Archive for June, 2015

Representative Byron Cook’s Statement on Today’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

June 26, 2015

By Rep. Byron Cook

Representative Byron Cook (Corsicana) released the following statement regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage:

“In anticipation of today’s ruling by the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage, the Texas House of Representatives passed the Pastor Protection Act this past legislative session. The measure protects religious individuals and organizations from performing marriage ceremonies that contradict sincerely held beliefs.

This critical legislation, of which I was the first House joint sponsor, helps to protect our fundamental freedom to worship and is beyond the compulsion of any court.

Senate Bill 2065 was considered and addressed by the House Committee on State Affairs, on which I serve as chair, and was signed into law by the governor on June 11, 2015. The law takes immediate effect and ensures that Texas clergy cannot be forced to violate their religious beliefs.”

Central Texas Flood Relief Benefit Concert

June 25, 2015

By Rep. Jason Isaac

Flood Aid TX is a benefit concert to raise funds for Centrals Texas flood relief. It will take place June 28 at the Palmer Events Center. Shows start at noon.

The Memorial Day floods left hundreds of families without a home and thousands of people displaced. Austin is giving back to it’s neighbors in the best way it can: with an all-day concert series hosted by Jack Ingram and Ray Benson.

The event will feature four stages and over 25 performances throughout the day. It will end with an all-star jam session featuring Jack Ingram, Kevin fowler Ray Benson and many more!

General admission tickets are only $35 or $100 for a pack of four. VIP tickets are $150 and give access to a private lounge and balcony as well as a chance to meet the musicians. There will also be local Austin food trucks available throughout the day as well as general food and drink concessions.

100% of the proceeds from the event will go to the United Way of Hays County Flood Relief Fund and the Austin Disaster Relief Network’s flood relief efforts. We would love for you to join us on Sunday June 28 to give back to our neighbors in a fun, family-friendly way! Spread the word on social media, gather your friends, and come on out for a full day of fun!

To purchase tickets visit: https://tickets.onelivemedia.com/event/FloodAidTX

To donate directly to the partner charities visit: https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=austindrn&id=4

For more information about Flood Aid TX visit:
www.FloodAidTX.org

Rep. Simmons’ Bill Aimed to Halt Expansion of Camelot Landfill Becomes Law

June 19, 2015

By Rep. Ron Simmons

AUSTIN – House Bill 281, a bill introduced by State Representative Ron Simmons, became law on June 18, 2015. HB 281 allows the City of Lewisville to have a say before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) can approve the permit to expand the Camelot Landfill. Representative Tan Parker joint authored HB 281 in the House, and Senator Jane Nelson sponsored the bill in the Senate.

“HB 281 addresses a serious concern for many of my constituents,” said Simmons. “The Camelot landfill is wholly located within the city limits of Lewisville, but owned by the City of Farmers Branch. If the permit submitted by Farmers Branch is approved, this landfill will eventually reach a height of 725 feet—the highest point in Denton County.”

The permit for the Camelot landfill was originally issued to the City of Highland Park in 1979, when the location of the landfill was in an unincorporated area of Denton County. Since then, Lewisville and Carrollton have expanded and annexed land around the landfill. The permit for the landfill was transferred to Farmers Branch in 2000. Farmers Branch filed an application to effectively double the size of the Camelot Landfill in 2012.

“My constituents believe – and I agree wholeheartedly – that it is profoundly unfair to have one city’s will imposed upon another concerning a landfill within its own jurisdiction,” said Senator Jane Nelson, the Senate Sponsor of HB 281.

HB 281, which received broad support in both the House and Senate, requires TCEQ, before approving an application to expand the capacity of such a landfill, to receive approval from the governing body of the municipality in which the landfill is located. Additionally, members of the legislature who represent the district in which the landfill resides must be given an opportunity to comment on the application received by the landfill’s operator. HB 281 applies only to a municipally owned Type 1 solid waste landfill that is located within one municipality, but owned by a different municipality.
“Area legislators and Lewisville and Carrollton city officials have worked together to address this issue for several years,” Simmons said. “The battle was long and hard, and I appreciate the efforts of all those involved. HB 281 gives the people of Lewisville a voice when it comes to what happens in their city.”

HB 281 passed the House on May 11, 2015 and passed the Senate on May 26, 2015. The bill was signed in both the House and Senate on May 30, 2015 and went into effect on June 18, 2015 after being filed without the Governor’s signature.

Rep. Galindo Honors Texas Veterans with Cold War Medal Bill

June 18, 2015

By Rep. Rick Galindo

AUSTIN, TX – Rep. Galindo’s House Bill 2108, the Cold War Victory Medal Act, has been signed into law by Governor Abbott after passing with widespread support in both the House and Senate. This bill will extend eligibility requirements related to the purchase of the Texas Cold War Victory medal to include both state and federal military forces.

“These men and women deserve a tangible token of appreciation for their honorable sacrifice,” said Rep. Galindo. “I am honored to pass legislation to recognize a previously overlooked veteran population who served in the midst of the most uncertain and chaotic era in recent American history.”

HB 2108 expands the eligibility for the commemorative Texas Cold War Victory Medal, ensuring it is available for purchase by all Texas veterans who served between September 2, 1945 and December 26, 1991. Before Rep. Galindo’s bill this medal was only offered to veterans of the Texas State Guard. As the federal government currently offers no distinct medal to Cold War veterans, this bill will allow Texans to honor these men and women whose service may have been forgotten in a manner equal to veterans of other foreign wars.

With the Governor’s approval this bill will ensure Texans never forget that the Cold War was indeed a real war in which many service members gave their lives to secure democracy and protect the values we as Texans and Americans hold dear.

84th Legislative Session Comes to an End; Adjourns Sine Die

June 8, 2015

By Rep. James White

As another session ended, I reflected on how blessed I am to have this exceptional opportunity to represent the best set of citizens in the great State of Texas. As usual, the last two weeks of the session were hectic. Throughout the 84th Legislature, lawmakers filed and considered many bills. Wisely, our Founding Fathers developed a system that kills more bills instead of passing a lot of legislation. The process purposively weeds out legislation, but elevates great legislation. This session I was proud to send 15 bills, which I authored or sponsored in the House Chamber, to Governor Greg Abbott.

Last Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice heard House Bill 2398, which provides the necessary tools to combat the prevailing factors leading to truancy. This legislation provides educators and judges with several means to enhance school attendance and positively impact academic achievement, HB 2398 provides the courts with the discretion to dismiss cases where a child may have a valid reason for failing to attend school or a child is a first time offender with no likelihood to recidivate. In my research, I found a case in which a young woman was charged with truancy after missing school to visit her mother who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Without this bill, the court would not have the capacity to dismiss her case, and thereby, placing further burden on this child’s life. Along with the ability to dismiss, this legislation allows the courts to clear the records of offenders after they turn 18. I chose to give the courts this tool in order to secure our children’s futures when they apply for college or work. Finally, with input from judges across the state, the bill allows the county commissioners’ to establish a judicial trust fund. In some instances, children and parents have difficulty making it to school due to financial constraints. For example the parent does not have gas in their car, or the child does not have clothes, shoes, a backpack or lunch money. Most important, this legislation decriminalizes the truancy offense for juveniles, but keeps consequences intact for those students who choose not to attend school. The bill is headed to the Governor’s desk for signing.

Texas is a special place. We are the only State with the distinction of being an independent Republic before joining the United States. Therefore, Texas has a unique history of declaring, fighting, and winning its independence. At the insistence of many Texans, I filed HB 1150, which expanded the dates in which Texans can express their God-given freedom and buy and sell fireworks in the State of Texas. The proposed dates for expansion are Texas Independence Day and San Jacinto Day. The bill also includes Memorial Day. Texas is a State that strongly supports our military veterans and honors their sacrifice to secure Liberty. Our state senator, Robert Nichols, joined me as a partner in this effort and as the Senate sponsor successfully guided HB 1150 through the Senate. HB 1150 is currently sitting on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature. If HB 1150 becomes law county commissioner courts will have the option to allow these dates.

In the last week of this legislative session the House passed several critical pieces of legislation. Most importantly the House passed HB 1, the state budget, which is the only bill the Texas Constitution mandates the Legislature to pass. The 84th Legislature has passed a fiscally conservative balanced budget that addresses our core government functions of education, transportation, and border security. It also adequately funds programs for our most vulnerable Texans in nursing homes, foster care, and dealing with challenges such as mental illness or disabilities. HB 1 adequately funds the estimated public school enrollment increase of roughly 160,000 students over the next two years. On top of that funding, HB 1, provides an additional $1.5 billion for public education. Reversing a decades-old practice, the budget uses all of the money in the State Highway Fund for transportation instead of using some of those dollars for other programs. With HB 1, the Legislature budgeted $840 million for border security. This will fund the hiring of 250 new Department of Public Safety troopers and allow a 50-hour work week for all troopers.

In the waning days of session, the House also restored Second Amendment rights. HB 910, which I was proud to joint-author, passed through both chambers early in the last week of session. HB 910, would allow law-abiding citizens who have acquired their concealed handgun license to to openly carry a handgun. The House also passed Senate Bill 11, which would allow the same licensed gun holders to conceal carry on college campuses. I co-authored the House companion bill for SB 11. HB 910 and SB 11 are awaiting Governor Abbott’s signature.

While the Legislature was completing its business, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) hosted the state academic meet in Austin. I was proud to greet many of my constituents to the Capitol that had the distinction of representing their school districts. Students and teachers from Leggett, Hardin-Jefferson, Buna, Kirbyville, Jasper, Silsbee and Livingston stopped by their State Capitol. I was proud of these students for making it to state.

With the end of the legislative session, I look forward to returning home to Southeast Texas and living under the laws that the Texas Legislature passed. My staff and I thank God for allowing us the privilege of serving you and I ask that he bless my colleagues as they all head home to their families for much needed rest.

The House stands adjourned Sine Die.

House District 107 Residents Score Another Legislative Success

June 3, 2015

By Rep. Kenneth Sheets

AUSTIN, TX – Last week, the Texas Legislature sent House Bill 1670 by State Representative Kenneth Sheets to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk to be signed into law. H.B. 1670 provides Texans the right to retain ownership of their placentas and facilitates release by licensed hospitals and birthing centers.

Representative Sheets filed H.B. 1670 after meeting with Melissa Mathis, a constituent in District 107 who raised concerns about the current processes for releasing a placenta. “Upon the birth of my child I was informed that due to hospital policy I could not retain ownership my placenta,” Mathis said. “Many Texas mothers were also suffering due to a lack of legislative structure and the resulting unpredictability and inconsistency in hospital policy. This was unacceptable to me. Thanks to Representative Sheets, countless Texas mothers will now be able to have an improved birth and postpartum experience as they will no longer have to navigate the previously unclear interpretations of law.”

“This is a personal liberty issue.” said Representative Sheets. “It was definitely a new issue for me, but after meeting with Melissa and researching the issue, it was clear that current law was ambiguous and a fix was needed. As I have stated many times, it is an honor to carry bills that are important to folks back home.”

The bill passed both chambers unanimously and has been sent to Governor Abbott for his final approval. House Bill 1670 was not the only bill that was brought to Representative Sheets’ attention by residents of House District 107. In addition to H.B. 1670, Representative Sheets also carried H.B. 821 and H.B. 911. House Bill 821, which was signed into law by Governor Abbott on May 28, 2015, was brought to Representative Sheets by a ten year old Dallas boy and relates to hunting licenses for minors. House Bill 911 was brought to Representative Sheets by a Mesquite resident and related to the appointment of commissioners of the Public Utilities Commission.

Dallas Kid Gets His Bill Through The Legislature

June 1, 2015

By Rep. Kenneth Sheets

AUSTIN, TX – Last week, Governor Greg Abbott signed into law House Bill 821, which will eliminate the requirement that a child 13 years old or younger provide a Social Security number when obtain a hunting license. This legislation was brought to its author, State Representative Kenneth Sheets, by Coleman Hofker, a 10 year old hunter and constituent of Representative Sheets.

Coleman was frustrated to learn he would have to provide his Social Security number in order to obtain a hunting license. “A kid shouldn’t have to give up his private information just to spend time hunting with his dad,” Coleman said. After researching the issue with his father, Coleman reached out to Representative Sheets in search of a change in law. Representative Sheets filed H.B. 821 and Coleman provided testimony for the bill in committee. “Bills like this are my favorite type to work on,” Representative Sheets said, “the bills that come to me direct from folks back home. This one in particular is important and special. It’s great to see a young person like Coleman getting engaged in the legislative process.”

The bill went on to receive overwhelming support in both chambers and was signed by Governor Abbott in late May. “I’m excited about passing a bill and very happy to help other young hunters in Texas,” Coleman said upon hearing the bill had passed. Starting in 2016, hunters 13 years old or younger will no longer have to provide a Social Security number when obtaining a hunting license.

Texas House Wraps Up Successful 2015 Session

June 1, 2015

By Rep. Joe Straus

AUSTIN – From education to job creation to transparency and accountability in government, the Texas House successfully addressed a number of key priorities in the legislative session that ended Monday, House Speaker Joe Straus said.

“I’m proud of the way we addressed core issues,” said Speaker Straus, San Antonio. “We improved education and addressed transportation. We cut taxes. And we made our budget more transparent and our government more accountable.”

The Legislature approved a balanced two-year state budget that grows less than 2 percent per year and allows for almost $4 billion in tax relief. The budget puts additional resources into public education and higher education.

Several important education reforms are also headed to Governor Greg Abbott for approval. For example, the House broadened the accountability system used to evaluate public schools, diminishing the role of standardized testing and taking other academic factors into account. The Legislature also approved a plan to more quickly and effectively reform schools that repeatedly fail to meet academic standards.

For the first time since 2006, legislators voted to fund new facilities at university campuses across the state. In addition, the Legislature created the Governor’s University Research Initiative, which will help public institutions of higher education recruit nationally recognized scholars.

Creation of the Governor’s University Research Initiative was part of the Legislature’s larger effort to reform the economic development funds administered by the Governor’s office. Legislators eliminated the beleaguered Emerging Technology Fund and approved new oversight of other economic development funds in order to protect against abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Oversight of taxpayer dollars, in fact, was a major theme throughout the session. As the session began, details emerged about problems with contracts issued by the state’s Health and Human Services Commission. The House provided significant new oversight of how agencies award and administer private-sector contracts.

Finally, the House achieved a number of victories in its efforts to make the budget more transparent. For decades, the state has collected fees for a stated purpose, but withheld the money from that purpose so that it could be counted to certify the rest of the budget. The House reduced that practice in 2013 and further reduced it this session. As a result, hundreds of millions of dollars in fees were reduced, while additional resources flowed to transportation, hospital trauma care and state parks.

Speaker Straus heralded these results and praised his colleagues for working to achieve them in a respectful and collaborative way.

“The House was a place where we vetted ideas carefully, treated each other with respect and worked to find common ground,” Speaker Straus said. “Members have had the chance to address the issues that are most important to them and their constituents, and I think they can return home proud of what they have achieved.”

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