I am pleased to report three bills of mine were signed by the Governor:
- HB 735 directs the Department of Motor Vehicles to report the number of alternatively fueled vehicles in Texas. This information is critical to better ensure the future solvency of our transportation funding, which is reliant on gas tax revenues.
- HB 1140 brings greater accountability and transparency around pregnant inmate care. We have heard horrifying anecdotes of mistreatment of pregnant inmates, and this legislation will provide transparency regarding the procedures of pregnant inmate care within our county jails.
- SB 415 will dedicate FM 685 in Pflugerville as the Deputy Jessica Hollis Memorial Highway, honoring the sacrifice of a Travis County hero who tragically lost her life in the line of duty.
Unfortunately, the Governor also vetoed a bill by Senator Kirk Watson and myself:
- SB 1032 would have made it easier for state employees to telecommute, reducing rush hour traffic and increasing employee productivity and morale without costing taxpayers a dime. I was disappointed that Governor Abbott vetoed this critical relief for Central Texas workers and commuters.
Here’s an update on some important issues I believe the Legislature got right:
- We did some good work to ensure the improved treatment of incarcerated Texans. We required that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice perform a mental health assessment before placing an inmate in solitary confinement, we forbid county jails from limiting prisoner visitation for disciplinary reasons and offer in-person visitation options.
- We approved SJR 5, which will allow voters the opportunity to dedicate $2.5 billion in sales tax revenue to our roads and highways. Although we need to invest further in new transportation solutions, I was glad to see transportation receive the attention it needs.
- We decriminalized truancy in the public school system, making it a civil offense. Civil offenses would fall on parents who contributed to non-attendance, and more effort will be paid to intervention and prevention programs.
- We stood up for state parks by approving HB 158, which dedicates future revenues from the sporting goods sales tax to state and local parks.
- We worked to ensure the financial solvency of Teacher Retirement System Care without raising the premiums of more than 230,000 retired teachers or cutting their benefits.
Here’s an update on some important issues the Legislature got wrong:
- The Governor approved $800 million to militarize the Texas/Mexico border with more surveillance technology,more troopers, and more military bases.Texas should not be in the business of doing the federal government’s job, especially with so many other unmet needs. I voted no on both the related legislation and the overall budget that funded this operation.
- Our state chose to leave over 30% of Texas schools still receiving less per pupil than before the massive 2011 budget cuts, and appropriated $700 million less for public education than the House version of the budget I supported.
- The Legislature chose to spend over $2.9 billion less than the spending cap and left $11 billion untouched in the Rainy Day Fund. These funds could have been used to invest in making it easier for kids to go to college, restore destructive cuts to our schools, and invest in a 21st century infrastructure.
- Nearly every effort to make it easier to vote was either unable to move through the Legislature or was vetoed by the Governor. This includes my bill to allow for online voter registration, an attempt to make vote by mail ballots easier for seniors to understand, and an effort to allow veterans IDs to vote. As Texas lags behind the rest of the nation in voter turnout, we must do better to make our elections more accessible to every Texan who wants to vote.
During my first term in the Texas House, it has been an honor to represent you. I am always eager to hear your views, and my office is committed to bringing people together to fix our problems whether we are in session or not.
Do not hesitate to contact my office at (512) 463-0821 if you ever need anything. I serve on both the Transportation and Elections committees, and our office is always available to help on state issues important to you and your family. Please know that my office is your office, as the Capitol belongs to the people of Texas.
Texas State Representative, HD 50