Here's the most recent updates from Southwest Austin legislators

Southwest Austin legislators continued their work during the final days of the 85th legislative session.

Southwest Austin legislators continued their work during the final days of the 85th legislative session.

Sen. Kirk Watson

D-Austin • Elected: 2006

Recent Activity
Watson votes no on HB 100: HB 100 creates blanket regulations for ride-hailing companies across the state that allows Uber and Lyft to operate within Austin city limits.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini

D-Laredo • Elected: 1987

Recent Activity
HB 62 moves to governor: Zaffirini co-sponsored HB 62 in the Senate, which bans texting while driving statewide. The bill was passed in the House and Senate.

Sen. Donna Campbell

R-New Braunfels • Elected: 2012

Recent Activity
SB 21 heads to governor’s desk: SB 21, which provides qualifications for delegates should a convention be called to amend the U.S. Constitution, passed the House 119-20.

Rep. Jason Isaac

R-Dripping Springs • Elected: 2010

Recent Activity
Pot possession penalty bill dies: HB 81, which died in the House due to a lack of time, would have lessened the penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

Rep. Paul Workman

R-Austin • Elected: 2010

Recent Activity
A-F accountability changes sought: Workman voted HB 22, a bill that would change the A-F school accountability system, out of the House. The bill is pending in the Senate Education Committee.

Rep. Donna Howard

D-Austin • Elected: 2006

Recent Activity
‘Sanctuary city’ bill now law: Howard joined with 52 other representatives in the House in voting against SB 4, the so-called “sanctuary city” bill, which is now law.

Rep. Gina Hinojosa

D-Austin • Elected: 2016

Recent Activity

Veterans bill goes to governor: Hinojosa’s HB 217 was sent to the governor’s desk. The bill allows disabled veterans to defer or abate the collection of ad valorem taxes.

 Rep. Eddie Rodriguez

D-Austin • Elected: 2002

Recent Activity

HB 168 moves to Senate: Rodriguez’s HB 168, which will recognize healthy lifestyle programs in schools, passed in the House 115-28 and will now move to Senate.

3 things to know about the Senate and House budget proposals

  1. The House budget would allocate $42.1 billion on public schools and advocate for $1.5 billion more for public education through school finance reform. The Senate’s proposal also allocates $42 billion to public schools but would cut the state’s overall portion by $1.8 billion.

  2. The House reduces the current amount allocated to border security—$800 million—to a proposed $653.1 million. The Senate matches the current expenditure with another budget line of $800 million.

  3. The House will take money from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund or Rainy Day Fund to shore up the budget. The House’s proposal would take $2.5 billion from the RDF. The Senate’s budget draft does not touch it, which has more than $10 billion currently.

State voter ID changes come amid federal rulings

Appeals judge: Texas intentionally discriminated in 2011 legislation

In the middle of the House Elections Committee’s regularly scheduled hearing April 10, a federal judge handed down an especially pertinent decision declaring that Texas’ 2011 voter identification legislation was passed with a discriminatory intent.

In 2016, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the law had a discriminatory effect on minority voters. The court declined to rule at the time on the law’s intent, waiting until mid-April to do so.

As if the meeting were scheduled with this ruling in mind, the House Elections Committee reviewed an updated voter ID law to address the 5th Circuit’s rulings.

“We had this court ruling that literally happened here while we are sitting here on the dais,” Chairwoman Jodie Laubenburg, R-Parker, said.

The piece of House legislation presented was authored by Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, and mirrors the legislation passed in the Senate by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, earlier in the session.

The proposed law requires voters to use photo identification in limited forms, including a driver’s license, U.S. military ID card, U.S. citizenship certificate, handgun carry license or U.S. passport.

Should a voter not be able to obtain one of these ID forms, he or she could present other forms of ID with a signed affidavit stating a reasonable impediment. These forms include a government document showing the name and address of the voter, a copy of a current utility bill, a bank statement, a government check, a paycheck or a certified copy of a domestic birth certificate.

If a voter lies about his or her circumstance, that person could be charged with a third-degree felony, which carries a sentence of two to 10 years in prison. A prosecutor must prove that a voter intentionally lied about his or her impediment.

Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, said she did not understand the reasoning for such a harsh penalty.

“The overwhelming reason if there is voter fraud is not because someone impersonated someone else,” she said.

Brantley Starr, deputy first assistant attorney general, said proving intent would be the most challenging part of the proposed law.

In response to the April court ruling, Starr said the Texas Attorney General’s office has yet to appeal the ruling.


COVID-19 vaccines
DATA: Texas has vaccinated about 9% of estimated Phase 1 recipients

Over 1.1 million individuals from the Phase 1 population, which is estimated to include 13.5 million individuals total, have received at least one dose.

Bob Popinski, policy director of Raise Your Hand Texas, shared the organization's top education priorities for the ongoing legislative session. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
‘What does virtual learning and remote learning look like moving forward?': Raise Your Hand Texas policy director talks legislative priorities

Bob Popinski is the director of policy for Raise Your Hand Texas, an Austin-based organization committed to improving public education. He spoke with Community Impact Newspaper in late December about the 87th legislative session, which began Jan. 12.

Photoo of Travis County sign
Austin City Council, Travis County Commissioners Court will hold rare joint session to address 'dire' COVID-19 status

County Judge Andy Brown called the meeting "an opportunity to coordinate responses."

Voters line up during the Dec. 15 runoff election. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legality of ranked-choice voting prompts disagreement between supporters, Austin city attorneys

If a Jan. 11 petition is validated, Austin voters could decide whether to support the implementation a ranked-choice voting system. But is it unconstitutional?

A group of Austin-area school districts is advocating for early distribution of COVID-19 vaccines for school staff members. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Austin-area school districts advocate for teachers to receive COVID-19 vaccines

Educators in the designated population for early distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in 32 states. Texas was not one of them, according to a Jan. 14 letter signed by 17 Central Texas school districts.

H-E-B is preparing to accept coronavirus vaccine appointments through an online portal. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
H-E-B launches vaccine portal; Whipped Bakery opens in Leander and more top Central Texas news

Read the most popular news from the past week from the Central Texas area.

Austin Pizza Garden's menu features specialty pies, salads, sandwiches and starters. (Community Impact staff)
Iconic South Austin pizza restaurant to close after 27 years

Austin Pizza Garden will close Jan. 17 after 27 years in the community.

The company plans to invest $2.5 million into renovations for the project. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Tesla planning new South Austin showroom at The Yard

The company plans to invest $2.5 million into renovations for the project.

Dr. Anthony Fauci gave remarks while accepting the Ken Shine Prize in Health Leadership from Dell Medical School. (Screenshot via The University of Texas)
Dr. Anthony Fauci praises UT researcher’s role in vaccine development

Dr. Anthony Fauci's remarks came while accepting the Ken Shine Prize in Health Leadership from Dell Medical School.