We are officially in the second month of session at the Texas Legislature! Between our first Human Services Committee hearing, the Secretary of State’s nomination hearing and the Governor laying out his emergency items, there’s been a lot keeping our office busy.
Earlier this month, Governor Greg Abbott outlined his legislative priorities and emergency items. This session, both Democrats and Republicans have detailed their legislative priorities to include school finance reform and teacher pay raises. Gov. Abbott also included the following in his emergency items: school safety, emergency preparedness, property tax reform, and mental health programs. Bills which fall within the Governor’s emergency items will be able to pass within the first 60 days of session. I have two bills that are eligible for passage because they fall within the Governor’s emergency preparedness emergency item. The first bill is HB 137 which seeks to require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to provide local emergency managers with information when a dam has a hazard classification of high or significant. The impetus for this bill was an excellent investigative series by the Austin American Statesman on dam safety in Texas. The second bill is HB 1307 which authorizes the Texas Division of Emergency Management to create a disaster case management system to assist people in disaster areas so that they can be more effectively connected to support programs. This bill was informed by local and state emergency management officials who expressed a need for such a system in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. I'm honored to work with these "in the trenches" officials to advance their ideas into sound policy to keep Texans safe.
Of course, school finance reform and adequate investment in our schools is at the top of my priority list and with similar assertions from state leaders, I am hopeful we can work together to advance a plan that substantively improves the future of so many kids across Texas. Still, as with any effort for transformative change, we will not make the progress we need without vigilance and substantial public participation in the process. The voters of Texas put this issue front and center this legislative session by voting for public education. Our work is not over. Please make a commitment to do what you can to be involved. You can sign up for our "Education For All," HD 49 Engagement Team to stay up to date and learn of opportunities to make your voice heard.
On another front, one of our successes so far this session has been the formation of the first LGBTQ+ Caucus. I was proud to stand with my fellow Members as an ally and caucus member to support legislation that protects our LGBTQ+ neighbors. The caucus is focused on legislation designed to protect LGBTQ+ Texans from being discriminated against in housing and employment, along with ending the harmful practice of “conversion therapy.” To keep up with the Caucus’ work, please like our FaceBook page or follow us on twitter.
Other rights that have been infringed upon are the voting rights of over 95,000 Texans, who recently became naturalized citizens. Last week, Senate Nominations held a hearing to determine if the interim Secretary of State David Whitley will be confirmed as the Secretary of State. That committee has yet to vote on this issue. Let's be clear about this – the Secretary of State created a list of 95,000 individuals throughout Texas it flagged for suspicion of voter fraud and lack of citizenship. Since then, counties have been individually checking each name to confirm their voting rights and citizenship status, and automatically identified 20,000 of those names were duplicates and naturalized citizens. Our counties were tasked with verifying large volumes of information on top of their normal county responsibilities. Click here to read more about what happened in Senate Nominations. I will continue to monitor and probe these developments to protect the voting rights of Texans.
Again, one way to funnel our energy into positive efforts is to join us at our monthly HD 49 Engagement Team meeting. Last month was one of our largest meetings to date and we laid out our legislative priorities. Last week, we had our second meeting and drilled down into what legislative priorities our three engagement teams (Healthy Communities for All, Education for All and Democracy and Equality for All) will be focusing on. Be sure to sign up here to learn about our future engagement team meetings!
On Wednesday, Moms Demand Action had their Advocacy Day at the Capitol. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a grassroots movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence. I met with a small group of the "Moms" to discuss common sense legislation including a bill I have filed regarding lying on a background check. HB 95 (Lie and Try) would make it a state crime to "lie" on a background check to "try" to get a gun when an individual is prohibited from doing so by state and federal law. The bill would also require federally licensed dealers to notify the Department of Public Safety (DPS) when a firearm sale has been declined due to the background check indicating the prospective buyer is prohibited from possessing a firearm. This bill is one of our priority issues for our engagement team this session.
HB 1255 would require maternal mortality death records be submitted to the Department of State Health Services within 30 business days for the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force to review. Death certificate data continues to function as the primary source of data for maternal mortality reporting and analysis. In 2012, the average receipt time of records was 59 days, with a range of 3 to 537 days. Texas has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the developed world, and it is necessary to carefully review timely records in order to reduce preventable pregnancy complications.
Thank you for allowing me to work for you and our community. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to a member of my staff anytime or call the office at (512) 463-0668.