Following the regular session of the 85th Texas Legislature, Gov. Greg Abbott listed 20 priorities for the current special meeting of lawmakers.
But one item must be passed: sunset legislation. Here is an overview of the sunset legislation‚ the No. 1 priority for lawmakers this summer.
What is it?
This legislation extends the life of five state agencies until Sept. 1, 2019. Without an extension passed this special session, the Texas Medical Board, the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists and the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors would cease to exist.
Even if approved, the five agencies would again go through the sunset review process during the 86th legislative session in the first half of 2019.
Why should I care?
According to a Senate analysis, the five agencies combine to regulate more than 200,000 Texas jobs. Without the Texas Medical Board, for example, no new doctors could be licensed. This could create undue pressure in certain areas of the state that are already experiencing doctor shortages.
How did we get here?
In the final days of the regular session, the Freedom Caucus, a conservative group of House lawmakers, blocked the passage of a “sunset safety net” House bill before an important deadline. This narrowed the path for the bill to advance—depending on compliance by the Senate.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Senate president, used this bill as a bargaining chip to encourage the House to pass his priorities, including rollback tax rate limits and bathroom usage regulation. When the House failed to meet his demands, Patrick refused to pass the sunset bill, pushing Abbott to call a special session.
On Aug. 11, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate bills 20 and 60 into law. The bills extend the life of agencies under sunset. At press time, three additional topics on the special session call have been sent to Abbott for his signature.
News and notes from the capitol
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- The 'bathroom bill'
On July 25, the Texas Senate approved Senate Bill 3, which would regulate bathroom use in schools and buildings overseen by local governments, including cities and counties, based on the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate or other IDs issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Related legislation in the House was referred to that chamber’s State Affairs Committee but hasn’t moved as of Aug. 13.
On Aug. 4, the Texas House approved a package of bills that would put $1.8 billion into public schools and help out struggling small, rural school districts. On Aug. 11, the Senate Education Committee advanced the measure but stripped $1.5 billion out of the House’s proposal. On July 25, the Senate passed a bill that would create a commission to recommend improvements to the public school finance system. As of Aug. 13, the measure remained under consideration in the House. On Aug. 2, the House passed House Bill 20, which would take $212 million from a state emergency savings fund to temporarily bolster the state-run health insurance program for retired teachers.
On Aug. 3, the House passed House Bill 215, which would require doctors to document how a minor obtained authorization to get an abortion. The Senate backed the measure on Aug. 13. On July 28, the House passed House Bill 13, which would require physicians and health care facilities to report more details on abortion complications to the state—and would fine those that do not comply. Texas senators approved the legislation on Aug. 13. On July 26, the Senate approved Senate Bill 4, which would prohibit local and state government agencies from contracting with abortion providers and their affiliates.
- Voter fraud
On Aug. 11, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 5 into law. The measure would widen the definition of mail-in voter fraud and increase penalties for those who commit it.