Updates from your local legislators

Here is an overview of activity from  your area elected officials on various legislation so far this session.

Sen. Kirk Watson D-Austin • Elected: 2006 • [email protected][/caption]

Sen. Kirk Watson

D-Austin • Elected: 2006 • [email protected]

Increased transparency

Watson’s Senate bills 407 and 408, which aim to open public information laws so government can be more transparent, both passed the Senate with an overwhelming majority.

Judith Zaffirini D-Laredo • Elected: 1986 • [email protected][/caption]

Judith Zaffirini

D-Laredo • Elected: 1986 • [email protected]

Zaffirini authored SB 31, a bill which would ban texting while driving statewide. The bill passed out of committee but was not placed on the intent calendar to move forward.

Rep. Dawnna Dukes D-Austin • Elected: 1994 • [email protected][/caption]

Rep. Dawnna dukes

D-Austin • Elected: 1994 • [email protected]

Latest news

Dukes has been absent for more than 100 votes in the House, the most of any House member. This constitutes 64 percent of the votes, including votes taken on amendments and bills.

Rep. Gina Hinojosa D-Austin • Elected: 2016 • [email protected][/caption]

Rep. Gina Hinojosa

D-Austin • Elected: 2016 • [email protected]

Firearms restrictions

HInojosa filed HB 1827 to prohibit the carrying of firearms when intoxicated. This bill stands in contrast to HB 375, which would abolish gun-free zones.

Rep. Donna Howard D-Austin • Elected: 2006 • [email protected][/caption]

Rep. Donna Howard

D-Austin • Elected: 2006 • [email protected]

Women’s health

Howard’s HB 279 to continue the Women’s Health Advisory Committee passed out of the House Public Health Committee. It will face floor debate next.

Eddie Rodriguez D-Austin • Elected: 2002 • [email protected][/caption]

Eddie Rodriguez

D-Austin • Elected: 2002 • [email protected]

Rodriguez voted for Senate Bill 2, the Senate’s draft budget. Debate went late into the night, after starting at 9 a.m. SB2 was eventually voted out of the House in a 131-16 vote.

3 things to know about Senate-approved ‘bathroom bill’

1. The bill regulates bathroom usage based on the gender printed on an individual’s birth certificate. The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, said individuals can change their birth certificate if they want to use a different bathroom.

2. The bill, which was approved March 15 by the state Senate but awaits action by a state House committee, imposes penalties on entities where bathroom violations occur and not on individuals who violate the law. Penalties total as much as $10,500 for each violation.

3. Per the law, exceptions can be made for custodial staff, children age 10 and younger and for medical assistance. Those testifying against the bill questioned whether someone could dress up as a custodian to illegally enter the bathroom of a different gender.

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.

Compiled by Ayan Mittra

Budget update

The Texas House endorsed its version of the state budget April 7. The House vote included using $2.5 billion from the state’s savings account, commonly known as the Rainy Day Fund. On March 28, the state Senate approved its own budget plan. Representatives from both chambers will meet to work out the differences in the plans.

Public education

During the House budget debate, members voted to prevent state money from being spent to subsidize private school tuition about a week after the Texas Senate agreed to create two public programs subsidizing private school tuition and homeschooling expenses. On April 19, the House passed its leading school finance bill, which would inject an extra $1.6 billion into the state public education system. The Senate Education Committee on April 18 discussed a bill that would radically simplify the state’s school finance formula. On April 11, the Texas Senate Education Committee heard testimony on a bill that would make permanent a 2015 law that allows students to graduate even if they haven’t passed their required exams.  The House Public Education Committee on April 4 backed an overhaul of the planned  A-F accountability system.

Ride-hailing services

The Texas House on April 19 backed a proposal that would override local regulations concerning ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft.

‘Sanctuary cities’ legislation

On April 12, the Texas House advanced its own version of a bill outlawing “sanctuary cities” in Texas. The legislation is a scaled-down measure in comparison with what the state Senate passed in February. Both versions would punish certain local law enforcement officials for failing to cooperate with federal authorities and honor requests from immigration agents to hold non-citizen inmates subject to removal.

Convention of states

On April 13, a House select committee considered measures that aim to pull powers from the federal government and hand it to the states. The Texas Senate approved similar measures in February.