News from the Capitol
By Grace Chimene, Vice President, LWV-Texas
Oh No! They’re Back!
We fought against many of the 20 items Gov. Abbott has listed for the Special Session! Those bad ideas went through the full legislative process and didn’t make it because they were bad ideas! Now Gov. Abbott has called a Special Session starting on July 18th. He has brought bad ideas back to life. Thankfully, the legitimate Sunset bills are the priority! We will call the other items “zombie bills”. We are hopeful that a contentious Senate and House won’t resolve their differences on zombie bills in 30 days. Many of the items remove powers that should remain close to the public, under local control, and give them to the state!
Help the League continue to fight the Zombie bills!
There is no rest for the weary!
Texas League Priority Issues
Voting Rights and Election Laws – The brief story of the 2017 Session for voting rights and elections: nothing really bad was passed and a few minor process improvements were made. The most talked about bill approved this session was SB 5, the Lt. Governor’s high priority Voter ID bill. This is not the last word, however, as the litigation continues.
Zombie item! Voter fraud by mail. We will monitor carefully to ensure no voter suppression items are not brought back to life.
Public Education – The Senate and House had very different legislative priorities when it came to public education. The most critical were evident in the way the two bodies approached the need to revise our public school finance system. Chairman Huberty and the House Committee for Public Education used a collaborative approach, listened to many experts on public education finance and needs, and developed HB 21. While this commendable effort passed the House, the Senate gutted the funding and tacked on an Education Savings Account voucher amendment before passing it.
Zombie items we will fight!
The dreaded voucher bill which robs money from local public schools and to fund private and religious schools, and homeschoolers with no accountability!
Limiting property taxes which pay for schools and local services and overhaul the property appraisal and tax rate process. This directly affects fast growth communities ability to raise taxes to provide needed public services.
Women’s Health and Reproductive Choice – In the end only one of the many anti-abortion measures filed in the session was enacted and became law, but unfortunately, that one is particularly heinous. SB 8 (Schwertner) requiring burial or cremation of fetal remains after an abortion and also banning the donation of aborted fetal tissue for medical research – and also banning so-called “partial birth abortions” which are already prohibited by federal law.
Zombie items we will fight!
Prohibit local governments from using taxpayer money to fund Planned Parenthood or any abortion provider.
Ban abortion insurance coverage in private and government plans – all aspects of Women’s Health should be covered. Require unnecessarily strict reporting of complications from abortions – unnecessary!
Create a task force to study Texas extremely high maternal mortality rate. Great idea! Possibly a good zombie bill!
Special Session Zombie Bills
Equal Opportunity – We fought long and hard to protect vulnerable children who are transgender during the session. Now we start the fight again.
Zombie item we will fight: limiting transgender-friendly bathroom policies.
Land Use – LWV-TX opposed several bills introduced this session to remove land use powers from local governments. SB 744 will dictate to local governments how developers can mitigate for tree removal, not allowing for local conditions regarding tree regrowth.
Zombie items we will watch carefully.
Reducing local control of tree removal rises from the dead! Trees ordinances should stay local. The state will not protect the trees in your community rather they will protect developer’s rights to remove them.
Reducing local governments control of construction projects in your community.
Speeding up local government permitting processes.
Transportation – Transportation policy bills did not get very far in the 85th Legislature. High-speed rail bills, toll road bills, red light camera bills and other bills to address important transportation issues in the state went either unheard or did not make it far enough in the process. One of the few significant Transportation policy bills, HB 62, signed by the Governor is a statewide ban on texting and driving.
Zombie item: Pre-empt all local ordinances that limit the use of mobile devices in vehicles. That would include limiting local bans on talking and driving.