We've been hard at work at the Capitol the last three weeks discussing a number of important topics. I will share more about what has happened during the first half of this Special Session, which began on July 18th, later in this newsletter. Today, we're on the House floor debating a number of bills to reform the public school finance system.
In this edition of the Capitol Review, we are covering the following topics:
- ED Talks
- Environmental Regulation Committee Tours the TDS Landfill
- Blue Ridge Landfill Update & HCR 29
- Bills Passed by the House in the Special Session
- Nomination for Texas Armed Services Scholarship Program
- Hurricane Preparedness
- House District 29 Events
My nine-year-old grandson Brody visited me on the House floor last week and helped do an introduction for my latest video series: ED Talks!
Get Daily Updates with ED Talks
Have you heard about TED Talks? Well, during this Special Session, join me as I start the conversation on upcoming items the Legislature is working on in short videos I'm calling "Ed Talks". Brought to you from a different location around the Capitol each day, these videos provide brief updates on important pieces of legislation and other issues of interest. Find them on my Facebook and Youtube pages!
Visit my YouTube channel to catch up on the latest Ed Talks!
Environmental Regulation Committee Tours Texas Disposal System Landfill
On July 25th, members of the House Committee on Environmental Regulation and staff from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) toured the Texas Disposal System (TDS) landfill in Creedmoor, just south of Austin. The TDS facility has landfill, recycling, and composting operations. They also run a garage sale-type center where they resale usable items that have been thrown away. You know what they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure! But the most unique thing about TDS is that they use a large portion of their buffer zone around the landfill as an exotic game ranch that hosts over 2,000 animals from over 100 different species, including zebras, giraffes, rhinoceroses, and tigers!
Click HERE to take a virtual tour of this TDS facility. HINT: footage of the Exotic Game Ranch begins at the 15:48 mark!
It was great to have Emilee Bell, a Dawson HS grad who now works in the Waste Permits Division at TCEQ, accompany us on the TDS tour.
Update on Blue Ridge Landfill
TCEQ Meeting on Enforcement Action for Blue Ridge
Speaking of landfills, here's the latest on Blue Ridge. Last month, I attended a meeting of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to discuss my concerns with the Proposed Agreed Order of enforcement action for the Blue Ridge Landfill. Pearland Deputy City Manager Jon Branson and Pearland City Councilmember Trent Perez were there as well to express their opposition to the Order. A number of Pearland residents also showed up to voice how their quality of life has been negatively impaired by this landfill. Although the TCEQ Commissioners were clearly concerned by the issues we raised, they ultimately decided to go forward and approve the Order so that some form of enforcement action could be taken immediately. There are a number of things Blue Ridge must do within certain timeframes, and I am monitoring their progress carefully to ensure their compliance.
HCR 29 - Landfill Assessment
I am staying in frequent contact with TCEQ and will continue to urge further regulations and penalties be taken against Blue Ridge. During this Special Session, I initially filed HB 276 to require TCEQ to reevaluate the current oversight and permitting for landfills, examine the guidelines that landfill companies are required to follow to see where improvements need to be made, and enact stricter penalties for violations. However, since this particular issue isn't on Governor Abbott's call, I have filed HCR 29 as well. A House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) differs from a House Bill (HB) as it does not make any changes to state statute and therefore carries a different weight. Because of this, however, an HCR has greater freedom to pass in a Special Session such as this one without having to adhere to the strict guidelines of the Governor's call. HCR 29, which will direct the TCEQ to conduct a study of the safety and regulation of landfills, was passed unanimously out of the Environmental Regulation Committee yesterday and will hopefully be heard on the House floor soon.
Proud to represent the interests of my constituents by speaking in front of TCEQ regarding the Blue Ridge Landfill.
Special Session Issues of Importance to the Texas House
The Texas Constitution sanctions only the Governor to regulate the speed of a Special Session by allowing him to control the time, date, and topics of bills to be considered in a Special Session. Governor Abbott deliberately limited the beginning of the Special Session to a single topic, passing a Sunset Bill. As soon as the Special Session was proclaimed, Texas House Republicans filed legislation on the Governor's top priority, held hearings on the bills, and placed them for consideration on the House Calendar.
The House and the Senate can move at different speeds because of their size (150 members versus 31, respectively) and their rules. House rules require Texans to be given notice of committee hearings to allow them an opportunity to make their views known. House rules also require longer notice periods for certain bills to be considered for final passage to allow Texans to read the bills that are going to affect them and to allow voters to express their views to their representatives. Both the House and the Senate have to agree on the exact text of any of the Special Session items. Because of differences in the size of the chambers and their rules, House deliberation sometimes can take longer than Senate actions. The House has passed 16 bills so far that are awaiting action in the Senate. Below is a brief summary of some of the bills the House has passed so far.
Enjoyed visiting with James Bass, the Executive Director of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) before a briefing last month on the Unified Transportation Plan, which is TxDOT’s 10-year plan to guide major transportation project development across the state.
Sunset Bills - HB 1 and HB 2
The Texas House filed, referred, and heard the Governor's highest priority - the Sunset Bill that protects Texans medical and therapy care - at the first opportunity. HB 1 and HB 2, which together will remedy the Sunset issue facing five state agencies, passed the House unanimously.
Tree Mitigation Fees - HB 7
HB 7 will require a city that imposes a tree mitigation fee for tree removal to allow for a tree planting credit to offset the fee. This bill passed the House by a vote of 130-9.
Maternal Mortality and Morbidity - HB 9, HB 10, HB 11, and HB 28
Each of these bills will work together to continue the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force, which was set to expire, as well as strengthen and focus the task force's efforts to protect the lives of pregnant and postpartum women. HB 9, HB 10, HB 11, and HB 28 were all passed unanimously by the House.
Abortion Reporting Requirements - HB 13
HB 13 will establish certain requirements for physicians and health care facilities to report abortion complications in order to provide a more complete and accurate disclosure of women who were treated for abortion-related complications. This bill passed the House by a vote of 94-45.
TRS-Care - HB 20 and HB 80
HB 20 will appropriate $212.7 million from the Economic Stabilization Fund, or Texas' Rainy Day Fund, to TRS-Care, the group insurance fund for retired school employees. This bill passed the House with a vote of 135-13. HB 80 will require TRS to make a one-time cost-of-living-adjustment to certain retirees when funds become available. This bill passed the House with 147 ayes and only 1 nay vote.
One of the issues on the Governor's call for the Special Session is to prevent cities from enacting tree ordinances. This creative group of Sierra Club activists stopped by my office to voice their opposition to bills that would do so by giving me a copy of Dr. Seuss' "The Lorax". When they smiled for this picture, instead of cheese they said TREES!
Rep. Thompson Nominates Jordan Hayes for the TASSP Scholarship
I am excited to announce that I have formally nominated Jordan Hayes for the Texas Armed Services Scholarship Program (TASSP). This scholarship program benefits students who have been nominated by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Senator, or State Representative and intend to participate in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs while attending a Texas college. Additionally, these students must meet specific eligibility criteria in order to receive an initial award, including obtaining a high school GPA of at least 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale and ranking in the top third of their high school graduating class. The recipients of the scholarship for the upcoming 2017-18 school year will receive up to $4,000.
Hayes, a Pearland native, graduated with a 4.14 GPA after being homeschooled and traveling around Chile and Colombia with his parents, who are missionaries. While living abroad, Hayes engaged in a number of humanitarian activities, including aiding with fire and flood disaster relief, building a church, and serving impoverished communities with food and clothing. Upon graduation from Texas A&M, he hopes to serve in the United States Navy and attend medical school to specialize in cardiology.
Jordan is the son of Shane and Dena Hayes and will be a freshman at Texas A&M University where he will pursue a degree in Biomedical Engineering.
DPS Urges Preparedness as Hurricane Season Continues
With four months remaining in the 2017 hurricane season, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is reminding residents to evaluate their emergency plans and tune in to weather forecasts for potential hurricanes and tropical storms. Historically, August and September are the more active months during hurricane season. Hurricane season began June 1 and continues through Nov. 30.
All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes or tropical storms. It is possible for a storm to severely impact our state, even prior to or without making direct landfall in Texas. Additionally, the rainbands associated with a tropical system have an extremely wide reach, so monitoring changing weather conditions during hurricane season is critically important for all Texans.
Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines, and winds can vary from 74 to 157 miles per hour (or higher). In addition, hurricanes and tropical storms can also spawn tornadoes, create dangerous coastal water conditions, including storm surges along the coast, and cause extensive damage from flooding.
Here are several measures residents can take now to prepare now for potential storms:
- Assemble an emergency kit that includes essential documents, supplies and provisions.
- Review hurricane evacuation maps, and select a route for you and your family.
- Plan how all family members and pets will evacuate safely.
- Consider any special needs for individuals with disabilities or the elderly.
- Stay informed about changing weather conditions in and around your area.
- Follow the instructions of local officials if a storm develops.
Residents are also encouraged to review their property’s flood risk and current insurance coverage, and to consider whether a separate flood policy should be part of their home protection plan. (Remember most flood policies have a 30-day waiting period before taking effect.) For more information, visit http://www.tdi.texas.gov/takefive/flood-insurance.html.
If you or someone you know might need assistance during a disaster, register for the State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry (STEAR) – a free registry that provides local emergency planners and responders with additional information about the needs in their communities. To register, contact 2-1-1 Texas, the state’s free 24-hour helpline. No matter where you live in Texas, you can dial 2-1-1 or (877) 541-7905 for community resources.
For more information about hurricanes and how to make sure you are prepared during the 2017 hurricane season, visit www.dps.texas.gov/dem/ThreatAwareness/hurricaneAwareness.htm and www.texasprepares.org.
As a proud supporter of public education in Texas, I joined fellow Representatives Trent Ashby and Gary VanDeaver at the Texans for Public Education Rally the day before the Special Session started. It sure was hot, but for a worthy cause!
House District 29 Events
Stay involved throughout the district with these upcoming events!
Had the opportunity to try my hand at trap shooting with fellow members of the Environmental Regulation Committee.
If you need assistance on any state-related issue, please contact my Pearland office at (281) 485-6565 or my Capitol office at (512) 463-0707, or email me at
Thanks for reading, and God Bless Texas!