The 86th Texas legislative session begins Jan. 8, and Katy-area senators and representatives have been busy filing bills before the session starts. Here are the bills they have authored and filed ahead of the first day.
Sen. Paul Bettencourt
Republican Sen. Paul Bettencourt represents District 7 in west Harris County. He has proposed and authored three bills: Senate Bill 227, 251 and 280.
SB 227 would change how property owners associations can regulate religious displays among members’ and community properties.
SB 251 would allow a public junior college located at least partly in a county with a population of more than 3 million to enter into agreements with any school districts located within the county to offer dual-credit courses.
SB 280 relates to school boards of trustees. If the bill passes and is signed as introduced, it would, among other things, do the following:
- change how board members can be removed;
- allow the board to require trustee candidates to provide a petition with a minimum number of signatures in order to be placed on the ballot;
- allow the board to require a board member to resign from the board before running for another elected position; and
- allow the board to add the city mayor and/or county judge to the board as two additional board members, subject to voter approval.
Sen. Joan Huffman
Republican Sen. Joan Huffman represents District 17, which covers portions of Fort Bend and Harris counties. She has filed and authored five bills: SB 201, 202, 203, 204 and 212.
SB 201, if passed, increases criminal penalties for certain offenses committed in a disaster area or an evacuated area.
SB 202 would change how property is reappraised after a disaster is declared. For example, all property the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates to have sustained 5 percent or greater damage as a result of the disaster would be required to be reappraised. The reappraisal would have to be completed within 45 days after the disaster or emergency. However, a property owner would be able to refuse the reappraisal process.
SB 203 and SB 204 are related to firearms. SB 203 would allow firearm safety equipment to be exempt from sales taxes. Meanwhile, SB 204 would increase criminal penalty from a Class A misdemeanor to a state jail felony should a child discharge a firearm and cause death or serious bodily injury to him or herself or another person.
SB 212 proposes an act related to sexual harassment and assault reporting at higher education institutions. The act would, among other things, do the following:
- require higher education employees who witness or receive information about sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, or stalking of a student or employee to report it to the institution’s Title IX department;
- require the Title IX coordinator to submit written reports at least once a month to institution’s CEO regarding the status of Title IX reports filed to the department;
- require the institution’s CEO to submit information to the institution’s governing body and website about the number of reports received, investigations conducted, dispositions held, reports determined not to initiate a disciplinary process and reports that required disciplinary action; and
- ensure confidentiality or anonymity should the alleged victim desire it.
Sen. Lois Kolkhorst
Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst represents District 18, which includes Waller County. She has proposed, authored and/or co-authored a joint resolution, SJF 24, and four bills: SB 198, 206, 207 and 249.
SJR 24, in which Kolkhorst is a co-author, proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow the sales tax collected from sporting goods to fund the Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.
SB 198 relates to highway tolls. Among other things, if enacted, toll customers would have the option to add their bank account for automatic payments to the toll authority.
SB 206 would allow school districts and charter schools to employ or accept volunteer chaplains to help reduce employees’ stress and help school counselors or social workers in their duties.
SB 207 would add digital currency to the the offense of money laundering definitions.
SB 249 would require general academic teaching institutions to automatically admit applicants if they graduated as the valedictorian of their high school in the past two school years from the time of applying.
Rep. Cecil Bell Jr.
Republican Rep. Cecil Bell Jr. represents District 3, which includes Waller County. He has not proposed or authored any bills for the upcoming session as of Jan. 7.
Rep. John Zerwas
Republican Rep. John Zerwas represents District 28 in northwest Fort Bend County. He has proposed and authored four bills: HB 12, 39, 54 and 62.
HB 12 and HB 39 are related to the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. HB 12 would allow the Legislature to increase the maximum bond amount for the institution from $3 million to $6 million, while HB 39 would remove time limitations on grants from the institute.
HB 52, among other things related to valorem tax determinations, would allow a property tax administration comptroller to create an advisory board that would offer recommendations on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the property tax system, complaint-resolution procedures and other best practices.
HB 62 proposes an act that would allow a commissioners court to hold an open or closed meeting without public notice if a disaster or emergency is declared. The meeting can be held over the telephone, and the agenda can only pertain to disaster and emergency conditions and public staff matters.
Representative-elect Gina Calanni
Democrat Representative-elect Gina Calanni will represent District 132, which includes portions of Harris County. She defeated Republican incumbent Rep. Mike Schofield in the 2018 midterms.
Calanni cannot file any bills until she is sworn in on the first day of the legislative session. However, in a phone interview she said she will file a bill related to human trafficking and the foster care care system. She is also working on legislation related to flood control and environmental testing after a disaster. She is particularly interested in keeping property values down while also increasing funding for public schools.
Rep. Dwayne Bohac
Republican Rep. Dwayne Bohac represents District 138, which includes the west portion of Harris County. He has proposed and authored five bills: House Bills 29, 28, 385, 384 and 383.
HB 29 and HB 384 relate to exempting or limiting certain homes owned by certain elderly people from ad valorem taxation on the total market value of the home.
HB 28 and HB 383 relate to setting limits on the maximum appraised value of a residence homestead for ad valorem taxation.
HB 385 proposes adding electronics—such as e-readers, phones and laptops—as items exempt from sales tax during the tax-free weekend held before school year starts.
Rep. Hubert Vo
Democratic Rep. Hubert Vo represents District 149, which includes the west portion of Harris County. He has proposed and authored one bill, HB 579.
HB 579 would make it unlawful for employers to prohibit employees from voting during the early voting process.