Happy Sine Die Austin:
Having finished its business – or not – the House and Senate on the last day of the 140-day session, generally devote themselves to thanking their staffs, thanking each other, a literal floor fight, and various groupings of legislators honoring the most outstanding legislator from among their ranks.
With that I initiate the Kill Bill Award.
The obvious winner is Rep. Jonathan Stickland and his innovative use of YouTube and Facebook videos to present what he called the Bad Bill of the Week and invite his audience to let legislators know that they wanted that bill killed, with great success.
Here is Stickland explaining it yesterday, followed by as good an accounting as I could pull together.
1. HB 406. Rep. Roberto Alonzo, R-Dallas.
HB 406 (Support): Representative Roberto Alonzo has proposed creating a temporary driving permit for people unable to comply with the overly burdensome identification requirements currently required to receive a drivers license. Drivers permits allow people to drive legally, purchase insurance, and take their children to school and go to work without fear.
Status: Never heard.
2. HB 840 Rep. Lina Ortega, D-El Paso
“The state should allow local governments the ability to determine what minimum wage is best for their own community.”
House Bill 840 by Representative Ortega allows local governments to consider minimum wage increases beyond $7.25 an hour.
David Jennings of Big Jolly Politics thought this one wasn’t really worthy of Stickland’s attention. It was just too easy a target – like shooting bills in a barrel.
I suppose in a theoretical way someone could have a conversation about local control but no one really believes that the Republicans elected to the Texas legislature support local control. Other than that, the only thing that will come of this one is that his supporters can say that he doesn’t support the minimum wage and by golly they don’t either. Throw in the obligatory ‘libtard’ slam and his day is done. Yet Stickland urges activists that don’t live in her El Paso district to call her and tell her that her bill will kill jobs, profits and hurt our economy. Like she cares.
Come on Stickland, find something worth discussing. I mean, seriously, a bill giving local control to cities to increase the minimum wage by a freshman Democrat is going to go nowhere in the Texas legislature. You know it, I know it and Rep. Ortega knows it. Sort of like freshman Rep. Valoree Swanson’s bill to eliminate property taxes. There will be no serious discussion, no serious conversation, it will simply disappear into the ether.
Status: Left pending in committee.
3. HB 97. Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston.
From Davis’ office:
“HB 97 would allow minors 14 and older to legally consent on their own behalf to receive the HPV vaccine, which prevents various forms of cancer, including cervical cancer and head and neck cancers. It does not mandate the HPV vaccine.”
With your help it will go down and flames we will celebrate another victory.
Together we are gong to make America Texas again.
Stats: Never heard.
4. HB 173. Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville.
From Jonathan Salinas at the RGV Independent:
HB 173, or, as it states in the opening: “AN ACT relating to the licensing and regulation of certain rainwater harvesting” will provide “administrative penalties;” “authorizing fees;” and “requiring an occupational license” for installers.
If passed, 173 would authorize the State’s Agriculture Department to “adopt rules that are reasonable and necessary for the performance of the department’s duties under this chapter,” adopting rules to enforce the abovementioned regulations, in other words.
But the prospect of this bill’s passage also has many environmentally-conscious individuals talking about what the bill does and what the motivations are behind it.
This week we have a bill that takes what the good Lord has given us and then tries to regulated it.
Status: Never heard.
5. HB 391. Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin.
From Chuck Lindell at the Statesman:
Some Democratic bills seek changes that were previously rejected by the majority Republicans in both chambers, including House Bill 391 by Howard, which would let public universities opt out of the campus carry law that went into effect in August. The law only lets private colleges opt out — an acknowledgement, Republicans have said, of the importance of private property rights.
HB 391 takes campus carry and gets rid of it.
Gun free zones are bad.
With your help we are going to slaughter it.
Status: Never heard.
6. HB 1610. Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin.
Two very different bills have been filed to revise the current law under which businesses with government contracts must report the controlling interest in their company and any intermediaries who assisted in obtaining a contract. This law, which was sold in the name of transparency, has created a massive paperwork burden for businesses that arguably obscures transparency; 100,000 forms have been filed to date, many of them clearly erroneous since the law and rules are difficult to understand. Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, who authored the original requirement for this bill in 2015, has filed HB 1295 which makes a bad law worse by adding civil penalties and lowering the threshold for defining controlling interest to 5% ownership. In contrast, Rep. John Kuempel has filed HB 1610, which defines controlling interest as 51% and establishes an annual filing, in lieu of the current requirement to file with every contract or change order. ACEC Texas supports HB 1610 and opposes HB 1295.
Why is this a bad bill? Because it’s anti-transparency.
Status: Left pending in committee.
7. HB 1938. Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas.
From Villalba’s office, on introduction.
Today, Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) filed HB 1938, which will amend the current method of identifying as an organ donor on a Texas driver’s license. HB 1938 would provide that those Texas citizens who seek to donate their organs upon death to an organ recipient may do so by applying for or renewing a valid current Texas driver’s license. If the applicant wishes to opt out of the organ donation protocol, the applicant must simply check a single box indicating that the applicant would prefer to not donate their organs to needy Texas recipients. Under current Texas law, the applicant would “opt-in” to become an organ donor. Under HB 1938, the applicant would instead “opt-out” if they do not want to donate their organs.
HB 1938 will only apply to people who are over the age of eighteen years old and will not impact any current Texas driver’s license holder. The new law will ONLY affect those applying for a license for the first time or who are renewing an existing license.
Representative Villalba’s bill mirrors systems currently in place in many parts of Europe, where, because of such changes, access to organs has been significantly increased. In the U.S., only 26 donors exist per million people. It is clear that our national need is much greater than the number of American organ donors. With 121,678 people in the United States waiting for lifesaving organ transplants, Representative Villalba believes HB 1938 will increase organ availability to those hoping for a second chance. According to a study by the United Kingdom Organ Donation Taskforce, some countries that adopted an opt-out system saw donation rates increase by up to 30%.
Dr. Shelley Hall, Chief of Transplant Cardiology and Mechanical Support/Heart Failure at Baylor University Medical Center, said “While Texas has seen its greatest rise in donors this past year, we still have a long way to go. Too many people die on the waiting list every day for lack of suitable donors. I believe this is a positive step towards narrowing the gap.”
Representative Villalba said, “Every year, all across Texas, we watch our fellow Texans succumb to heart, liver, kidney and lung disease because there are not enough viable organs available for transplant. We hope to change that. If we pass this bill, we will save thousands of lives. Now is the time to act.”
Representative Villalba aims to increase the number of organs available to recipients with the bill, as well as remove the negative stigma from identifying as an organ donor. The Mayo Clinic estimates that 21 Americans on the organ donation waiting list die each day. Representative Villalba believes implementing an opt-out system for organ donation in Texas will shorten the waiting list in Texas and save lives daily. Likewise, Representative Villalba knows that dialysis, a common medical procedure utilized by people needing kidneys, costs five times more per year than a single kidney transplant. If more kidneys were available, Texas could significantly lower its medical expenses for those on subsidized healthcare.
It forces you to become organ donors by automatically enrolling you in the system when you get a driver’s license.
Going to end up with even long lines at the DMV.
Yyou have the ability to make these decisions for yourself.
1938 is big government and infringes on our liberty .
Status: Left pending in committee.
8. HB 1. Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond
Should we raid the Rainy Day Fund?
I don’t think so.
The Rainy Day Fund is off limits.
Texas does not have a revenue problem, Rep Zerwas, it has a spending problem.
Status: Stickland says “hearing canceled” as the disposition here, but I’m not sure how to credit this. The Rainy Day Fund is being tapped in the budget, but not to the extent the House would have liked.
9. HB 2495. Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth.
From the Chrsitine McPhate at the Dallas Observer:
Yesterday the state representatives advanced a bill to the House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee seeking to establish a Texas State Music Museum and Texas Music Foundation, both to be based in Austin. The state Senate also has a companion bill.
These bills are bad news for Texas music museum owners like Thomas Kreason, who has spent a decade running the Texas Musicians Museum, which he operates with his wife Marianne in downtown Irving. Their collection, on display since 2007, includes the first song ever recorded by a Texas singer (Mary Carson, 1912) and the typewriter that folklorist Mack McCormick used to write about legendary bluesmen like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Willie Johnson.
The couple say they opened a museum dedicated to Texas musicians because they felt the government wasn’t doing anything to preserve the rich music history of our state, which has produced legends from Willie Nelson to Beyoncé. It’s one of the reasons nearly 30 privately owned music museums have appeared over the years in Texas.
But now Texas music museum owners are worried the future of their museums may be at risk due to the bills seeking to establish an official state museum in Austin. They say they’ll have to compete for state resources, funding, collections and tourism dollars.
“If you have your grandfather’s rare [music instrument or collection], you’re going to drive right past Irving and take it to the ‘official’ Texas music museum,” Marianne Kreason said. “Everybody knows it will go to the official one.”
Tracy Pitcox over at the Heart of Texas Country Music Museum in Brady, Texas, said unlike the Kreasons’ museum, other museums may be more specialized in their content, “but we’re all vying for the same memorabilia.”
This battle with state legislators over a state music museum isn’t their first, but this time the governor is involved.
Senators Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, introduced Senate Bill 1147, and Rep. Charlie Geren from River Oaks introduced its companion bill (House Bill 2495) in the House. Both bills seek to establish an official state music museum in the Capitol Complex and the Texas Music Foundation, a board designed to manage, operate and provide financial support to the museum and one that the governor will oversee.
Sen. Watson’s Policy Director Kate Alexander wrote in another email, “Sen. Watson is carrying that bill, along with Sen. Hancock, at the behest of Gov. Abbott.”
Gov. Abbott’s office didn’t respond to our request for comment.
I love Texas music, but I hate bad bills.
Status: Died in Calendars.
10. HB 3324. Rep. Eddie Rodriguez
Establishes the Texas Grocery Access Investment Fund which would provide funds to encourage companies to open grocery stores, mobile markets and farm stands in low- and moderate-income areas to increase access to healthier foods. The fund would be comprised of money appropriated by the legislature, as well as federal, state, or private grants or loans, federal tax credits, or other type of financial assistance.
It means me and you giving up our tax dollars to a bunch of unelected bureaucrats here in Austin who are apparently going to look at a map and decide where we need a new grocery store.
Status: Died on calendar.
11. HB 1260. Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont.
Meaux’s article is here.
We have actually been told the Texas Shrimp Association brought him this bill. Why would they want to regulate themselves? Because they don’t want to have to compete.
This is the one of Stickland’s bad bills that he could not kill.
He hopes the governor will veto it.
Status: Passed, awaiting Gov. Abbott’s signature.
12. HB 3387. Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian.
From Diana Wray at the Houston Press:
Freedom of the press is one of the founding principles of the United States — it’s right there in the Constitution and everything — but still, one Texas lawmaker is trying to limit that freedom.
State Representative Ken King, a Republican from Canadian, a tiny town in the Panhandle, has filed a pair of bills in the 85th Biennial Texas Legislative Session aimed at making it more difficult to write about public figures and a lot easier to sue journalists who do so.
King recently introduced House Bill 3387, which would make it easier for public officials to sue reporters for libel. And he didn’t stop there, following up with House Bill 3388, which targets the state’s shield law, the statute that lets journalists keep their sources and records confidential.
The reason behind King’s sudden interest in what reporters can and can’t do is such a typical bit of small-town politics that it’s almost cute. King was reportedly inspired to file this proposed legislation in the wake of a failed lawsuit brought by Salem Abraham, a millionaire hedge-fund operator and school board trustee, in 2012. Abraham just so happens to also live in Canadian, go figure.
Anyway, Abraham filed a lawsuit claiming libel after a blog tied to Empower Texans reported that Abraham had been forcibly removed from a meeting with then-governor Rick Perry. It turned out the story was indeed incorrect, but because the Texas Supreme Court deemed Abraham to be a public figure, he not only had to prove the story was false but also had to prove that it had been published with “actual malice” of intent.
Abraham lost the case and had to pay $76,000 in legal fees.
So, in the aftermath of that, King happened to come up with these bills that were filed earlier this month. Abraham testified at a committee hearing on behalf of the bill, according to Courthouse News:
He thinks he’s better than all of you and he shouldn’t have to go by the same set of rules and standards you do.
Status: Left pending in committee.
13. HB 466. Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas.
From Chuck Lindell:
Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, wants to give cities with at least 750,000 residents the ability to vote on ending open carry in city limits (House Bill 466) and allow businesses to ban firearms by displaying a photo of a circled handgun with a line through it instead of the large, wordy sign now required by law (House Bill 246).
Rep. Anchia has found a sneaky way to try to undermine our Second Amendment rights.
Status: Never heard.
14. HB 550. Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City.
Stickland said this was the bad bill – relating to sound-producing devices on vessels – he was proudest of spiking.
It was not easy, assuming he actually, did ultimately well and truly slay the boat whistle zombie bill.
Here is excellent coverage form Lone Star Voice:
The Texas House stalled, then killed, then resurrected, then passed HB 550, by Rep. Ryan Guillen. Dubbed the “dinghy bill,” it requires Texans to carry a whistle with them while kayaking, paddle-boating, canoeing, etc.
Guillen argued the bill was necessary to come into compliance with existing federal law, and to collect money from the federal government which is disbursed in exchange for state compliance.
On April 24th, the bill was laid out during consideration of bills on the “Local and Consent” calendar. Bills on this list are supposedly non-controversial and/or local in impact. However, conservatives have objected to many of the bills which have found their way onto this calendar when they have included regulatory mandates, and have used procedural moves to force them back into committee.
Thus they did on the 24th to HB 550.
On April 26th, it was considered in the Calendars Committee and placed on the “General Calendar.” This is the list of bills that may or may not be controversial, but which are subject to debate.
When it got back to the floor on May 3rd, Rep. Jonathan Stickland railed against it, saying the state of Texas should be rejecting federal regulations, not conforming to them.
“I’m sick and tired of being held hostage by an oppressive federal government who puts money in front of our face, and says, ‘if you’ll just strip a little bit more liberty, a little bit more freedom from Texas residents, then you can have this money back.’ I say no!”
The vote was 89-52 to pass HB 550 on to 3rd Reading.
The bill was laid out on 3rd Reading the next day, with an orchestra of whistles blowing throughout the chamber. Stickland rose again in opposition to the bill and called this final vote a chance for “redemption” for those members who had voted for the bill the bill the day before.
To shouts, whistles, and Stickland’s celebratory fist pumping, the red lights finally outnumbered the green. The bill failed to pass by a vote of 67-79.
Rep. Tony Dale tweeted out a picture of the bill and his whistle sitting in the trashcan and said it was, “in the trashcan of history. #txlege #dead”
But today, Rep. Drew Darby brought the bill back while Guillen, the author, wasn’t even in the chamber.
He said the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife wanted the bill to pass so they could collect $3.2 million from the federal government to come into compliance.
In a tense exchange, Stickland praised his Republican colleagues for rejecting federal money to comply with Obamacare, and urged them to do the same here.
Rep. Matt Rinaldi spoke in opposition to the bill, calling it, “silly” and complaining that the House was spending time on this bill while letting pro-life legislation die in committee.
The arguments for and against were basically the same as they were yesterday, but today, the bill passed 126-21, a wildly different result. Even Dale, who had mocked its death, voted for it today.
It begs the question, “What changed?” Who is pulling the strings in the House? Why did so many members change their votes? What are they afraid of? Or why did they all change their minds?
We may never know.
And, yet, it appears, that was not the end of it and the bill is dead.
Status: According to Stickland, it was “sent back to Senate.”
15. HB 2750. Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin.
Relating to requiring a public employer to give notice to new employees of the ability of certain employees to participate in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
Rep. Gina Hinojosa
April 27 ·
Today, the house passed HB2750 on second reading, my first bill on the house floor. This bill would require a public employer to give notice to new employees of the ability to participate in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The public service loan forgiveness program rewards employees who make 120 payments (10 years worth) on college or graduate loans by forgiving the remainder of their debt. We should encourage more people to work in public service after graduation and lessen the financial burden they carry.
This is big government, and the sad thing is, we had literally almost of half of the Republican caucus joining with the liberal Democrats.
Status: Removed from Local and Uncontested Calendar.
16. HB 486 Gary VanDeaver, R-New Boston
HB 486 (VanDeaver) allows a school board to raise and lower its tax rate within a voter-approved limit without an election.
Status: Died in committee.
17. HB 2766 Rep. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville.
From a guest editorial by Sheffield in the Waco Tribune:
The political professionals in Austin trying to kill my effort to improve Texas nursing homes by calling it a “granny tax” should be ashamed of themselves.
Let’s set the record straight. No one is talking about taxing anyone’s grandma. But “facts” like that can hurt real people if left unrefuted. So I am writing this to set the record straight.
I am a family practice doctor from a small, rural community called Gatesville, not a career politician. I know my neighbors in Gatesville. I’ve watched kids grow up and adults age. Some of my patients age into decline and require assistance despite their best plans. My grandmother lived in a nursing home for many years. For me — like a lot of Texans — the quality of long-term care is very personal.
There is no argument that long-term care is underfunded in Texas. For more than two decades now, I’ve seen the nursing homes I visit face the same struggles: low staffing levels and turnover as high as 90 percent for registered nurses, caused by the state’s low Medicaid reimbursement rate.
This legislation, House Bill 2766, would bring in much-needed funding to improve Texas nursing homes without increased state spending. This new money would enable nursing home owners across the state to raise wages, improve training and invest to enhance their facilities.
HB 2766 would help nursing-home owners retain good staff, and that will improve the quality of care more than any other thing I can think of. In a long-term care setting, a familiar face with personal knowledge of a resident’s needs and routines can make all the difference in the world.
HB 2766 would do this by creating the Nursing Facility Reinvestment Allowance or NFRA. The NFRA will allow nursing-home owners to put up their own dollars to pull down additional funds from the federal government.
The plan is simple: Each nursing home would put up the same amount per resident day. When the federal dollars are returned, nursing homes would see an increase in their Medicaid payment. Under the NFRA, nursing homes would have the opportunity to earn additional reimbursement if they meet certain quality metrics. The wording of the bill expressly prohibits nursing homes from passing on the allowance to their patients, either directly or indirectly. The fee comes from the nursing home’s revenue — not the residents.
Near the end of life, many Texans deplete their financial assets and, for the first time, they need help. That includes many of us — and from both political parties. These are schoolteachers, small-business owners and community leaders who spent their lives building a future for us. They are veterans who defended our freedoms and the police and firefighters who kept us safe.
Talking about Medicaid and nursing homes isn’t just a discussion about poor people but about the elderly who have outlived their savings. It affects middle-income Texans as well. In fact, a majority of nursing-home residents rely on Medicaid.
Can’t find video on this.
Stickland’s notation on his BBOTW list is “granny tax.”
Status: Died on Intent Calendar.
18. HJR 73 Rep. DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne
From Burns office on introduction:
State Representative DeWayne Burns (Cleburne) filed House Joint Resolution 73iled House Joint Resolution 73 Resolution 73 today, which proposes an amendment to the Texas Constitution restricting the legislature’s ability to impose mandates on counties and municipalities without also providing adequate funding to comply with those mandates. The measure would require any state directive to local governments be accompanied by a full appropriation from the legislature or force the state to reimburse counties or cities for the costs incurred.
“I’m a small government conservative,” Rep. Burns said. “At its heart that means I believe every decision that can be made at the local level should be made at the local level, and that it is up to the folks in each individual community to decide for themselves what is worthy of their time, talents and tax dollars. But I’m not naïve. I understand that there are instances when the state must step in and dictate policy. I do believe, however, that when those instances occur, they should be properly funded. Anything less is intellectually dishonest and irresponsible.”
Unfunded mandates are laws passed by the state or federal government, or regulations issued by agencies, that direct counties or cities to undertake specified governmental actions without providing the funding to execute them. Conservative estimates reveal hundreds of million dollars in unfunded mandates that local governmental entities are obligated to carry out by statute. This includes criminal indigent defense, funding appraisal districts, incarceration of state inmates in county jails, the collection of state motor vehicle fees and taxes, training jail staff, jury pay, adult and juvenile probation and even conducting elections.
Rep. Burns concluded, “Unfunded mandates are effectively tax increases handed down by the legislature on local families and property owners, and implemented by proxy. They may be unintentional when a bill is originally passed, but often they end up forcing counties or cities to raise taxes to finance the policy. This practice must be stopped. It is unfair, unjust and it runs counter to everything we stand for as conservative Republicans.”
This is on Stickland’s Bad Bill of the Week list, but I can’t find a video to go with it. Sounds like something he would like, but the note on his BBOTW list says that it “creates ability to sue over laws they don’t like,” which he doesn’t like.
Status: Died in committee.