With less than 30 days left in session, the HD49 office and I have been working hard to hold the line on bad bills and advance district priorities.
This week, I killed a floor amendment seeking to create the permitless carry of guns by calling a Point of Order on the amendment. And, we successfully moved the Rosedale alternative accountability bill (HB 2797) to the Senate by amending the bill onto another bill. The students and staff at Rosedale work hard to provide an enriching, holistic educational experience for our children with significant cognitive disabilities and this work is not adequately measured by a standardized test.
In addition, we are shepherding through our rider in the budget which would instruct the Legislative Budget Board to deliver a report about special education funding and its sources, and examine the progress of correction actions and responses taken in response to federal review of the special education cap. With much gratitude to Senator Watson for adding it into the Senate budget, we are well on our way to ensuring the transparency of our special education programming needs.
Here's a run down of some of my other bills that have passed out of the House:
HB 1307 would create a statewide disaster case management system run by the Texas Division of Emergency Management so that people who are affected by a disaster are eligible to apply for assistance from multiple sources.
HB 137 would require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to inform a local emergency management director when a dam in the area is designated as significant or high hazard. The classifications are based on the number of people who could be killed if the dam was breached. This bill was filed in response to an expose by Ralph Haurwitz with the Austin American Statesman. Check out his story to learn more about the dangers facing communities by inadequate dam funding.
HB 128 would require school districts to provide parents or guardians with a clear and easy to understand copy of their child’s fitness assessment by the end of the school year. Currently, fitness assessment reports must be requested and even if you receive the report are often convoluted and unreadable.
HB 1130 creates a Register to Vote specialty license plate and directs the funds collected from the license plate to the Secretary of State's Project VOTE program, which helps students become knowledgable, responsible voters.
SB 1134/HB 2506 would designate a portion of Parmer Lane in Austin as the Master Sergeant Jonathan J. Dunbar Memorial Parkway in honor of a fallen Austin hero. I appreciate Senator Watson's leadership in initiating this tribute.
Threats to Local Control
This week on Tuesday in the Texas House, we debated SB 2 on the floor. Senate Bill 2 has been deemed a legislative priority for Republican leaders. SB 2 does not reduce property taxes and is not good for Austin. I voted against SB 2, along with every single member of the Travis County delegation. A 3.5% revenue cap would result in a $28 million budget deficit after only three years. $28 million pays for roughly 14 percent of the current police force or 330 firefighters - enough to staff 20 fire stations throughout the city. SB 2 will require an election every year just to maintain needed services. Austin is nationally recognized for keeping our city safe, being an economic engine for Texas, and advancing progressive values. We don't need the Texas Legislature to be the city council for the State of Texas.
While the Texas House has prioritized public school funding, the Texas Senate has prioritized property tax reform. The best way to provide property tax relief is by updating our public-school funding formula. With HB3 – we would be investing $6.3 million into our public schools, while also saving homeowner’s in Austin $100 on a $200,000 home. By holding bills like HB3 hostage, our state leaders are placing enormous pressure on our local leaders. For example, AISD is planning to postpone adopting their official 2019-2020 budget until June. The possible impact of HB3 leaves many public servants hoping relief will come.
A series of four Senate bills (SB 2485, SB 2486, SB 2487, and SB 2488) seeking to preempt local control ordinances relating to paid sick leave, fair chance hiring and mandatory scheduling have quickly made their way to the House and had a hearing in the House State Affairs Committee on Thursday. Though the committee hearing ended with language being added back into the bills protecting local nondiscrimination ordinances (victory for our LGBTQ+ community!), we remain opposed to these bills as they would override local Austin ordinances that provide workers with basic protections.
Press Conference Supporting LGBTQ+ Texans
On Monday this week, House Chairman Garnet Coleman, along with the House LGBTQ+ Caucus and House Democratic Caucus, held a press conference in support of HB 1513. This bill seeks to add gender identity to the list of protected classes under the state's hate crimes law and would send a strong message that Texas doesn’t tolerate hate crimes towards LGBTQ+ Texans. I was proud to stand with other House Members in support of this necessary legislation that would protect LGBTQ+ Texans.
Secretary of State Whitley Update
There’s also been an update to the court proceedings involving the interim Secretary of State David Whitley’s attempt to purge 95,000 voters from the voter rolls. Last Friday, Whitley agreed to rescind the media advisory that was issued by his office. In addition, Texas is on the hook for $450,000 for the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees. This is a BIG win for civil rights groups who sued the State in February for infringing on the rights of naturalized citizens. Since the advisory was initially released, Republican leaders have claimed that voter fraud is rampant. Even after an investigatory commission was started and disbanded by President Trump, there has been no evidence of a problem of electoral fraud. Now that the court case has been settled, the Texas Senate still has to confirm Whitley in order for him to be officially appointed Secretary of State. In order to be confirmed, Whitley needs two Democrats to vote for his confirmation. So far, no Democrat has pledged their support to Whitley, which leaves him short a couple of votes.
HD49 Engagement Team Meetings and ACTION ALERT
We’re hosting our final engagement team meeting in May! Please join us as we strategize about how to maximize our impact for the rest of session. Our last meeting will take place in the Capitol on Thursday, May 7th from 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM in room E2.018.
I will have a committee hearing on HB 95, my "Lie and Try" bill, in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee this Monday upon adjournment! HB 95 creates a criminal offense if you Lie on a background check and Try to get a gun. It's already a federal crime but it is rarely prosecuted. In fact, of all the violations only 0.09% were prosecuted. This bill has been a priority of the Healthy Communities for All HD49 Engagement Team - please come register your opinion on HB 95 at the Capitol on Monday to show committee members the importance of common sense gun safety laws!
We’re so close to the end! With less than 30 days left this session, we’ll be having late nights in committee hearings and on the House Floor. Feel free to stop by my office anytime to ask questions or take a break. Call the office anytime at 512-463-0068 with questions or concerns.