85th Texas State Legislative Session Update
Friday, July 14th, 2017 @ 2:29PM
Budget for the next two years: $216 Billion
Child Protective Services: Changes state foster care system to a “community-based care” model. Initially, case management in certain jurisdictions would be handled by contractors and not by state caseworkers. The community- based model would expand over time. Effective – September 1, 2017
Sanctuary Cities: This legislation would punish local law enforcement agencies and elected officials for failing to comply with federal immigration laws that states that certain offenders must remain detained until processed by ICE officers. Effective – September 1, 2017.
Voter ID: This bill makes approves additional documents that can be used to prove that one is eligible to vote. Bill also creates a criminal penalty for making a false declaration regarding a person’s inability to obtain the required documents. Effective – January 1, 2018.
Straight-Ticket Voting: Under straight-ticket voting laws, one can choose every candidate of a particular political party on a ballot by making a single choice. This bill eliminates straight-ticket voting and will require voters to select each individual candidate on a ballot. Effective September 1, 2020
Public Education: Sought to create a voucher program and scholarships backed by donations that would allow parents to subsidize the cost of private school tuition. Not Approved by the Legislature.
Top Ten Percent Rule: This bill would have limited the automatic admission of incoming freshman at all Texas public universities to 30% of those who graduated in the top 10% of their high school class. The bill did not pass. Passed the Senate Higher Education Committee, but lacked the support to be brought to the Senate floor.
Texting While Driving: Prohibits using mobile devices while driving in most instances. Also disallows the seizure of these devices for the act of texting. Effective – September 1, 2017.
High Speed Rail: Plans for a commuter rail line to connect Dallas to Houston. The Department of Public Safety is responsible for the project meeting state and federal requirements. Effective – September 1, 2017.
Legislation Proposed by Senator Royce West
Community Safety Education Act: Adds instructional materials to driver’s education courses, high school curriculum and police academies on the state’s expectation regarding the actions of officers and the citizenry during a routine traffic stop. Becomes law September 1, 2017. Effective January 1, 2018.
Permanency Care: This bill made the Kinship Care program permanent as it removed its statutory expiration date. This program allows relatives to become permanent foster parents to children related to them and receive payments from the state. Effective Immediately.
Higher Education – Transferability: College credits earned at community (junior) colleges would have received full credit when transferred to 4-year universities. Did not pass.
Police and Fire Retirement Benefits: Improves the Dallas Police/Fire plan without raising taxes and without using state dollars and will restore financial solvency to the pension plan when implemented. Effective – September 1, 2017.
Protective Vests for Police: Patrol duty officers now have access to protective vests that are made to withstand rounds fired by automatic rifles. Effective Immediately.
Addressing Homelessness: Creates a trust fund that would combat homelessness. Also allows people that are registering or renewing their vehicle the option to make a voluntary donation to the Ending Homelessness Fund. Effective – September 1, 2017.
UNT Dallas College of Law: In 1999, Senator West successfully passed legislation that created the University of North Texas at Dallas. UNT Dallas’ College of Law first opened in Fall of 2014 and was approved for accreditation as of June 2017.
Special Session Called, Beginning July 18, 2017:
Issues to be covered:
Continuance of the Texas Medical Board and 4 other state agencies
$1000 teacher pay raise
Caps on state and local spending
Limiting growth of property taxes
Commission to study school finance reform
Use of public funding for private school for special needs children
Preventing city regulation of what property owners do with trees on private property
Preventing local governments from changing rules midway a construction project
Speeding up local government permitting processes
Limiting cities’ ability to annex land/property
Pre-emption of local restrictions on texting while driving
Access by transgender persons of public accommodations
Limiting public employees ability to collect union dues
Prohibiting use of tax dollars to abortion providers
Enhanced reporting of abortion complications
Strengthening patient protections related to do-not resuscitate orders
Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud
Extending study/task force on maternal mortality