It’s March 10th, a big day in the Texas Legislature. Today is the 60th day of the 85th Legislative Session. Today is also the bill filing deadline, though local bills are not subject to this deadline. As of this morning, 4,020 House Bills and 1,974 Senate Bills have been filed. There will likely be many more bills filed in the next few hours before the 6:00 pm deadline.
This week, we will be covering the following topics in this edition of our Capitol Review:
- Thompson Bills on the Move
- Child Protective Services Legislation Passes in the House
- The Committee Process
- Houston Air Quality
- Co-authored Legislation
Two of my constituents who are medical students at the University of Texas Medical Branch stopped by the Capitol Office to advocate for issues that are important to them!
Thompson Bills on the Move
I have filed 15 bills thus far – click here and choose my name from the author menu to search for them! As of today, seven of my bills have been referred to their respective committees, and we are working hard to prepare for committee hearings.
This week, I filed HB 2598, a bill relating to a temporary moratorium on permits for municipal solid waste facilities. The bill was filed to evaluate the operational procedures that solid waste facilities, or landfills, use, as well as curb the development of new landfills in Texas until tighter regulations can be achieved. Many of you on the northwest side of House District 29 have been plagued by odors, and after a thorough, in-depth study by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality determined that Blue Ridge Landfill, a municipal solid waste facility in Fort Bend County, just outside my district, is the source of these odors.
As we have gone through this process in my district, I have decided that we need to reevaluate the current oversight and permitting process for landfills so that we can hopefully prevent what has occurred in my community from happening in other parts of the state. We have to operate within the requirements set forth by the current statute concerning the violations against the facility, but I believe it is imperative that we examine the guidelines that landfill companies are required to follow to see where we can make some needed improvements to the current system.
Brazoria County Day in Austin was March 7th, and it was great to see so many folks from home. Pictured with me are Pearland City Councilman Derrick Reed and Doctor of the Day Dr. Mary Campbell-Fox. Behind us the Brazosport College's Band entertained a big crowd at the Fiesta Gardens, and we enjoyed feasting on shrimp at the World's Largest Shrimp Cocktail - a big highlight every Legislative Session!
Child Protective Services Legislation Passes in the House
Last week, we in the Texas House showed our commitment to provide much-needed reforms to Child Protective Services by approving HB 4, a bill that provides additional monetary assistance for family members who care for a child who has been removed from his or her home, and HB 5, which makes the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) a stand-alone agency with a Commissioner appointed by the Governor.
Protecting children from abuse is one of our most basic and important responsibilities. The Texas House is focused on offering a different vision of foster care: one that goes beyond funding and makes systematic changes.
As Republicans, protecting children and providing them the safety they need is one of our highest priorities. Improving child protection capabilities is the top priority in the Texas House this session. Taken together, HB 4 and HB 5 are an important first step in the Texas Legislature's commitment to protecting Texas' children and providing the best quality of life possible for children who need it most.
As we continue to work to protect children throughout the 85th Legislative Session, we are confident that providing additional aid to families and caregivers and reforming the state agency tasked with offering support services will dramatically improve our state foster care system and protect these precious children. Please contact my office if you would like specifics on HB 4 and HB 5.
Alvin ISD Educators and Administrators visited with me in reference to many concerns that they face in the classroom. An educator from each campus from the school district attended Brazoria County Day.
The Committee Process
Understanding the role of committees is crucial when following the legislative process. After bills are filed, they are sent to a committee by either the Clerk of the House (HBs) or the Secretary of the Senate (SBs). Both the Senate and House committees have been named – you can find a list of committees and their membership by clicking here:
- House Committees: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/Committees/CommitteesMbrs.aspx?Chamber=H
- Senate Committees: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/Committees/CommitteesMbrs.aspx?Chamber=S
There are a number of bills that have not yet been assigned to a committee. These bills cannot begin the process nor be open for any public testimony until they have been referred to a committee. The Speaker’s Office is working hard to refer all of the bills, so if you notice that a bill of particular interest to you has not been referred yet, please wait a day or two and check back – there are thousands of bills that have been filed recently!
Here is a helpful infographic from the Texas Legislative Council’s Research Division that you can print out that outlines the entire legislative process for House Bills. Click on the icon below to access it!
Houston Air Quality
Air quality is something that we may not pay much attention to when the quality is good, but when the air quality is poor, our level of concern changes dramatically. In 1999, the greater Houston area was deemed the "smog capitol" of the nation, knocking Los Angeles off the top spot. After many years and dollars were spent to remedy this problem, Houston now boasts significantly reduced ozone levels while hosting a population that has rapidly increased by 38% between 2000 and 2014. Additionally, since 2000, the decline in ozone levels in Texas cities has been nearly double the national average! You can do your part to continue this success by following easy, money saving programs like ridesharing and conserving energy. Find out more by visiting http://houstonairquality.com.
Since the last Capitol Review, I have signed on to support the following bills:
- HB 313 by Rep. Johnson, J. - allows the University of Houston to participate in the Permanent University Fund.
- HB 434 by Rep. Simmons - eliminates the wrongful birth cause of action.
- HB 518 by Rep. Darby - allows approved nonprofit Workforce Training Community Centers, such as Salvation Army and Goodwill, to retain a portion of their retail sales in order to increase vocational training, services, and job placement.
- HB 611 by Rep. Leach - prohibits sanctuary cities.
- HB 935 by Rep. Zerwas - provides additional state funding and matching federal funds for air ambulances.
- HB 1169 by Rep. Button - "Small Business Saturday" creates a one-day sales tax exemption for all products bought in small businesses in Texas on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving.
- HB 1774 by Rep. Bonnen, G. - reforms laws regarding windstorm insurance to protect consumers from "storm-chasing" lawyers.
- HB 1966 by Rep. Paul - allows condominium unit owners and guest to carry concealed handguns on the premises of the condominium property.
- HB 1983 by Rep. Wray - requires Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to be covered under workers' compensation for firefighters and peace officers.
- HB 2189 by Rep. Krause - codifies Governor Perry's 2008 executive order that established the Blue Alert Program, a statewide alert system that assists in the apprehension of an individual suspected of seriously injuring or killing a law enforcement officer.
- HB 2524 by Rep. Fallon - provides an exemption from the ad valorem taxation of a residence homestead for the surviving spouse of a first responder killed in the line of duty.
I am grateful to represent House District 29 in Brazoria County! Here is another photo from Brazoria County Day: we are on the 1st floor in the Capitol Rotunda. Thanks to everyone who made the drive to Austin to advocate for issues important to our county!
God Bless Texas!