Term limits, abolishing county boards of education, stricter abortion measures: Bills filed by North Houston-area legislators

The Texas Legislature will convene Jan. 12. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Texas Legislature will convene Jan. 12. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Texas Legislature will convene Jan. 12. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Local legislators have been able to file bills for Texas' 87th legislative session since Nov. 9, and several bills of note have already been filed in the House and Senate by north Houston-area representatives. Although the 87th Legislature convenes Jan. 12, bills can be filed until March 12, according to the Texas Legislature Online.


The regular legislative session ends May 31.


Health care



District 150 Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, has filed House Bill 42, which relates to health benefit plan coverage for enrollees who refuse to have an abortion; providing a civil penalty. The bill states a health benefit plan issuer may not base continued health care coverage on an individual having an abortion, regardless of whether a physician or health care practitioner has diagnosed the unborn child as unviable or having a fetal abnormality.

District 15 Rep. Steve Toth, R-Spring, has filed House Bill 68, which amends the definition of abuse of a child to also include “acts by a medical professional or mental health professional for the purpose of attempting to change or affirm a child ’s perception of the child’s sex, if that perception is inconsistent with the child ’s biological sex as determined by the child ’s sex organs, chromosomes, and endogenous hormone profiles...”

Toth also filed House Bill 69, which would prohibit abortion at or after 12 weeks post-fertilization instead of at 20 weeks, the bill reads. The prohibition would not apply—as is the existing language—to an abortion performed if a physician deems an abortion is necessary to “avert the woman’s death or a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.”

District 130 Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-130, has filed House Bill 780, which would establish a bone marrow donor recruitment program. According to the text, the program would educate residents about the need for bone marrow donors—particularly those of minority populations—how to register to become a bone marrow donor and the medical procedures one must undergo to donate bone marrow.


Education



Swanson has filed House Bill 23, which relates to providing for the review of certain county departments of education by the Sunset Advisory Commission. The bill would subject county departments of education in counties with more than 3.3 million residents, including Harris County, to review under the Texas Sunset Act. The review by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission “must assess the department’s governance, management, and operating structure, and the department ’s compliance with legislative requirements,” according to the text. According to the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, an expiration date is set in law for state agencies; Swanson’s bill suggests treating county departments of education as if they are state agencies. According to the commission, an agency will automatically be abolished on its Sunset date unless the Legislature passes a bill to continue it—typically, for another 12 years.

Swanson also filed House Bill 31, which would abolish certain county boards of education and county school trustees Sept. 1, 2023, unless continuation of the county board of education is approved by a majority vote in a November 2022 election.

Toth’s House Bill 85 would launch a study conducted by the Texas Legislative Budget Board on the impact of federal educational mandates on school districts, which would consider “a cost-benefit analysis on the impact of school district compliance with federal educational mandates; a list of all federal educational mandates for which the federal government has not provided full payment or reimbursement that results in expenditures accrued by a school district or the state to comply with the federal educational mandate; and recommendations to reduce the burden of federal educational mandates on school districts. The study would be completed by Dec. 31, 2022.

District 16 Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, has filed House Bill 690 would require school district trustees to complete a school safety training program developed by the Texas School Safety Center.

District 126 Rep. Sam Harless, R-Spring, has filed House Bill 759, which would implement threat assessment teams in public schools and establish a student threat assessment database where data is entered if a team determines that a student poses a serious risk of violence to themself or to others.

District 142 Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, has filed House Bill 572, which would authorize a campus or charter school to provide a dropout recovery competency-based educational pilot program for students in grades 9-12 who meet certain eligibility criteria. The pilot program would be offered for the 2022-23 school year.

Dutton also filed House Bill 814, relating to an exemption from or refund of tuition and fees for certain lower-division students enrolled in a general academic teaching institution who maintain a high grade point average.

Dutton has also proposed House Concurrent Resolution No. 10, which would designate the second Tuesday in October as Legislators in Schools Day for a 10-year period beginning in 2021. This would allow lawmakers to visit and teach in a classroom in their respective districts and engage with young residents, per the resolution.

District 7 Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, has filed Senate Bill 215, which would create the office of inspector general within the Texas Education Agency to “root out fraud and abuse,” Bettencourt said in a Nov. 23 press release.



Other


From revising election practices to the death penalty, various other bills have also been filed by local legislators. These include restrictions on certain state agency actions relating to high-speed rail projects, as stated in House Bill 114, filed by Toth; allowing fireworks to be sold July 5, a change from midnight July 4, also filed by Toth; and abolishing the death penalty, as proposed by Dutton in House Bill 354.

Bettencourt has filed Senate Bill 208, which would prohibit the distribution of official application forms for early voting ballots to residents by an employee of Texas or a political subdivision in the state.

A proposed constitutional amendment by Toth suggests “the appraised value of a residence homestead for ad valorem tax purposes is the market value of the property for the first year that the owner qualified the property for a homestead exemption or, if the owner purchased the property, the purchase price of the property.” The amendment would have to be approved by voters during an election Nov. 2, 2021.

A second constitutional amendment by Toth proposes implementing term limits for members of the Texas Legislature to no more than six terms for a state representative and no more than six terms for a state senator. Legislative service before 2023 would not be counted in eligibility if the amendment were to be approved. The amendment would come to voters Nov. 2, 2021.
By Anna Lotz

Editor, Tomball | Magnolia & Conroe | Montgomery

Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor for the Tomball|Magnolia edition. She began covering the communities of Conroe and Montgomery as well in 2020. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in these communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.



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