining an obligor parent's net resources, current law deducts certain expenses off the top of that parent's gross resources. These include social security payments, federal income tax payments, state income tax payments, union dues, and expenses for the cost of health insurance or cash medical support for the obligor's child ordered by the court under Section 154.182 (Health Care Coverage for Child), Family Code.Joint Author
Once these deductions have been taken off the top, the court will have some monetary amount that is deemed the obligor parent's net resources. The obligor parent must then pay a percentage of his or her net resources in child support.
S.B. 1751 would add nondiscretionary retirement plan contributions to this list of deductions. Certain professions require workers to pay into mandatory retirement and pension funds that are not currently included in the deductions when calculating net resources. S.B. 1751 would include these required payments in the list of deductions when calculating an obligor parent's net resources.
SB 24 (law)
(with Van De Putte and Zaffirini)
Human Trafficking law
S.B. 24 seeks to enact legislative changes included in the [Texas Human Trafficking Prevention] task force report, such as creating separate definitions for sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The bill extends the civil and criminal statute of limitations for human trafficking crimes, adds human trafficking offenses and compelling prostitution to the list of "3g" offenses, and requires an offender who is convicted of sex trafficking to register in the Sex Offender Registry.Judith Zaffirini (D) District 21
The bill seeks to provide protection mechanisms for child victims in the Texas Family Code. The bill allows a parent or guardian, acting on behalf of a minor who is a victim of human trafficking, to file for a protective order against the trafficker. The bill would also allow child victims in sex trafficking cases certain provisions similar to sexual assault cases under Texas law.
SB 5 (passed S and H)
Frees up institutions of higher learning from some regulations to help them lower costs
S.B. 5 is designed to facilitate efficient operations, reduce institutional costs, and provide administrative flexibility to institutions of higher education. This is particularly important in the current budget climate in which institutions are being asked to do more with less.SB 27 (passed S and H)
Provides schools with a policy for dealing with food allergy reactions
There is concern that certain schools are unprepared for a student's food allergy reaction. Interested parties contend that establishing a policy for the care of students with a diagnosed food allergy at risk for anaphylaxis will greatly reduce the possibility of a fatal attack. S.B. 27 seeks to provide for such a policy in school districts and open-enrollment charter schools.SB 28 (passed S and H)
Priority criteria for the TEXAS grant program for higher education
This bill would establish priority criteria for the TEXAS grant program. Under this proposal, higher education institutions must prioritize students who have met two of four academic criteria: completing the equivalent of 12 semester credit hours of college level programs in high school (dual credit, Advanced Placement, or International Baccalaureate) or completing the Distinguished Achievement Program; satisfaction of the Texas Success Initiative college readiness benchmarks on an approved assessment instrument or through qualification for an authorized exemption; completing high school with a B average on a four point zero scale or graduating in the top one-third of the student's high school class; or successfully completing a mathematics course higher than Algebra II. If a student meets two of these criteria, the student is placed ahead of those students who do not meet the criteria. Once an institution has provided all academically prioritized students with a TEXAS grant, it can then distribute remaining funds to need eligible yet academically ineligible students.SB 29 (passed S and H)
Extending health insurance to graduate and post graduate students for prestigious fellowships
Observers contend that graduate students who are awarded fellowships cannot obtain health insurance benefits from a university because such students are not university employees. Many students therefore prefer to seek teaching or graduate assistant employment within the university in order to have quality health benefits and either do not apply for or decline fellowship funds. Observers contend that, when a student turns down a fellowship, the university also loses potential research funding that many consider a significant factor in the university's stature and regional and national ranking.SB 32 (passed S and H)
S.B. 29 seeks to improve the number of academic fellowships sought out and accepted by Texas graduate students, bolster research dollars available to Texas colleges and universities, and add to the stature of such institutions by extending university employee health insurance benefits to graduate and postgraduate students who are awarded prestigious fellowships in the same manner as benefits are extended to teaching or graduate assistants.
Consolidation of tuition exemptions
This bill would consolidate all tuition exemptions and waivers into one chapter of the Texas Education Code.SB 36 (passed S and H)
Higher education advising standards to help improve student performance
The purpose of this bill is to require the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, institutions of higher education, and relevant professionals to develop an instrument to assess student academic advising by September 1, 2011.SB 37 (law)
Currently, there is no formal assessment system for academic advisors. Without a state system for academic advisement assessment, the state is allowing a very important predictor of undergraduate success to potentially go underutilized. Because there is some anecdotal evidence regarding poor advising and no uniform way to measure effective advising, it is important to develop an objective system that can fairly assess and evaluate academic advising. This legislation would provide a first step toward developing such a system.
Continuation or the Promoting Independence Advisory Committee
The Promoting Independence Advisory Committee (PIAC) was established to make recommendations to health and human services agencies on the most appropriate care settings for persons with disabilities. This interagency task force is set to expire this year, which would result in the discontinuation of critical assistance to the health and human services agencies concerned with this issue. S.B. 37 provides for the continuation of the PIAC until 2017.
SB 40 (passed S and H)
Allows the Texas Guaranteed Loan Corporation (TG) to continue to manage their student loans
According to federal law effective July 1, 2010, all Federal Stafford, PLUS, and Consolidation loans must be made under the Federal Direct Loan Program (FDLP). Students and parents borrow directly from, and repay their loans to, the U.S. Department of Education. Many of the services performed by TG at no charge under the FFELP, such as helping colleges and universities take appropriate steps to prevent loan defaults by their alumni, are still required. The bill would allow TG to continue to manage their existing FFELP portfolio for the life of the loans, as well as operate under the newly established FDLP, thereby allowing the state to continue to utilize the resources and services of TG.SB 41 (passed S and H)
Limits the use of restraints in facilities for persons with intellectual disabilities
The United States Department of Justice recently investigated and reported on the liberal use of restraints and the types of restraints used in Texas' state-run facilities for persons with intellectual disabilities. Despite earlier documentation of deficiencies in the use of restraints, the use of such devices has reportedly increased in some facilities. Mechanical restraints, which account for a significant percentage of the restraints used in certain health care facilities in Texas, are regarded as the most restrictive type of restraint and have been increasingly forbidden by a growing number of providers. Reports indicate that clients of state supported living centers have suffered broken bones, black eyes, and even death as a result of poor restraint policies.SB 43 (passed S ans H)
S.B. 41 seeks to codify the United States Department of Justice recommendations that all facilities stop using prone holds and straitjackets, eliminate as-needed orders or standing orders for the use of restraints, limit the use of mechanical restraints to emergencies only, use only the least restrictive restraint techniques when the use of restraints is necessary, and provide for administrative review after the use of a restraint.
Closes loopholes so entities with knowledge of abuses in mental health care system are held accountable
This bill closes a loophole in existing law created by S.B. 210, 73rd Legislature, Regular Session, 1993, which was part of a package of eight bills related to the mental health statutes, to ensure that all entities with knowledge of abuses in the mental health care system are held accountable.
SB 49 (passed S and H)
Informs parents of school district requirements regarding disciplinary alternative education
A school district is currently required to offer a student in a disciplinary alternative education program the opportunity to complete coursework before the beginning of the next school year at no cost to the student. It has been suggested, however, that students and parents are not always fully informed of this obligation. C.S.S.B. 49 seeks to remedy this problem by setting out certain school district requirements regarding parental notification and documentation in connection with disciplinary alternative education programs.SB 54 (passed S and H)
Requires teachers working with visually impaired students to complete all approved course work
A student with a visual impairment is currently required to be taught by a certified teacher. According to interested parties, teachers of students with visual impairments can obtain the supplemental visual impairment certification in several ways, not all of which require the completion of certain approved course work. S.B. 54 seeks to improve the quality of education provided to students with visual impairments by requiring teachers of students with visual impairments to complete all required course work or an approved alternative education certification program before taking the certification test.SB 58 (passed S and H)
Korean War Veterans Memorial Road
S.B. 58 designates segments of State Highway 359, State Highway 16, and State Highway 285 in South Texas as the Veterans of the Korean War Memorial Highway to commemorate their bravery and sacrifice. Four signs with the designated name would be placed at the following points, in the following cities: on leaving Laredo, on entering Bruni, on entering Hebbronville, and on entering Falfurrias. The designation will honor the living servicemen, the families who lost their loved ones, and the fallen soldiers who gave their lives for the cause of liberty.SB 61 (passed S and H)
Requirements for juvenile case managers at municipal courts
The juvenile case manager position was created to address the issues associated with the high volume of juveniles sent to municipal and justice courts for truancy, traffic violations, and other fine-only Class C misdemeanors not covered by the juvenile courts. Observers contend that current statute does not establish minimum education and training standards explicitly for a juvenile case manager. Observers further contend that, with minimum training and educational standards similar to those for a juvenile probation officer, juvenile case managers may be better able to fulfill their intended role and improve the outcomes of youth involved in such juvenile cases.
C.S.S.B. 61 seeks to require the governing body of the governmental entity that employs a juvenile case manager to adopt rules for juvenile case managers that provide a code of ethics, appropriate educational requirements, and training standards.
SB 209 (passed S and H)
Requires juvenile case managers to report to judges
Current law allows certain courts to hire juvenile case managers to provide services in juvenile cases. While the use of juvenile case managers has grown since this authorization was granted, some believe the legislative intent behind the creation of these case managers has largely been unrealized. In some courtrooms, juvenile case managers report to clerks rather than the judge of the court and fill an administrative role instead of a problem-solving role. Requiring juvenile case managers to timely report to the appropriate judge may create a more effective management structure that will foster more interaction between the judge and juvenile case manager.SB 250 (passed S and H)
C.S.S.B. 209 seeks to require a juvenile case manager to timely report to the appropriate judge information or recommendations relevant to assist the judge in making certain decisions in the case and requires certain consultation between judges and juvenile case managers.
Stalking protective orders before arrest
This bill would extend to persons who are victims of stalking the right to a protective order against their stalker without requiring that the alleged stalker first be arrested for the crime.SB 264 (passed S and H)
Requires local workforce development boards to provide child care information
Local workforce development boards are not currently required to include certain quality child-care indicators for subsidized child-care providers in the materials provided to parents, families, and other caregivers of infants and young children. S.B. 264 seeks to help families and other caregivers make informed choices when placing a child in a program by requiring local workforce development boards to provide such information.SB 265 (law)
Higher standards for in home child care providers
Interested parties contend that, although employees of certain facilities, homes, and agencies that provide child-care services are required to complete certain training in subject areas such as child growth and development, guidance and discipline, age-appropriate curriculum, or teacher-child interaction, current law does not adequately address who is authorized to provide such training. S.B. 265 seeks to ensure that child-care employees and operators receive training from knowledgeable individuals with relevant expertise by establishing requirements for persons providing that training.SB 773 (passed S and H)
Extends telecommunications discount
Interested parties are concerned that without the state telecommunications discount for digital services for voice, video, and data to libraries, schools, colleges, hospitals, and telemedicine centers certain anchor institutions might have to cut programs, eliminate positions, and pass on the cost to the public, cities, or counties to cover the costs of broadband services. The parties note that the discount program remains an essential component of the state's information and telecommunications infrastructure but that it is set to expire on January 1, 2012. S.B. 773 seeks to address matters relating to the telecommunications service discounts.
SB 776 (passed S and H)
Seeks to eliminate fraud in rebating state sales taxes for exported goods
Interested parties observe that the United States Constitution prohibits state governments from taxing goods exported to foreign nations. One of the ways Texas may comply with this constitutional constraint is by rebating state sales taxes on a purchases made by foreign shoppers who prove the purchase is bound for export via documentation issued by a licensed customs broker. Unfortunately, the current rebate system is plagued by fraud and a lack of enforcement, despite legislative attempts to address abuse.SB 811 (passed S and H)
Among other provisions, C.S.S.B. 776 seeks to eliminate fraud by requiring the comptroller to authorize the use of hard copy export certificates issued when the online system is down and by expanding the steps taken to ensure that purchases are actually bound for export.
Clarifies veterinary medicine regulations
The Veterinary Licensing Act (VLA) gives the Texas Board of Veterinary Medicinal Examiners (TBVME) the authority to regulate the practice of veterinary medicine by ensuring that veterinarians are competent, meet established standards, and are held accountable for their actions.SB 851 (passed S and H)
Clear legislative direction in the areas of peer assistance programs, licensing, and confidentiality would better focus TBVME's mission and allow it to better serve its licensees and the public. S.B. 811 amends current law relating to the regulation of the practice of veterinary medicine.
Single financial aid deadline
This legislation would require the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to set a single statewide financial aid deadline for all public four-year universities.
SB 1449 (passed S and H)
Seeks to eliminate duplication of effort in accreditation for licensed health care facilities
Observers note that many licensed health care facilities that receive outside accreditation may forgo state inspections as part of the license renewal process if the facilities provide evidence of accreditation, but that this option is not available to chemical dependency facilities. The observers further note that facilities accredited by organizations such as the Joint Commission or the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, whose standards for accreditation are higher than the state's standards, must currently undergo multiple inspections for license renewal.
Interested parties assert that this duplication of effort can result in unnecessary administrative costs and burdens for facilities, as well as unnecessary expenses for the state, and that such costs and burdens could be avoided if outside accreditation were accepted for license renewal. The parties further assert that such a policy would also provide an incentive for licensed facilities to obtain the heightened accreditation, resulting in increased quality and safety for patients.
C.S.S.B. 1449 seeks to address this issue by addressing matters relating to an alternative method of satisfying certain licensing and program participation requirements for chemical dependency treatment facilities.
SB 1726 (passed S and H)
Requires institutions of higher learning to come up with learning outcomes for certain courses
C.S.S.B. 1726 amends current law relating to the development of measureable learning outcomes for undergraduate courses at public institutions of higher education.
SB 1857 (passed H and S)
Relaxes self administration of meds by people with developmental and intellectual disabilities in institutions
Currently, a client living in certain health care facilities or receiving certain home and community-based services is authorized to self-administer medication under the supervision of an unlicensed person if the client has the physical, rather than cognitive, ability to take the medication. Observers note that, while the determination of whether to delegate medication administration had not historically been based on a client's cognitive ability to administer the client's medications safely, the Texas Board of Nursing and the Department of Aging and Disability Services are on the verge of formalizing a new interpretation of what constitutes self- administration in certain community-based programs that serve clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities that would require a registered nurse to delegate self-administration of medications under all circumstances. Interested parties note that such delegation requires more paperwork and training, and that registered nurses required to delegate those tasks may become overburdened.SB 1927 (passed S and H)
S.B. 1857 seeks to address these issues by amending current law relating to the administration of medication for clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Increases the number of sales tax-exempt fundraisers for volunteer fire and EMS departments
Interested parties contend that the current wildfires in Texas are imposing a great financial burden on the volunteer fire and EMS departments that are responding to them. Among the primary sources of revenue for many of these departments are fundraisers. Texas law currently authorizes two sales tax-exempt fundraisers per year for certain nonprofit organizations. S.B. 1927 seeks to assist certain nonprofit volunteer fire departments by increasing the number of authorized sales tax-exempt fundraisers that may be held over the next few years.Joint Author
SB 639 (passed S and H)
with Van De Putte
Clarifies Hazelwood benefit designation provisions
In 2009, the 81st legislature passed S.B. 93, which included provisions that allow veterans and military members deployed into combat to assign their unused Hazlewood benefits to their children. Since passage and implementation of that Legislation, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has requested that several provisions be clarified.
C.S.S.B. 639 contains those clarifications to provide guidance to institutions of higher education to ensure that veterans receive the benefits intended by the 81st Legislature.
Jeff Wentworth (R) District 25
SB 131 (passed S and H)
Relaxes rules for cemetery placement
According to interested parties, certain municipalities that wish to establish a cemetery, other than a family cemetery, within their boundaries are unable to do so because current law sets forth specific requirements for where a cemetery may be located. S.B. 131 seeks to address this issue by amending current law relating to cemeteries in certain municipalities.SB 132 (passed S and H)
Requires DPS to send information to the Selective Service when certain people apply for drivers licenses or ID
Currently, Texas provides an applicant for a driver's license or personal identification certificate the opportunity at the time of application to consent or decline to register with the Selective Service System. S.B. 132 seeks to require the Department of Public Safety, at the time of an application for a driver's license or personal identification certificate submitted by certain applicants, to send to the United States Selective Service System the information from the application necessary to register the applicant with the Selective Service System.
SB 914 (law)
Exemptions from certain requirements for regional waste disposal to reduce costs
S.B. 914 clarifies that certain multi-county districts with the powers of a river authority under Chapter 30 (Regional Waste Disposal), Water Code, are exempt from the requirements of Section 49.181. This bill does not waive the requirement for districts to provide engineering plans for proposed projects to TCEQ in permitting, nor does it impact TCEQ's authority to review the technical merits of proposed projects to insure protection of the environment. Bonds issued by such entities are also still subject to approval by the attorney general of Texas. The bill will, however, reduce project costs that must ultimately be paid by consumers and enable services to be delivered more quickly by these regional districts.
SB 917 (passed S and H)
Streamlines creation of emergency service districts
Current law provides for the creation, powers, and duties of emergency services districts to provide firefighting and other emergency services to residents of areas where voters have approved the creation of such districts under certain conditions. As the state's population continues to rapidly grow, particularly in suburban and exurban areas adjacent to established cities, the need for and number of such districts continues to increase. C.S.S.B. 917 intends to allow streamlining of service administration as well as enhanced training and accountability measures for such districts.SB 918 (law)
Provides immunity from libel or slander for members of organizations that detect, investigate or prosecute insurance fraud
Under Section 701.052 (Immunity for Furnishing Information Relating to a Fraudulent Insurance Act), Insurance Code, as it currently exists, limited immunity from libel or slander in a civil action is provided to persons reporting suspected, anticipated, or completed fraudulent insurance acts if the information is provided to: an authorized government agency or the TDI Fraud Unit; a law enforcement officer or agent of the officer; the National Association of Insurance Commissioners; a state or federal agency established to prevent fraudulent insurance acts; or a special investigative unit of an insurer or entity that contracts with an insurer to investigate suspected fraudulent insurance acts. S.B. 918 adds a person who is a member of an organization primarily dedicated to the detection, investigation, and prosecution of insurance fraud as provided in Section 701.051(c) (relating to an organization primarily dedicated to the detection, investigation, and prosecution of insurance fraud), Insurance CodeSB 958 (passed S and H)
Allows certain animal sanctuaries to house dangerous wild animals
The legislature has in the past enacted legislation to regulate dangerous wild animals and to ensure public safety. Interested parties note that animal sanctuaries typically operate under the classification of animal shelters. The parties assert, however, that an animal sanctuary is not, in fact, an animal shelter because the term animal shelter suggests a temporary animal holding and rehabilitation facility rather than a facility that provides long-term housing and care. Observers express concern that, under this reasoning, an accredited animal sanctuary is not permitted to house a dangerous wild animal in a county that has not established a process for registering the animals. The parties further assert that legislation is needed to address these issues by exempting certain accredited animal sanctuary entities from provisions of law relating to the regulation of dangerous wild animals. C.S.S.B. 958 seeks to achieve this goal.
SB 959 (passed S and H)
Allows TxDOT more leeway in billing toll road and parking customers to make the system more efficient
TxDOT currently offers video billing to its customers, which allows customers to drive on a toll road without paying the toll at the time the road is used. A photograph of the vehicle's license plate is captured and a bill is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle at a later date. Under current law, TxDOT is required to mail violation notices to the registered owner of the vehicle at the primary address shown in the Department of Motor Vehicle's registration records; however, many of those addresses are inaccurate and some are the addresses of a previous owner of the vehicle. S.B. 959 amends the Transportation Code to authorize TxDOT to send notices of nonpayment to an alternate address provided by the owner or derived through other reliable means.
Further, TxDOT charges a separate administrative fee for each unpaid toll transaction. During one trip on a toll facility, a customer may pass through multiple tolling points. Even though unpaid toll transactions are ultimately grouped together for collection purposes, TxDOT does not have the authority to charge a single administrative fee that covers multiple events of nonpayment. S.B. 959 expressly authorizes TxDOT to impose one administrative fee that covers multiple events of nonpayment.
In addition, TxDOT has been approached by the City of Austin Department of Aviation with regard to the possibility of using TxTag customer accounts to pay for parking services. S.B. 959 expressly authorizes TxDOT to enter into an agreement with a governmental or private entity regarding the use of a transponder issued by TxDOT and the corresponding electronic toll collection customer account to pay for parking services offered by the entity.
Finally, S.B. 959 expressly authorizes TxDOT to refund to the customer the balance of funds in an electronic toll collection customer account after the closure of the account, as well as provides that automated enforcement technology may also be used for purposes of producing, depicting, photographing or recording an image that depicts the part of a vehicle necessary to establish the classification of the vehicle and the proper toll to be charge, the license plate number, and the state of registration as well as images showing the vehicle dimensions, the presence of a trailer, and the number of axles.
SB 1057 (passed S and H)
Allows car dealers to wait to register a used vehicle when it is sold, so the new owner gets a full year registration
S.B. 1057 seeks to improve and simplify the process for registering these used vehicles. The bill terminates the registration period remaining on the motor vehicle at the time of sale or transfer to the dealer and requires the dealer to register the vehicle for an entire registration year when the vehicle is subsequently resold. As a result, the dealer is not required to calculate a registration period and the new owner obtains a full year on the vehicle registration.
SB 1114 (passed S and H)
Allows the TEA to pass drivers ed certificate printing costs to drivers education schools
SB 1114 recommends that drivers education be moved from Texas Education Agency jurisdiction to another agency. Allows the TEA to sell drivers certificates to authorized driving schools to distribute, instead of TEA distributing them. Allows the driving schools to print the certificates, so those costs aren't covered by TEA. Requires TEA to devise a uniform standard certificate with unique serial numbers for this purpose so they can't be counterfeited.
SB 1159 (passed S and H)
Amends current law regarding divorce filings for members and spouses of the Armed Services
Currently, under Section 6.303 (Absence on Public Service), Family Code, time spent by a Texas domiciliary outside this state or outside the county of residence of the domiciliary while in the service of the armed forces or other service of the United States or this state is considered residence in this state and in that county for purposes of filing for divorce. Problems arise when the spouse of that public servant (particularly military personnel) was a domiciliary of Texas at the time of marriage, but has since moved with his/her spouse under orders to do so, and cannot file divorce in Texas due the provisions of 6.303 not specifically applying to a military spouse.SB 1269 (law)
S.B. 1159 amends current law relating to an exception to the residency requirements for filing a suit for dissolution of a marriage in this state for certain spouses of military personnel.
Clarifies Texas Ethics Commission standards to allow office holders to accept transportation, lodging and food, if they don't offer political services, so they don't have to be reported as political contributions
Recently, the Texas Ethics Commission adopted Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 484. This opinion stated that expenditures accepted under certain provisions which allow an officeholder to accept transportation, lodging, and meals if the officeholder provides services that are more than merely perfunctory, could be considered a political contribution under certain circumstances. The Ethics Advisory Opinion was recently withdrawn by the Ethics Commission, leaving the current state of the law unclear.
S.B. 1269 clarifies the law such that transportation, lodging, and meals accepted under the statute are not political contributions. It also codifies a longstanding Ethics Commission interpretation that the prohibitions on receiving or providing benefits described in law, do not apply to such benefits.
SB 1543 (passed S and H)
Allows an independent school district more leeway in its bond investments
SB 1596 (passed S and H)
Clarifies procedures for creating or deleting a "public utility agency"
Chapter 572 (Public Utility Agencies for Provision of Water or Sewer Service), Local Government Code, authorizes two or more public entities to create a "public utility agency" to plan, finance, construct, own, operate, or maintain water supply and/or wastewater treatment facilities. To create an agency, the entities must publish notice of their intent to create the agency, and then they must adopt concurrent ordinances or resolutions approving creation of the agency. If 10 percent or more of the registered voters of an entity submit a referendum petition, the entity's participation in the agency is subject to a confirming election.SB 1831 (passed S and H)
Chapter 572 allows a public entity to be added to or deleted from an existing public utility agency only through "re-creation" of the agency, with all of the public entities, providing notice of the "re-creation," allowing for submission of a referendum petition, and then adopting concurrent ordinances or resolutions. The term "re-creation" can cause confusion regarding the rights, obligations, and ongoing nature of a public utility agency.
Preservation of El Camino Real de los Tejas
To help preserve this storied piece of ancestry for generations to come, S.B. 1831 provides for the designation of the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail as a historic highway.
SB 1907 (passed S and H)
Changes to the Public Information Act concerning birth and certain medical records (hold drop from 100 years to 75 years)
Under current law, most local government records to which public access is denied under the Public Information Act are, if still in existence, open to public inspection 75 years after originally created or received. Birth records and certain medical records are subject to disclosure only after 100 years.Joint Author
The 100-year period creates an unnecessary administrative burden for governmental bodies and prevents disclosure of information valuable to genealogists and researchers long after the policy issues favoring non-disclosure have ceased to exist.
C.S.S.B. 1907 amends current law relating to access to certain archaic information.
SB 14 (law)
Voter ID law (see my analysis here)
Ensuring the integrity of the election process by allowing registered voters to vote and preventing ineligible voters from voting is one goal of the Texas election process. Using the voter registration certificate as a way for the voter to indicate, when offering to vote, that the voter is registered is a step forward toward ensuring the integrity of this process. However, relying on this method may provide opportunities for voter fraud as the voter registration certificate does not necessarily verify the identity of the person presenting the certificate. Options are limited for an election judge who, on being presented a voter registration certificate for voting, suspects the voter is not the person identified on the certificate. C.S.S.B. 14 attempts to further ensure the integrity of the election process by addressing requirements to vote, including presenting a form of photo identification.Leticia Van De Putte (D) District 26
SB 100 (passed S and H)
Provides for electronic transmission of voting ballots to military and overseas voters and a tracking system
The federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act facilitates the voting process for military and overseas voters by requiring ballots to be transmitted within a specified period before a federal election. C.S.S.B. 100 seeks to help implement federal requirements by providing for the electronic transmission of blank ballots for all military and overseas voters and requiring the secretary of state to create a tracking system under which military and overseas voters can determine whether a voted ballot has been received by the early voting clerk. The bill attempts to further facilitate the process for those voters by extending the elections covered to an election in which an office of the federal government appears, an election to fill a vacancy in the legislature, with certain exceptions, or an election held jointly with those elections. The bill also addresses certain election dates and deadlines.SB 101 (passed S and H)
Assists Servicemembers with housing foreclosures
The federal Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was enacted to protect certain military servicemembers on active duty from foreclosures of mortgages, deeds of trust, and similar security devices under certain conditions. There have been reports that homes have been nonjudicially foreclosed on while an owner is on active military duty or deployed to a foreign country when debt servicers have not been informed of the debtor's active duty military status. While SCRA is well-designed to prevent such occurrences, interested parties believe there is a need to eliminate any breakdown in communication between a property owners' association and a property owner that may result in a home being nonjudicially foreclosed on.SB 327 (passed S and H)
S.B. 101 seeks to address this issue by providing a safeguard in addition to the federal act in an effort to prevent nonjudicial foreclosures from being carried out on homes owned by active duty military servicemembers.
Helps veterans service organizations to secure better state funding
Some nonprofit veterans service organizations qualify as tax-exempt charitable organizations under provisions of the federal Internal Revenue Code of 1986. Such organizations engage primarily in providing housing assistance, substance abuse treatment, case management, and employment training for low-income veterans, disabled veterans, homeless veterans, and, in some cases, the veterans' families. In addition, many veterans service organizations in Texas engage in business endeavors such as manufacturing, packaging, and maintenance services. These business entities not only provide quality products and services for consumers, they create jobs for veterans and help generate revenue to be reinvested into the businesses. However, a veterans service organization is not defined as a small business and consequently is unable to bid on state procurement opportunities under state law as such.SB 439 (law)
S.B. 327 seeks to address the limitations on a veterans service organization's opportunity to compete for state procurement contracts by providing for the treatment of such an organization as a small business for state contracting purposes.
Exempts employers from paying unemployment insurance for employees that fill in for military servicemembers
Currently, an employer is required to retain the position of an employee who is absent due to a required military obligation. If an employer hires another individual to fill in for the employee on military duty and that individual is terminated when the employee is reinstated upon return from military duty, the employer is liable for the unemployment insurance benefits paid to the terminated individual, if eligibility for such benefits is determined. S.B. 439 would exempt an employer from the chargeback liability for unemployment insurance claims filed by such an individual.SB 488 (law)
Requires internet dating services to perform criminal background checks and to make disclosures of such
Large numbers of people use Internet dating sites, but it appears that few of these sites perform a criminal history background check on the people who use them. Some states require such a site to disclose whether or not a check is performed on site users so that members can make more informed choices. It has been suggested that it would also benefit the members if Internet dating sites were to publish a description of safety measures reasonably designed to increase awareness of safer online dating practices. S.B. 488 addresses these issues by establishing provisions for Internet dating safety relating to criminal background checks on users of online dating services and for disclosures of online dating safety measures.SB 510 (passed S and H)
Makes the voluntary statewide diabetes mellitus registry pilot program permanent
Recently enacted legislation created a voluntary statewide diabetes mellitus registry pilot program. S.B. 510 makes the program permanent, limits application to public health districts in certain counties, and expands the program's scope to include the tracking of diagnosis codes of patients who receive laboratory tests to determine glycosylated hemoglobin levels.SB 540 (passed S and H)
Provides for a reassessment of property values belonging to disabled veterans
A disabled veteran may currently be entitled to receive an exemption from a portion of the appraised value of the veteran's property according to a certain disability rating schedule. It has been observed that, while the average market value of property in Texas has increased, the exemption dollar amount has remained unchanged, resulting in a dramatic loss of value for the exemption levels with regard to the assessed value of a property a veteran owns. Interested parties contend that, in order to maintain the original intent of the exemption, certain information is needed to consider an adjustment of the exemption amount. S.B. 540 seeks to provide for a study of the fiscal impact of adjusting the amount of the property tax exemption to which disabled veterans and the surviving spouses and children of disabled veterans and certain members of the armed forces are entitled.SB 710 (passed S and H)
Requires seller disclosure of hazards of single blockable main drains for swimming pools, etc
Concerned parties assert that single blockable main drains in swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs can present a hazard by entrapping hair or body parts and causing prolonged submersion under water, which may lead to injury or death.SB 1002 (passed S and H)
S.B. 710 proposes to raise awareness of the dangers of suction entrapment by such drains by requiring the seller of a certain residential real property to include in the seller's disclosure notice notification of whether a residential swimming pool, hot tub, or spa contains a single blockable main drain.
Sets up a program to assist disabled burn victims with utility payments
Due in part to the presence of specialized burn treatment centers, San Antonio is home to a high number of veterans whose ability to regulate their body's core temperature is significantly impaired because of severe burns received in combat. Interested parties contend that this large population of burned veterans, who have high utility bills resulting from the need to maintain cooler temperatures in their homes, merits a bill payment assistance program in recognition of the extraordinary utility situation resulting from their service to our nation. S.B. 1002 seeks to address these issues by establishing provisions relating to the designation of program costs for providing bill payment assistance to certain military veterans as a necessary operating expense that is a first lien against revenue of certain electric and gas utilities' revenue securing certain public securities or obligations in order to add a new category of utility customers to a bill payment assistance program established by recent legislation.
SB 1438 (passed S and H)
Clarifies regulations regarding impaired pharmacists
While some information relating to disciplinary reports on impaired pharmacists is confidential and not considered public information, interested parties assert that current law may present some ambiguity of this confidentiality under certain circumstances and that it is not clear whether some information may be subject to disclosure requirements, subpoena, or discovery. It is feared that this ambiguity may deter some pharmacists from seeking treatment for personal health issues and impede future career advancement. Additionally, there is concern that the current disciplinary process for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians requires improvements in efficiency, responsiveness, and flexibility to ensure effective disciplinary oversight.SB 1733 (passed S and H)
S.B. 1438 seeks to clarify existing statutory language on the confidentiality of certain records related to the program to aid impaired pharmacists and pharmacy students and provide for more efficient disciplinary procedures for impaired pharmacists by amending current law relating to the program for impaired pharmacists and disciplinary proceedings conducted by the Texas State Board of Pharmacy.
Provides for alternative licensing procedures for military spouses
A military spouse faces many challenges because of the military service of the spouse's husband or wife. Such challenges include difficulty obtaining an occupational license, which may impede a military spouse's ability to find employment when he or she relocates to a new state. C.S.S.B. 1733 addresses this problem by providing alternative license procedures for military spouses.
SB 1736 (passed H and S)
Formalizes the initiative to give military veterans college credit for military experience
Countless Texas veterans receive top-level training in the military but have a hard time getting college credit for their knowledge and skills when they return to civilian life. Certain state agencies and community colleges are working on a plan to offer veterans credit for their skills and experience. C.S.S.B. 1736 seeks to formalize this initiative to develop a model for transfer methods that would maximize academic or workforce education credit awarded by institutions of higher education to veterans for military experience by establishing the College Credit for Heroes program.SB 1737 (passed H and S)
Makes sure that state employees get 15 days of paid leave for absence due to military duty or training
There are concerns that state employees entitled to 15 days of paid leave of absence for military duty or training cannot carry forward unused leave and that state employees called to federal active duty to provide assistance in a declared emergency do not receive a paid leave of absence. S.B. 1737 seeks to address these concerns by amending current law relating to accrual and use of leave of absence for certain training or duty, including military training or duty, by public employees and officers.SB 1755 (passed H ans S)
Allows disabled veterans license plates to display military decoration emblems
Interested parties assert that certain specialty license plates for disabled veterans should be allowed to display certain emblems from certain military decoration license plates and that there should be a specialty license plate available for recipients of the Distinguished Service Medal. S.B. 1755 addresses matters relating to the issuance of certain specialty license plates.
SB 717 (passed S and H)
Addresses the lack of organization and sharing of information between juvenile service providers
Individuals, state agencies, and local agencies have expressed concern to the legislature regarding the lack of cooperation when it comes to the sharing of juvenile information between juvenile service providers. Interested parties contend that the lack of organization may lead to missed treatment opportunities, insufficient understanding of each youth's specific needs, duplication of services, and discontinuity of care. S.B. 717 seeks to address these issues by establishing provisions relating to the purpose and duties of the Council on Children and Families.SB 980 (law)
Relaxes requirements for local telecommunication companies
Incumbent local exchange companies in Texas began the process of deregulating telecommunications markets some time ago. Some people assert that many of the regulatory tools and requirements used to ensure competition are no longer needed because technology and competition have proliferated. Incumbent local exchange companies are required to produce certain reports, including earnings reports, and the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC), companies, and customers are authorized to initiate the establishment of extended area service or an expanded local calling plan. It is further noted that a telephone company and its customers can initiate the establishment of an expanded local calling plan through the PUC, that customer-specific contracts are filed with and approved by the PUC, and that public utilities file and maintain tariffs with the PUC. Finally, it is noted that recent federal court and administrative rulings have held that certain Internet Protocol enabled services are not subject to state regulation.SB 1000 (passed S and H)
S.B. 980 seeks to address these issues in communications services and markets by changing certain requirements, such as those related to tariffs, extended area services, and Voice over Internet Protocol services, that are considered outdated or unnecessary.
Sets aside funding meant for the TREC and the TALC in a dedicated fund instead of the general fund
Interested parties assert that much of the money collected by the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) and the Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board [TALC] through licensing and registration fees has been deposited in the general revenue fund but has not been appropriated to those agencies. The parties further contend that recent budget cuts have hampered the ability of the TREC and the board to carry out their respective missions, even though the fees paid to the agencies have remained largely consistent. C.S.S.B. 1000 seeks to address this problem by making the TREC and the Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board self-directed and semi-independent.SB 1739 (passed S and H)
Makes sure funding set aside for the Texas Veterans Commission is only used for that purpose
The Texas Veterans Commission fund for veterans' assistance is a special fund in the state treasury outside the general revenue fund and is a program that currently makes grants to certain eligible entities that provide certain services to Texas veterans and their families.
S.B. 1739 seeks to ensure that the money in the veterans' assistance fund is appropriated only to the Texas Veterans Commission for grants that address veterans' needs and for administrative purposes.