Archive for May, 2015

Rep. Fletcher Passes Campus Carry with Bipartisan Support in the Texas House of Representatives

May 29, 2015

By Rep. Allen Fletcher

Late Tuesday night, as the Texas House of Representatives approached the midnight deadline, Chairman Allen Fletcher successfully passed Senate Bill 11, the Campus Personal Protection Act.

Senate Bill 11 would allow adults who are licensed to carry a concealed handgun by the Department of Public Safety the ability to protect themselves while on a college campus.

To be eligible for a concealed handgun license in the State of Texas, an individual must be 21 years of age or older. They must pass state and federal background checks, attend a concealed handgun class and pass a written and shooting proficiency exam.

Chairman Fletcher recognizes there are areas on a campus that may require a prohibition of weapons such as the National Biocontainment Laboratory in Galveston, or areas in proximity to an MRI machine. Fletcher was prepared with several amendments addressing specific exemptions. House members filed more than 100 amendments, a majority of those addressed exemptions.

An amendment had to be drafted to eliminate the dozens of amendments that would have killed the bill if the clock ran out. The first amendment brought up was drafted by Chairman Zerwas and Fletcher allowing each campus’ board of regents or governing board with a two-thirds vote, and with reason, prohibit the concealed carrying of weapons in a portion of a premises. The campuses must also submit biannual reports to the legislature justifying each of those decisions.

“The amendment by Chairman Zerwas and I resolved a need for most of the amendments which would have created a patchwork of exemptions in statute regarding prohibitions. By adopting this amendment we saved several hours of debate as we risked passing the deadline. The regent’s two-thirds vote threshold should properly assure the regents will address these prohibitions carefully and with specificity,” said Fletcher.

Debate came to a pause as a point of order was called by a representative hoping to kill the bill. The point of order was in regards to a term that was used in the bill analysis, an accompanying document. An agreement was made to adopt another amendment in exchange to withdraw the point of order, which had not yet been ruled on, to proceed with debate. The amendment, requested by the opposition was to prohibit private university opt-out. As those in favor of passing this bill were obtaining signatures to force a vote, the opponents withdrew all other amendments and passed the bill with bipartisan support 101-47.

Conviction statistics regarding licensees can be found on the DPS website and the statistics show concealed handgun licensees make up less than one-half of one percent of total convictions.

“We have seen television ads depicting wild fraternity parties, clubs, and bars; none of which have anything to do with this bill. Students 21 years of age and older have been lawfully and responsibly carrying in Texas for over nineteen years, they’ve been able to carry their concealed handguns in public and on campus grounds but the moment they step foot in an academic building they became criminals. I am proud to have carried this legislation through the Texas House for the second time. I would like to thank Senator Birdwell for his work on this bill in the Senate; it’s moved further than any other campus carry bill and I hope the House and the Senate can agree on changes before the session ends so it can be sent to Governor Abbott for his signature.”

The Senate did not concur with House amendments and now the bill heads to a conference committee to work out the differences.

The bill text and analysis can be found at: http://www.legis.state.tx.us/

Private School Credit Card Bill Passes Texas Legislature

May 27, 2015

By Rep. Giovanni Capriglione

AUSTIN — House Bill 1881 passed the Texas Senate and is headed to the governor’s desk for signature. This bill allows pre-K-12 private schools to allow parents to pay for their children’s tuition through a credit or debit card instead of absorbing the fees in their school budget. Representative Giovanni Capriglione (Southlake) is the bill’s author and Senator Brandon Creighton (Conroe) is the senate sponsor.

Currently, private schools are not allowed to charge these fees as a way to offset some of their expenses and their counterparts – public schools, public and private colleges and universities, are allowed to pass along the fee.

“H.B. 1881 provides a new avenue for parents and guardians to pay for their child’s tuition at private and parochial schools,” said Senator Creighton. “This means private schools can use every dollar they can in the classroom and no longer absorb the cost incurred by processing fees. State government should always look for opportunities to remove road blocks in the day-to-day lives of our citizens.”

“This is an issue brought to me by several constituents,” remarked Representative Capriglione. “This bill will give parents flexible payment options, as well as help private schools cover their costs, which is important for large and small schools alike. H.B. 1881 is mutually beneficial for parents and schools, and I’m pleased it has passed the Legislature.”

House Bill 1881 is strongly supported by the Texas Private Schools Association, representing more than 800 accredited private schools and 250,000 students throughout the state.

Three Major Pieces of Pro-Life Legislation Pass the Texas House

May 19, 2015

By Rep. Andrew Murr

Last Thursday, three major pieces of pro-life legislation, all co-authored by Representative Andrew Murr, were passed by the Texas House of Representatives. The measures will further protect the unborn, while also advancing the civil liberties of Texans who are hospitalized at the end of their lives. Murr said that while there is still much work to be done, these bills will go a long way towards protecting life in all forms.

“Life is precious in every form.” Murr said. “Without it, little else matters. Of course there is no cure-all measure to protect against those who threaten it, but we must take every opportunity to codify into law our belief that God should be the arbiter of when life begins and when it ends.”

The first of the three bills to pass was HB 3374, authored by Representative Geanie Morrison, which requires physicians to provide educational materials to expecting parents whose child is diagnosed with down syndrome. Rep. Murr co-authored an amendment to the bill expressly prohibiting those materials from advocating for abortion as an option to terminate the pregnancy.

The second bill, HB 3994, reforms the “judicial bypass” process for abortions on minors. Under current law, a judge can issue an order for a doctor to perform an abortion on a minor without notifying or obtaining consent from her parents. This legislation, authored by Representative Geanie Morrison and co-authored by Representative Murr, will limit “forum shopping” by attorneys who are looking to change the court venue to a more favorable jurisdiction for obtaining a court order. It will also end the practice of automatically granting the bypass if the judge does not rule on the petition.

Finally, Representative Murr proudly joined as a co-author of HB 3074, a bill offered by Representative Drew Springer which will make much needed reforms of the Texas Advanced Directives Act (“TADA”). TADA allows a hospital committee or physician to remove life-sustaining medical treatment from a patient (including food and water) with only ten days notice, regardless of the wishes of the patient and his or her family. The new legislation will limit the withdrawal of food and water to prevent involuntary dehydration and the starvation of patients; a sometimes too-frequent occurrence in Texas hospitals today.

These pro-life victories passed the House with the support of all major pro-life groups in Texas, including Texas Right to Life, Texas Alliance for Life, and Texans for Life Coalition. All three of these pieces of legislation are now in the Texas Senate and, if passed, will head to the Governor’s desk. Murr noted, “I am proud to stand with my colleagues and support legislation protecting the most defenseless members of our society. These three bills will save lives, and I appreciate the tremendous effort and energy that various members put forth to see them passed by the Texas House of Representatives.”

School Districts Owe Staggering 111.5 Billion in Debt

May 18, 2015

By Rep. Dan Flynn

Austin-State Representative Dan Flynn (Van) today presented information in support of his Transparency Legislation HB 114 and HB 1378. This information was troubling to many in the audience, as throughout the state, when it was revealed that the total school district municipal debt is more than 112 billion dollars and over 20 school districts are indebted with over a billion dollars in debt.

Stated Rep Flynn, “Texans deserve transparency in local bond elections involving schools and other governmental bodies. Texans deserve the right to know how much debt there is and hope my legislation will help shine light on this vital issue.”

Representative Flynn laying out HB114 and HB1378

Flynn’s legislation which would require transparency in ensuring Texans are fully informed of the actual level of debt and its consequences as well as putting limits on Capital Appreciation Bonds. Those type of bonds are used often as a tool to help school districts but are also very susceptible to abuse. Said Flynn, “Many are concerned when they learn their ISD’s are indebted in the billions of dollars. It appears the overuse of this tool could be could be an open invitation to get around current limits on spending and borrowing and there is an urgent need to reign in this type of abuse.”

More worrisome, Texas has extremely high levels of local debt. Some of the highest in the nation. According to the Texas Bond Review Board local governments have almost 200 billion in local outstanding bond debt and it is worth noting that local debt makes up 83 percent of all public debt in Texas.

Debt Service as of 8/31/2014

Principal Interest* Total Debt Service
Public School Districts $67,963,542,470 $44,257,744,199 $112,221,286,668
Cities, Towns, Villages $67,802,254,274 $37,341,065,833 $105,143,320,107
Water Districts and Authorities $31,306,548,675 $17,501,923,930 $48,808,472,605
Other Special Districts and Authorities $15,918,003,391 $16,044,571,619 $31,962,575,009
Counties $14,131,821,815 $7,297,042,886 $21,428,864,700
Community and Junior Colleges $4,768,060,367 $2,478,634,576 $7,246,694,943
Health / Hospital Districts $3,437,504,772 $2,879,898,753 $6,317,403,525
Total $205,327,735,763 $127,800,881,794 $333,128,617,557

*Excludes Build America Bond subsidy

According to Representative Flynn, “To ensure voters are adequately informed about any new debt they are being asked to approve transparency of the levels of debt, payments and per capita burden need to be disclosed on a regular basis. These transparency requirements should apply to all political subdivisions including cities, counties, school districts and special taxing districts.

HB 1378 and HB 114 seek to enhance the transparency of political subdivision debt obligations as a means to allow the citizens of Texas a method to see what they are voting for and what it does to debt on themselves and their child and grandchildren before they vote.

Texas House Passes HB 3994

May 18, 2015

By Rep. Stuart Spitzer

The Texas State Legislature worked late into the night on May 13th to approve a bill to strengthen “judicial bypass”. For a little background, in Texas, before a physician can perform an abortion on a minor girl (17 years or younger), he or she must obtain written and notarized consent of the minor’s parent or guardian.

The Supreme Court of the United States mandates any state that requires consent to have an alternate means for a minor to obtain an abortion. In Texas, this alternate route of consent is known as a “judicial bypass.” A judicial bypass is an order granted by a judge that allows the physician to perform an abortion on the minor without parental involvement.

The intent of this law was to provide minor girls with an opportunity to conceal an abortion from their parent(s) or guardian(s) when concealing the act was clearly in the minor’s best interest, as determined by the courts. However, over time the intent of judicial bypass has been eroded and stretched in order to grant judicial bypass in circumstances that were never intended. House Bill 3994 seeks to strengthen Texas’s judicial bypass law by making improvements necessary to protect the original intent of the landmark 1999 legislation.

Among other provisions, the bill extends the date and time by which a court is required to rule on an application and by which an appellate court is required to rule on an appeal of the original court’s ruling. Previously, the judge had 2 days before the court was deemed to have failed. Now the court has 5 days to deliberate before issuing a ruling. “As a surgeon, I understand the importance of informed consent before any surgical procedure. As a parent, I want to know about procedures performed on my child. If the government is going to step into this issue, we need to be sure that the courts have the time, information, and a very good reason,” said State Representative Stuart Spitzer MD.

Texas House of Representatives Passes H.B. 3387 by Rep. Matt Krause

May 11, 2015

By Rep. Matt Krause

AUSTIN, TEXAS – Today the Texas House of Representatives passed H.B. 3387, which gives the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles the statutory authority to prescribe sex offender treatment as a condition of an offender’s parole.

“The Board of Pardons and Paroles has been operating under the authority of case law since 2005,” said Rep. Matt Krause. “H.B. 3387 amends the law so that the Board has authority, concurrent with the court’s opinions, to impose a sex offender treatment program as a condition of parole for certain offenders.”

Since 2005, the Board of Pardons and Paroles has been using the “Coleman” process to impose sex offender treatment for offenders that committed a sexually based offense. In accordance with the court’s decision in Coleman v. Dretke, the Board provides due process for the offender when he/she comes up for parole. These due process rights were defined by the court in Meza v. Livingston to include a written notice of the hearing, disclosure of the state’s evidence, and an offender’s right to legal counsel. The decision to impose sex offender treatment is made by an independent decision maker who is required to provide a written statement as to the evidence relied upon and the reasons for the decision.

“The goal of H.B. 3387 and the ‘Coleman’ Process is to ensure that the Board of Pardons and Paroles has the statutory authority they need in order to protect the integrity of the parole process,” said Rep. Matt Krause. “We have an obligation to the public and to the offenders in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to provide a treatment program for those offenders being paroled while preserving the right of due process of law.”

The Texas House of Representatives Passes Rep. Jeff Leach’s Landmark Legislation to Protect the Private Property Rights of Texas Homeowners

May 11, 2015

By Rep. Jeff Leach

Last week, State Representative Jeff Leach passed House Bill 2489 in the Texas House of Representatives, protecting the rights of Texas property owners by reining in overreaching Homeowner’s Associations (HOAs).

“I am very pleased that the Texas House has taken a much-needed step forward on behalf of private property owners with the passage of House Bill 2489 – a common-sense fix that addresses a growing trend of intrusive HOAs who seek to interfere with and financially gain from homeowners,” stated Leach.

During the interim period leading up to the 84th Legislative Session, Representative Leach formed the “House District 67 Real Estate Advisory Council,” comprised of local real estate professionals and designed to educate and advise Representative Leach on the pressing issues impacting homeowners in Collin County. Representative Leach filed House Bill 2489 in response to learning about the growing trend of heavy-handed HOAs across the state that unrightfully restrict the rights of Texas homeowners.

Under current law, there are no limits related to an HOA’s ability to interfere with the leasing or renting of a homeowners’ private property within that HOA. Particularly, an HOA may assess onerous fees and fines, require that the tenant be approved by the association or even require copies of documents containing private and sensitive information. House Bill 2489 holds HOAs more accountable by curbing their ability to improperly restrict the rights of private property owners with respect to such rental and leasing agreements.

Representative Leach serves House District 67 in the Texas House of Representatives, representing portions of Plano, Allen, Richardson and Dallas in Collin County. Leach serves on the House Committee on Government Transparency & Operation and the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence.

Chris Kyle Receives Nomination for the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor

May 7, 2015

By Rep. John Wray

Austin — Last Thursday, the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor Committee met to hear testimony on behalf of several deserving candidates nominated for Texas’ highest military honor and ultimately selected Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle for the award. Each session, the legislature may direct the Governor of Texas to award the medal to two veterans: one candidate for acts of bravery prior to 1956, and one candidate for acts of bravery after 1955. The committee is composed of Lt. Gov. Patrick, Speaker Joe Straus, Adjutant General Nichols, Chairwoman Sen. Campbell and Chairwoman Rep. King.

Kyle was nominated upon the merit of his exceptional dedication over the course of his service, and specifically for citations of conspicuous gallantry and self-sacrifice during the battles of Fallujah in 2004 and Ramadi in 2006. At the time of his death, Kyle was a resident of Midlothian, TX. Representative John Wray of District 10, which encompasses Midlothian, nominated Kyle for the award and testified in support of the nomination before the committee.

Upon learning of the committee’s decision, Kyle’s wife Taya stated, “Chris would feel humbled and honored that Representative John Wray started a movement to consider Chris for the Texas Medal of Honor. Chris loved Texas as much as he loved his country. Chris never thought about medals or decorations only about his service to his fellow service members and his country. Even now I can hear him saying, “there are others more deserving than me.” But, I have been assured his records have been thoroughly reviewed and reflect the high standards for this award. I am humbly grateful for Chris and equally proud of the honor being bestowed on him for his service.”

Texas House Passes Nearly $5 Billion in Tax Cuts

May 1, 2015

By Rep. DeWayne Burns

AUSTIN, TX – Earlier this week, the Texas House of Representatives voted to pass two bills, both co-authored by Rep. DeWayne Burns, that will amount to nearly $5 billion in tax cuts for hard-working Texas families and business owners. Burns said the legislation was designed to provide across-the-board relief for all Texans.

“These tax cuts are both historic in terms of their scope, and also meaningful to the bottom line of every single person who pays taxes in Texas,” Burns said. “These are permanent cuts that cannot be taken away by an appraiser or a city or county government. In fact, the only way these cuts could be undone is by a future vote of the legislature, which is why it is critical that we continue to send strong conservatives to Austin to protect the cuts indefinitely.”

The two pieces of legislation, House Bills 31 and 32, will provide $4.9 billion in permanent tax relief. House Bill 31 reduces the state sales tax rate from 6.25% to 5.95%, making it the first sales tax reduction in Texas history. House Bill 32 provides a 25% cut in the state’s franchise tax, a burdensome business tax that has hurt small businesses and hampered job growth for years. Both bills were unanimously supported by the Texas House Republican Caucus members.

Burns concluded, “I’m incredibly proud to be a part of the House today. So much of what you see in politics these days is just smoke-and-mirrors, but these two bills are the real deal. They are straightforward, fair and will put money back into the pockets of every Texan, regardless of their income, occupation or any other factor.”

HB 31 and 32 will now be sent to the Texas Senate for consideration, and if passed there, to Governor Abbott’s desk to be signed into law.

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