August 31, 2017

Special Session Wrap Up

Key Legislation Passed During the First Called Special Session of the 85th Legislature

Senate Bill 20 (SB 20) and Senate Bill 60 (SB 60) will extend the expiration dates for the Texas Boards of Medical Examiners, Examiners of Psychologists, Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists, Examiners of Professional Counselors and Social Worker Examiners, and allow these agencies to continue their regular operations and remain fully functional. This essential legislation failed to pass during the 85th regular legislative session and was the first item added to the Governor's special session call.

Senate Bill 5 (SB 5) will increase penalties for mail-in ballot fraud in Texas. This bill will improve the integrity of the ballot box and ensure voter confidence in Texas elections. Having the most accurate data available in order to create good policy to promote health and safety of women is important.

House Bill 13 (HB 13) will expand reporting requirements for complications resulting from abortion procedures. This bill will result in more accurate data being provided to the state.

Senate Bill 6 (SB 6), will reform and restrict the municipal annexation process. Under the new law Texans will now be able to vote on whether a city can annex areas outside of its limits. This legislation will now give citizens a voice when it comes to the annexation practices of local governments.

Yesterday the Governor, Greg Abbott, signed House Bill 214 (HB 214) which limits insurance coverage for abortion procedures. Under this new law Texans will not be forced to pay for elective abortions through their insurance plans.

Senate Bill (SB) 17 will help combat the increase in maternal mortality and morbidity rates in Texas by continuing the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force until 2023.

House Bill (HB) 7 will require a municipality that imposed a tree mitigation fee for tree removal on a person's property to allow that person to apply for a tree planting credit to offset the fee. The bill will help reduce the burden of homeowners from local regulations and fees.

House Bill (HB) 21 has several components to improve our education system in Texas: House Bill 21 takes $351 million in General Revenue appropriations made by Senate Bill 1, Eighty-fifth Legislature, Regular Session, for the 2018-19 biennium to the Texas Education Agency for the same biennium to implement certain provisions of the legislation, as below: $150 million to fund financial hardship grants relating to the continuation of Additional State Aide for Tax Reduction (ASATR) for school districts who would see a substantial reduction in funding, $60 million to fund payments to open enrollment charter schools, $60 million to support the existing foundation school program debt allotment, $41 million to fund the increase in the small district adjustment and $40 million to fund the grant programs for services to students with autism and dyslexia.

The bill will also transfer from the Health and Human Services Commission $212 million in General Revenue appropriations made by Senate Bill 1, 85th Legislature, Regular Session, for the 2018-19 biennium to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) to be used to provide support to participants in the Texas Public School Employees Group Insurance Program (TRS-Care) by:

1) reducing costs for participants, including premiums, deductibles, and prescription drugs, during the 2018 and 2019 plan years; and

2) reducing the premium and maximum out-of-pocket cost for an enrolled adult child with a mental disability or a physical incapacity during the 2018 and 2019 plan years.

The bill also creates the Texas Commission on Public School Finance which would have the responsibility to develop and make recommendations for improvements to the current public school finance system or for new methods of financing public schools. House Bill 21 also includes language that would remove ambiguity from Senate Bill 1353 during the regular session. This will ensure that Texas City ISD gets an additional $18 million in funding necessary to enhance the facilities in La Marque as part of La Marque ISD annexation into Texas City ISD.

 

TASSP Nomination for Taylor Hankamer

It is my distinct honor to nominate our very own Taylor Hankamer of Hankamer, Texas for the Texas Armed Services Scholarship Program. Taylor is an exceptional young man with a bright future ahead of him. Among a list of distinguished accomplishments, a few worth mentioning consist of: National Honor Society, State Semifinalist for the Senior Farm Skill Team, First Team Academic All State Football, Mr. Anahuac High School, and a four-year member of the Anahuac FFA. Taylor was also involved with the Boys State Program, where he was selected as a County Commissioner by his cohorts. Taylor will be attending Texas A&M University this fall, where he plans on joing the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets. I am glad to support Taylor in his decision to pursue a life of service and I whole heartedly believe that he is a worthy candidate for the TASSP Scholarship.

 

Republican House Caucus

The Republican House Caucus met today after Special Session. We agreed unanimously to select a Speaker candidate following the November 2018 general election. Whoever wins the caucus vote can be assured of full undivided caucus support going forward. Our goal is to grow a stronger, more resilient Texas.

 

 UTMB Lungs in Space Research Project

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and Houston Methodist Research Institute recently announced an exciting new research project. Their goal is to grow lungs in space in order to research the effect spaceflight has on the organs. "We know a lot about what happens in space to bones, muscle, the heart and the immune system, but nobody knows much about what happens to the lungs," said Joan Nichols, a professor of Internal Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology, and associate director for research and operations for the Galveston National Laboratory at UTMB. "We hope to find out how lung cells react to the change in gravity and the extreme space environment, and then that can help us protect astronauts in space, as well as the lungs of regular people here on Earth."