Battle over bills continues

Battle Over Bills Continues

By MADHU SRIDHAR
President, League of Women Voters of the San Antonio Area

The Texas Legislature ended its 85th regular session with both chambers successfully passing a two-year $217 billion budget – the only item the Legislature is required to pass. Hundreds of other bills were also passed, but several high-profile issues were left unresolved amid divisive fights and petty squabbles in the final days of the legislative session. As citizens, we do expect spirited debates on issues but we also expect civility from our legislators and expect them to amicably resolve their differences. We deserve mature, responsible and constructive debates to move the public’s agenda forward.

Gov. Greg Abbott has called a special session. The legislature will reconvene on July 18 to address 20 issues put on the agenda by the governor. The priority will be the sunset bill to reauthorize several state agencies, including the Texas Medical Board, which licenses and oversees physicians.

The list of special session items includes bills that the League fought against, testified against and followed through the legislative process to be sure they were not passed. You as League members were instrumental in this process by calling your legislators and writing to them. They never made it to the governor’s desk for signature. Unfortunately though, those bills have made it back on the special session agenda. What that means is we will be vigilant and notify you to let the legislators know, once again, how you want them to represent you as a constituent.

The League of Women Voters has been a staunch defender of public education, and education is also one of our local League’s priority issues. To that end I applaud House Speaker Joe Straus for his leadership on this issue. He continues to fight hard to defend public education.

The list on the special session agenda includes a commission to study ways to fix public school financing, school vouchers allowing parents of special needs children to use public school dollars for private schools, teacher pay increase of $1,000, and administrative flexibility in teacher hiring and retention practices. How will the commission to study ways to fix public school financing help the children in the pipeline?

Here is a complete list of the 20 items that will be on the special session agenda:

  • Measures that will continue the operations of the Texas Medical Board and four other agencies that are scheduled to shutter Sept. 1.
  • Teachers’ pay increase of $1,000, to be paid for by local school district funds.
  • Administrative flexibility in teacher hiring and retention practices.
  • A commission to study ways to fix public school financing.
  • Allowing parents of special needs children to use public school dollars for private schools.
  • Limiting growth of local property taxes.
  • Caps on state and local spending.
  • Preventing cities from regulating what property owners do with trees on private land.
  • Preventing local governments from changing rules midway through construction projects.
  • Speeding up the local government permitting process.
  • Restricting cities’ ability to annex property.
  • Abbott signed a ban on texting while driving Tuesday, but he wants lawmakers to pass a bill pre-empting local restrictions on mobile devices in automobiles.
  • Restricting transgender Texans from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.
  • Prohibiting public employers from collecting union dues.
  • Prohibiting local governments from sending tax dollars to abortion providers.
  • Prohibiting abortion coverage under primary health insurance plans.
  • Increasing reporting requirements when health complications arise from abortions.
  • Strengthening patient protections relating to do-not-resuscitate orders.
  • Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud.
  • Extending a study of the causes of maternal mortality.

I urge you to take the time to visit, email, write or call your elected officials. Remind them that:

  • Voting rights are extremely important to you.
  • You oppose vouchers, which steal money from your neighborhood public schools.
  • Local tree and construction project ordinances belong at the local level.
  • Women have a right to safe medical abortions and that Texas has an extremely high maternal mortality rate.
  • You support LGBT Texans and are concerned for vulnerable children who are transgender.