This legislation allows greater flexibility regarding the method of mailing notice a municipal management district may use to notify a property owner about a scheduled hearing. The result is a potential savings of thousands of dollars for our area management districts each time they have to provide notice of scheduled hearings. This money can instead be used on services such as increased security patrols, graffiti abatement, and neighborhood clean ups, which benefit our entire community.
This bill requires that municipal court and justice of the peace judges that hear certain cases involving juveniles receive training on child welfare issues and the Federal Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). This will better prepare our judges to deal with the complex issues that lead too many of our juveniles to problems with the criminal justice system.
HB 3054/SB 2019
This legislation, supported by both industry and environmental groups, allows for certain refrigerants that have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be used in vehicle air conditioning equipment. This needed change removes barriers to the use of more environmentally-friendly refrigerants with lower global warming potentials than those that were previously approved for use.
Reproductive Health Care & Choice Issues
Bills that would have forced unnecessary medical procedures and invasive reporting requirements on women seeking abortion care were successfully defeated throughout the course of the Session. Also unsuccessful was an attempt to create "Choose Life" license plates that would have sent proceeds to unregulated Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which already misuse millions of taxpayer dollars by providing inaccurate information and no medical services to women.
One of my biggest accomplishments this Session was my part in stopping an attempt by Republican Members to re-allocate millions of dollars that were budgeted for reproductive health care services, such as annual well-woman exams, the night the House budget was debated and passed. This would have been devastating to the many Texas women, and the families that rely on them, that would have been negatively affected by this cut.
In addition to this victory, we were also successful in defeating a budget provision that would have prohibited the use of state dollars for embryonic stem cell research.
In addition to stopping bad amendments to the budget, I was able to add some good ones that:
· Increase funding for counseling services for veterans by $4 million and increase funding for community mental health crisis services that aim to keep the mentally ill out of jail and emergency rooms by $18.7 million
· Will allow the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to start collecting fees from industrial polluters within the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area, which keeps this money from going to the state's general revenue and instead sends it to TCEQ for use toward efforts to further clean up Houston's air
The Texas Senate changed its own rules in order to allow consideration of this legislation. As has been stated many times, the Voter ID bill was a solution in search of a problem, as well as an attempt to essentially disenfranchise many of our state's poor, elderly, minority, and disabled citizens by making it harder for them to cast votes at election time.
The Democratic Caucus made it clear to Speaker Straus and all those involved that we would not allow this discriminatory and updated version of the poll tax to see the light of day in the Texas House. We were successful in keeping the Voter ID bill from being heard on the House floor and in protecting the voting rights of many of our most vulnerable Texans.
Guns on Campus
I was able to prevent an amendment to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Sunset bill that would have allowed students to carry weapons on college campuses in our state by raising a point of order, a procedural protest, to the amendment. The point of order was sustained, and the amendment died.
DPS Sunset Bill
I successfully attached several amendments to the DPS Sunset bill that require that:
· The Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety have significant experience as a commissioned peace officer with senior management experience in a law enforcement agency
· The Director of the Texas Division of Emergency Management possess professional training and knowledge of managerial or strategic planning experience in matters relating to public safety, security, emergency services and emergency response
· DPS be the agency that allocates funding for border and homeland security funds throughout the state using a funding formula based on need and results of the applicants
I was also able to help lead the fight against the inclusion of language in this bill that would have required different driver's licenses for legal residents and other individuals that are in the United States legally.