Wes, the creator of the East Texas Legislative Watch Facebook page, does a great job breaking down how our legislators voted on important issues to East Texans.
Priorities, PrioritiesThe 85th Texas Legislative Session ended on May 30, 2017 with plenty of fanfare and hoopla. During the final week emotions ran high as lawmakers threatened each other, and many important bills died a slow death. Read LONESTAR VOICE recap here. This week, Governor Abbott called for a special session to begin July 18th, resurrecting many of the bills and topics he deems vital for our legislators to take up and pass.
In May of 2016, the Republican Party of Texas, delegates, at their biannual convention passed a platform that included 5 key legislative priorities. The State Republican Executive Committee subsequently added 3 more items and sent the list to Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick and Speaker Joe Straus. These were the items deemed the most important to Republicans for this session. An updated letter from RPT chairman James Dickey and the SREC, calling for a special session can be read here.
As we noted at the beginning of the session, republicans hold the majority of seats in both the House and Senate, so it would be reasonable to expect these priorities to not only have passed but have passed early on and with overwhelming support. Lets take a look at each individually and how each representative within Senate District One did in relationship to the specific priorities.
Priority #1: Pass constitutional carry while maintaining licensing as optional for reciprocity purposes.
There were no bills filed in the Senate for this measure. The House however had 5 bills related to the priority but only 2 that met the priority language. HB 375 by Jonathan Stickland (92) never made it out of the Homeland Security Committee. Only Representatives Matt Schaefer (6) and Cole Hefner (5) signed on to this bill. HB 1911 was authored by Rep. James White (19) and later substituted by Rep. Schaefer on April 18th. The CSHB was reported to calendars on the 24th where it died. Rep. Jay Dean (7) signed as coauthor on May 2, Rep Hefner, Feb 22, Rep. Chris Paddie (9) on May 8, Rep Schaefer on March 13, and Rep. Gary VanDeaver (1) signed on March 28. Representatives Travis Clardy (11) and Byron Cook (8) did not sign on as coauthors. Rep. Schaefer sat on the Homeland Committee and Rep’s Paddie and Cook were on the Calendars Committee. HB 300 which did nothing for Constitutional Carry but wanted to decrease the fees for licensing was placed on the general calendar, however its companion, SB 16 was passed and signed by the Governor on May 26. All SD 1 representatives signed on to this legislation except for Rep’s Schaefer and VanDeaver.
Priority #2: Abolish Abortion
Only one bill was filed to completely abolish abortion in Texas in its entirety, HB 948 by Rep. Tony Tinderholt (94). It was referred to State Affairs and was never given a public hearing. Only Rep Hefner from SD 1 signed on as coauthor, he did so on Feb 6. Rep. Cook chairs the State Affairs Committee and Rep Paddie is a member. There were plenty of bills that addressed the practice of abortion and those will be addressed in a later issue.
Priority #3: Border Security
Only 6 total bills addressed this issue and none made it out of their respective committees. Rep Schaefer filed HB 2042 which dealt with interstate compact on border security and immigration enforcement. It was never heard in State Affairs committee. The State budget bill SB 1 dealt with funding and will be discussed in a separate article.
Priority #4: Call for a limited Article V convention of states
SJR 2 was passed by both chambers and filed with the Secretary of State’s office on May 11. All SD 1 reps voted for it. All SD 1 reps except Sen. Hughes and Rep Cook signed as cosponsor of the resolution.
Priority #5: Replace the property tax system with an alternative other than the income tax and require voter approval to increase the overall tax burden.
Representative Valoree Swanson (150), introduced the only bill, HB 1050, which would abolish the property tax and replace it with a more equitable system of funding State obligations. It never made it out of the Ways and Means Committee. No one from SD 1 signed on to this bill. SB 2 by Senator Paul Bettencourt (7) deals with how property taxes are calculated and applied. House version here. This bill ended the session in Calendars and is one of the items to be discussed in the special session. A write up on SB 2 can be found here on our Facebook page. Senator Hughes signed on as coauthor March 20.
Priority #6: School Choice
SB 3, educational savings accounts by Senator Larry Taylor (11) passed the Senate on March 30 but stalled in the House Public Education Committee where Rep VanDeaver sits. HB 1335 by Rep Ron Simmons (65), established ESA’s for special needs kids. It was left pending in Public Education Committee as well. This bill has also been placed as a special session item. No one from SD 1 has signed on to this bill.
Priority #7: Sanctuary Cities
SB 4 was passed and signed by the Governor on May 7. A more in depth analysis of this bill will come at a later date. All SD 1 representatives voted in favor of final version.
Priority #8: Religious Liberty
Several bills were filed this session regarding this issue, however the more notable ones were SB 6 by Senator Lois Kolkhorst (18) and HB 421 by Rep. Matt Rinaldi (115). SB 6 was the so called ‘bathroom bill’ and was passed in the Senate on March 15. The House State Affairs committee never took the bill up, however the Senate through SB 2078 included the measure under school safety concerns. Rep Paddie offered an amendment requiring school districts to have a separate bathroom facility for any child that doesn’t feel comfortable using a common bathroom or locker room. Texas Tribune article here. Many grassroots organizations opposed this amendment. Letter here. This item was also listed a special session item. HB 421 is the ‘church security act’. It made it to Calendars where it also died. Rep’s Dean, Schaefer, Clardy and Hefner all signed on as co-authors. Rep. Cook, Paddie and VanDeaver did not. If I didn’t already say it, Cook and Paddie are on the Calendars Committee.