Click here to get the HD 90 Update sent directly to your inbox.
Session is Over!..... for now.
The end is finally here. After a long, tough session that covered everything from the so called "anti-sanctuary city" SB 4, to another attempt to ram through Voter ID legislation, to a completely unnecessary and discriminatory bathroom bill, it is all finally done.... for now.
The 85th Legislative Session was unique for me because it was my second session. Two and a half years ago, I came into the legislature wide-eyed and not sure exactly what to expect - all those feelings were gone this go around. Carrying forward the knowledge and experience of last session, my team and I came in with a solid plan. We had our legislation drafted early, filed early, and with the relationships made last session, I was ready to hit the ground running.
All of the planning in the interim paid off, and the HD90 Legislative Agenda was highly successful. Although the fewest number of total bills passed since 1995, I was able to send seven pieces of legislation I authored to the Governor's desk - over 32% success rate!
I am extremely proud of the work our team accomplished, and there are several meaningful bills waiting on Governor Abbott's signature, including:
- House Bill 53 - Bans the use of gag orders in settlement agreements paid for with taxpayer dollars. If tax dollars are used to settle a court case, it should not and no longer will be used to buy secrecy.
- House Bill 912 - Allows a parent to designate a person to teach their child home-taught driver education, opening the door for all Texans to get a driver license and become a contributing member of society.
- House Bill 2818 - Adds the ability for a Marriage and Family Therapist to diagnose and use billing codes to state law.
- House Bill 2888 - Ensures an inmate knows the classes necessary for their parole, and gives them the opportunity to take those required classes for release as soon as possible.
As you can see from the partial list above, we covered everything from government transparency to mental health access to criminal justice reform. All four of the bills above now sit on the Governor's desk waiting for a signature to become law.
While the HD90 Legislative Agenda was successful, the overall session was a failure for Texas. Instead of being the number one place to do business and a bastion of sanity in the South, we have decided to toss that aside in favor of extremist legislation to pacify ultra-conservative primary voters.
When the idea of addressing sanctuary cities came up in 2011, the Texas business community fought hard against the legislation knowing full well that it was a federal problem that could only be addressed by comprehensive immigration reform. Our legislature in 2011 was wise enough to know that Texas' economy and reputation were on the line, and many industries would be harmed by the lack of a ready and able workforce. Fast forward six years, and all that reasoning has gone out the window. Economic consequences be damned, Republican legislators needed to take an anti-immigrant vote for their primary voters, so that's what they did. Now we have one of the strictest anti-immigrant laws in the country, and have undoubtedly harmed relationships with local law enforcement and their communities. This is why local law enforcement from across Texas protested this law throughout the process. The economic and social impact of SB 4 will be abundantly clear for all of us to see in the near future.
Of course, it didn't stop with sanctuary cities. Conservatives in the Texas Legislature decided to create a solution in search of a problem in the "Bathroom bill." You will hear fear mongering of "boys in girls showers," but please point me to one incident of that ever happening in Texas that would justify this legislation. If anything, the marginalized community this bill is aimed at need more legislation protecting them - transgender individuals are nearly twice as likely to be sexually assaulted, over 41% attempt suicide, and nearly 80% report bullying in their formative years. The truth of the matter is we have laws against harassment and assaults in bathrooms, and there is simply no need for further legislation.
Obviously, there were a litany of others bills passed both good and bad. We had a sweeping insurance bill pass that will make it more difficult to sue insurance agencies (bad for consumers), but we also addressed our failing CPS system, increased mental health services, and passed the Sandra Bland Act (great for mental health and criminal justice reform!).
Unfortunately, since the end of Session last week, we have found out that it's not over after all. Governor Abbott has called the legislature back in a special session on July 18th to address the Texas Medical Board sunset, a piece of needed legislation that will ensure the Texas Medical Board continues to exist past September. But along with the needed Medical Board legislation, Governor Abbott decided to add a heap of conservative red meat items, including:
- Bathrooms (again);
- Property tax reform that doesn't decrease property taxes but instead limits cities' ability to pay for fire departments and local law enforcement;
- Diminishing local control or cities' ability to regulate at the local level; and
- More abortion legislation, to name a few.
I will be back with my Democratic colleagues fighting to keep Texas a friendly and welcoming state that's good for business. It is my hope that House Republicans and leadership will join with us in making certain that no more damage is done to Texas' reputation in the 30 day special session.
Please subscribe to our weekly newsletters or forward our newsletter to your friends and neighbors to keep them informed. And as always, my office is here for you. Please feel free to contact us at 817-924-6788 (District), 512-463-0740 (Capitol), via email at Ramon.Romero@house.texas.gov, or by mail at P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768.