The 86th Texas Legislature began Jan. 8 and continues through May 27. These updates include what has happened since the session began as well as the latest bill filings from lawmakers representing the Northwest Austin area.


PUBLIC EDUCATION


The Texas House voted April 24 to advance legislation that would make the Teacher Retirement System pension fund financially healthy and give one-time checks to retired teachers.

By a voice vote, House members gave preliminary approval to Senate Bill 12, endorsing a more costly revised version of the teacher pension fixes that was originally proposed in the House. The House’s version of SB 12, sponsored by state Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood, would increase the amount the state contributes to the pension fund by 2% over the next five years and give every retiree a one-time check of up to $2,400 by September 2020, in addition to retirees’ monthly checks of that amount.





HEALTH CARE


The Texas Senate passed a bill April 16 that could provide relief to Texans charged with surprise medical bills when health care providers and insurance companies disagree on the costs of medical treatments.

Surprise medical bills, also called balance bills, happen when a patient is invoiced for medical costs insurance providers won’t pay after a dispute with health care providers. The bill often comes as a surprise to patients as some don’t realize they’ve seen an out-of-network provider.





PUBLIC SAFETY


Less than 24 hours after the Texas House gave preliminary approval to a bill reducing criminal penalties for Texans found to possess small amounts of marijuana, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on April 30 declared the measure dead in the Senate.

House Bill 63 by state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, would lower possession of 1 ounce or less from a Class B to a Class C misdemeanor, which is the same classification as a traffic ticket. Those found to possess 2 ounces or less or marijuana but more than 1 ounce would be charged with a Class B misdemeanor — punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, jail time or both.






State Sen. Kirk Watson


D-Austin •  Elected 2006

[email protected]

On May 2, a Texas Senate panel approved Senate Bill 2553, authored by Watson. The bill would preserve the Lions Municipal Golf Course in West Austin as a golf course or publicly available parkland.






State Rep. Celia Israel


D-Austin • Elected 2014

[email protected]

House Bill 517, authored by Israel, was left pending in committee May 1 and does not appear to have a chance at becoming a state law. HB 517 would ban sexual identity or gender identity conversion therapy.






State Rep. Donna Howard


D-Austin • Elected 2006

[email protected]

House Bill 2048, co-authored by Howard, passed May 2 in the Texas House. The bill aims to repeal the Driver Responsibility Program, which adds surcharges to an individual based on certain traffic offenses.