Updates from your local legislators
Here is an overview of activity from your area elected officials on various legislation this session.
Sen. Charles Schwertner
R-Georgetown • Elected: 2012
Schwertner sat on the budget conference committee. The committee reached a consensus that would pull $1 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for one-time expenses.
Sen. Kirk Watson
D-Austin • Elected: 2006
Watson voted against House Bill 100, which would override ride-hailing regulations in cities such as Austin, which has prevented Uber and Lyft from operating within city limits. The governor signed the bill May 29.
Rep. Dawnna Dukes
D-Austin • Elected: 1994
Dukes voted to approve Senate changes to HB 62 to implement a statewide texting-while-driving ban. The bill has been sent to the governor's desk.
Rep. Celia Israel
D-Austin • Elected: 2014
Israel voted against the passage of Senate Bill 2078. The bill contains an amendment to regulate the bathroom usage of transgender public school students.
Rep. Larry Gonzales
R-Round Rock• Elected: 2010
Gonzales sat on the budget conference committee. The committee reached a consensus that would defer $2 billion from a voter-approved Texas Department of Transportation appropriation.
Rep. Tony Dale
R-Cedar Park • Elected: 2012
Dale voted to reject Senate changes to HB 21, a school finance bill that would implement a school choice program. The bill died in the House.
3 bills with a big impact at the end of the 85th legislative session
- SB 6, the so-called "bathroom bill," was passed in mid-March in the upper chamber but made no movement in the House. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick threatened a special session should the issue fail. The House passed weaker provisions, which the Senate rejected, thus killing the bill.
- SB 2, the property tax bill, initially capped property tax rates from growing more than 5 percent annually, after which an election would be triggered. The House version stripped out this provision. Patrick said this should be another charge for a special session.
- HB 21, the school finance bill, came amid calls to fix public school financing. The House proposal returned from the Senate with a school voucher provision attached for special-needs students. On May 24 the effort to overhaul the system was declared dead.
News and notes from the capitol
Community Impact Newspaper and The Texas Tribune have established a partnership to share essential updates during the 85th legislative session. The Texas Tribune is the only member-supported, digitally focused, nonpartisan news organization that informs and engages with Texans about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
On May 27, both chambers of the Texas Legislature approved a $217 billion, two-year budget that would boost funding for the state's beleaguered child welfare agency, increase the number of state troopers on the Texas-Mexico border and avoid serious reforms to the state's much-criticized school finance system. The budget now goes to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.
On May 28, the House and Senate approved a compromise version of House Bill 22, which would tweak a plan for grading public schools and districts on an A-F scale. The measure now goes to the governor. On May 25, Abbott signed Senate Bill 7 into law. The legislation requires principals and superintendents to report cases of teachers having inappropriate relationships with students or face a state jail felony or a fine of up to $10,000. The House on May 22 backed a Senate bill extending a program that lets high school students who fail a couple of required exams take an alternative route to graduation.
On May 29, Abbott signed House Bill 100 into law. That measure establishes a statewide framework to regulate ride-hailing companies, like Uber and Lyft, and undoes local rules that the two companies have argued are overly burdensome for their business models.
Texting while driving
Legislation that would create a statewide texting-while-driving ban has passed through the House and the Senate. Abbott had appeared to be undecided on whether he would sign the ban into law.
The House and Senate have approved a deal to relax the state’s voter identification requirements, sending the legislation to the governor’s office.
On May 7, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 4 into law. The measure would ban "sanctuary" jurisdictions in Texas and allow police to inquire about the immigration status of people they lawfully detain.
SCORECARD: Find out how the Texas Legislature did on Gov. Abbott’s top priorities
In January lawmakers were just about to begin the 140 day-long marathon of the 85th legislative session when Gov. Greg Abbott declared four issues as top priorities—and he recently added another. Here’s how each priority fared:
'Sanctuary City' Bans
Background: Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez promised last year to implement “sanctuary city” policies. Abbott vowed to end sanctuary cities in Texas and create penalties for those leading jurisdictions that nurtured them.
The latest: Abbott signed Senate Bill 4 into law May 7. It allows law-enforcement officers to question an individual’s immigration status during a lawful detention or arrest—officers could pull someone over for speeding and ask about his or her citizenship, for example. Texas preemptively sued Travis County and other entities over what Texas believes will be nonenforcement.
Calling a convention of states
Background: Following the November presidential election, Abbott renewed his calls to form a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution to implement term limits for members of Congress, require Congress to adopt a balanced budget and allow more than 33 states to override a Supreme Court decision.
The latest: The House of Representatives and Senate worked out differences of SB 21 in a conference committee and sent the bill to the governor. The bill would only allow state lawmakers to serve as delegates for said convention.
Fixes to Child Protective Services
Background: In October, Abbott ordered Child Protective Services to work on a plan to protect endangered children in the foster care system. The order required the department to focus on retention and recruitment of new caseworkers.
The latest: The Senate and House worked to transfer some CPS duties to nonprofits through community-based foster care, increase payments to family members participating in the kinship care program and separate the Department of Family and Protective Services from the state health and human services system.
Background: In 2015, Abbott called for a number of ethics reforms throughout the government, including preventing retired legislators from immediately lobbying the state and requiring lawmakers to disclose contracts with public entities.
The latest: The omnibus ethics bill, SB 14, passed the Senate in early February but died in the House. The governor has signed some minor bills relating to open meetings. The House approved a bill that would prohibit donors to the governor who donated more than $2,500 from serving as a governor appointee.
Changes to Voter ID
Background: Just under four months after Abbott issued his first emergency items, he added another in response to a string of court decisions declaring Texas’ 2011 voter ID law as intentionally discriminatory. As a result, Texas could be required to seek federal preclearance before changing election laws.
The latest: SB 5, a bill expanding limitations on voter ID, passed in late March, and the bill sat in the House until May 20 when the governor declared it an emergency item. The Senate and House met to work out differences and sent the bill to the governor.