Every session, thousands of bills are filed but only a small percentage actually make it to the Governor’s desk. (To learn more about my legislation that passed this session, click here.) This is both good and bad—many bad bills die but many pressing challenges go unaddressed as well.
Still, our efforts continue. Bills that didn’t make it this session are not just well-positioned with a head start for next session, they become education and organizing opportunities in the upcoming election cycle. Below is a review of some of my priority bills that did not pass and important progressive legislation filed by my colleagues that did not pass and how we get it done moving forward!
While our Attorney General is trying in court to take away healthcare access from over a million Texans as we write this by overturning the Affordable Care Act, it’s unsurprising but disappointing that very little was done this legislative session to impact our health care emergency in this state. Texas has the highest percentage and highest number of uninsured people in the country and the highest number of uninsured children in the country. Sadly, the uninsured rate of children is rising.
Multiple bills were filed this session to expand Medicaid, including my bill HB 4127, which would have created a Medicare for All system in Texas. The bill was the first of its kind in the nation to receive a hearing but, unfortunately, we did not have the votes to pass it out of committee. Rep. John Bucy filed a Medicaid expansion budget amendment and it was voted down by House Republicans on budget night. Freshman Rep. Julie Johnson filed HB 1832 which would have prevented insurance companies from retroactively determining an emergency procedure does not qualify as an emergency. This could have prevented surprise medical bills for patients. Ultimately, this bill passed the House but died in the Senate.
Rep. Toni Rose filed HB 744, which would have expanded Medicaid coverage for pregnant women for 12 months after the birth of their child. HB 744 passed the House, but died in the Senate. In addition, Rep. Coleman filed HB 2600, which would have required coverage of postpartum depression treatment. HB 2600 never received a vote out of the House Public Health Committee. We know that for many Texans there is no larger concern than affordable healthcare.
Seemingly, the only healthcare issue prioritized by Republican leadership was SB 22, which limits access to healthcare for women who receive life-saving cervical and breast cancer screenings at clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood.
We ignore the healthcare concerns of our constituents at our political peril and organizing efforts are already underway to mobilize voters on this issue in the coming election. Special thanks to Our Revolution Texas and Texas AFL-CIO for leading this effort to expand quality healthcare to all.
HB 52 - Child Care Tax Breaks
The 2018 United Ways of Texas ALICE Report found “child care represents a Texas family’s greatest expense: an average of $1,133 per month for two children in licensed and accredited child care, or $995 for registered home-based care." When most Texas families struggle to find affordable quality care they need for their children this is not just a personal challenge, but a societal failure. We can do better by our working families.
I re-filed a bill this session, HB 52, that would have incentivized employers to contribute to their employees’ Dependent Care Flex Spending Accounts by establishing a franchise tax credit for small and medium size employers that contribute to such an account.
What Happened: Last Session we didn’t have the votes to get this bill passed out of committee. This Session HB 52 was voted out of the House Ways and Means Committee and sent to the House Calendars Committee where the bill died. We made incremental progress but still there is no relief for struggling families. This issue becomes a priority for lawmakers when parents speak up to tell their stories, demand better, and hold politicians accountable.
HB 43 - Charter School Discipline
Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools can exclude children based on the student’s disciplinary history, including a visit to the principal’s office. When charter schools exclude students according to disciplinary history, they disproportionately exclude students of color and students receiving Special Education.
I re-filed HB 43 this session to prohibit charter schools from asking about an applicant’s disciplinary history. Public schools take all kids, and so should charter schools.
What Happened: After hearing compelling testimony the bill was voted out of the House Public Education Committee unanimously and sent to the House Calendars Committee, where it died with fierce opposition from the charter school lobby. Last Session we were not given a vote in Committee. While this session we made progress, charter schools will still be able to keep kids out leaving our public schools to do the difficult but crucial job of educating all kids.
HB 375 - Expand College Campus Voting Rights
During the interim, I worked closely with Texas Votes, a non-partisan student organization on UT Austin's campus, to establish a second polling location on campus. This effort gave student leaders a bill idea to require all college campuses with over 10,000 students to have polling locations on campus. There are 22 public college campus with 10,000 students across the state, but only 7 of these campuses have polling locations.
With the help of college students, we filed HB 375 which would have expanded voting access to thousands of students by requiring counties with college campuses with a population exceeding 10,000 students to have a polling location on campus.
What Happened: HB 375 was referred to the House Elections Committee but, despite repeated requests, it never received a hearing. The blatant disregard for the voting rights and concerns of students should inspire young people to get involved and exercise their voice this election season. That work must start now to be most effective. Elected leaders will listen when they know that their jobs depend on it.
Worker's Rights--Non-Compete Agreements
Currently, the law does not prohibit “non-compete” agreements for low-wage employees. While non-compete agreements were originally intended for high-level employees with proprietary business information, they are increasingly being used to restrict low-wage workers from seeking out better job opportunities. HB 2960 would have created a prohibition against “non-compete” agreements for low-wage employees who earn less than $15 per hour.
What Happened: This bill was voted out of the Business and Industry Committee on a bipartisan vote (8-1) and sent to the House Calendars Committee, where it died. This was the first time this bill has been filed in the Texas Legislature, and while not successful, we were able to educate members about this problem facing low-wage employees and intend to try again next session.
Rights of LGBTQ+ Texans
While House Democrats filed progressive legislation to expand and protect the rights of LGBTQ+ Texans, none of these bills made it past the committee stage.
My bill, HB 3281, would have prohibited the use of a victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation as the basis for a legal defense for a violent crime, most commonly known as a “gay panic” defense. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs recently reported that hate-motivated homicides of LGBTQ individuals have steadily increased since 2012 and have increased 86% between 2016 and 2017. According to the latest Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics, more than 17% of all hate crimes reported in 2017 were based on the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Rep. Celia Israel filed HB 517, which would have created penalties for a medical professional attempting to practice “conversion therapy” on a child.
Rep. Garnet Coleman filed HB 1513, which would have expanded the scope of the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act to include protections for transgender Texans.
The Texas Legislature had very few wins related to gun safety. One bright spot of this session was the passage of a $1 million budget rider by Rep. Donna Howard creating a public campaign focused on promoting the safe storage of firearms. During session, I re-filed HB 95 - "Lie and Try", which would have created a state criminal offense for lying on a background check to try to purchase a gun. This bill received a committee hearing in Criminal Jurisprudence Committee but did not receive a vote.
HB 1236 by Goodwin would have allowed public colleges to opt out of “campus carry” or prohibit the possession of guns on campus just like private colleges are allowed. This bill was left pending in the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.
Rep. Joe Moody’s “red flag” law bill, HB 131, was a common sense gun safety bill that would have created the ability for a family member or law enforcement to make a judge aware if someone is an extreme risk of danger to themselves or another person and would allow the judge to temporarily separate an individual from their firearm for a brief period of time. The bill was referred to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and did not receive a committee hearing.
HB 1168, filed by Rep. Anchia, was vetoed by the Governor. This bill would have allowed local authorities to bring charges against people who carry a gun in a secure area of a Texas airport.
It shocks the conscience that despite all too familiar and frequent news stories of innocent Texans dying due to gun violence, our leaders remain unwilling to do anything to take guns out of the hands of those who have proven they should not have them.
Climate Change and Legislation affecting the Environment
Nine bills were filed this session that specifically referenced climate change, including my House Resolution, HB 776, which urged Congress to support bipartisan climate change policy initiatives like The Green New Deal. Several other bills would have created commissions, or required state agencies, to study the impact of climate change on the Texas economy, infrastructure, natural resources, and tourism (HB 942, Anchia; HB 928, Anchia; HB 1980, Reynolds; HB 3023, M. Gonzalez; SB 2069, Menendez). None of these bills were given a hearing in House Environmental Regulation or Senate Business & Commerce.
Additionally, my bills, HB 514 and HB 856, would have struck the section of the Solid Waste Disposal Act that restricts local governments from regulating the sale or use of a container or package not otherwise regulated by state law.
This change would have ensured that state law does not preempt local governments from passing ordinances to restrict or prohibit the sale or use of plastic debris such as bags or styrofoam cups. Neither of these bills received a hearing in the House Environmental Regulation Committee.
Another important bill that would have helped to address climate change was SB 1446 by Sen. Nathan Johnson. This bill would have flood-proofed oil and gas infrastructure. This bill received a committee hearing in the Senate but was never voted out of the Senate Water & Rural Affairs Committee.
Overall, a lot of progressive bills were filed, but most did not make it through the gauntlet. As the last election taught us, lawmakers will prioritize issues they hear repeatedly from voters. This session it was more money for our schools.
What will it be next Session? You have the power to decide.
We are already getting started on preparing for the next legislative session. As we’re preparing, let me know what issues are important to you. Please feel free to reach out to my office at 512-463-0668 anytime.