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Here’s Where The Texas Legislature Is On Abbott’s Special Session Issues

Gov. Greg Abbott called the 85th Texas Legislature back for a special session beginning July 18, initially to pass legislation needed to keep five state agencies in operation, and then to address a longer list of proposals for everything from restroom regulations to local tree ordinances. The governor opened a total of 20 for consideration; this is our constantly updated look at the Legislature’s progress during the 30-day special session.

STILL PENDING

Sunset legislation

During this year’s regular session, lawmakers failed to pass so-called sunset legislation needed to prevent some state agencies from closing. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick held key sunset legislation hostage in a successful effort to force a special session on other issues. In announcing the special session, Abbott said he would only add an additional 19 issues to the agenda after the Senate passed sunset legislation. On the third day of the special session, the Senate did just that and Abbott significantly expanded the session’s agenda.

Related billsHB 1HB 2SB 20SB 60

 

STILL PENDING

Teacher pay and retirement benefits

Abbott asked the Legislature to put more money into the Teacher Retirement System amid concerns that retired teachers would no longer be able to afford their medication amid rising health insurance premiums and health care costs. He also wants school districts to rearrange their budgets to increase teacher salaries by an average of $1,000, a measure educators vehemently oppose and have criticized as an “unfunded mandate.”

Related billsHB 198SB 19SB 97SJR 1

 

STILL PENDING

School finance reform

At first, Abbott said he would task legislators with creating a commission to study the school finance system. But in July, he added immediate school funding reform to the session’s agenda amid complaints from Democrats and moderate Republicans in the House that the state’s beleaguered system for funding public schools deserved more concrete action. The governor also tasked legislators with helping small, rural districts struggling after the expiration of a $400 million state aid program.

Related billsHB 191SB 16

 

STILL PENDING

School choice for kids with disabilities

During the regular session, the Senate passed a measure to subsidize private school tuition using state funding. But school-choice proposals have long faced significant opposition in the House, particularly from Democrats and rural Republicans. Abbott has narrowed the issue for the special session by calling for “private school choice” specifically for students with disabilities.

Related billsHB 253SB 2

 

STILL PENDING

Property taxes

There’s a constitutional prohibition on the state levying a property tax, but that’s a major source of revenue that keeps cities, counties and special purpose districts operating. Amid Texans’ complaints about rising property tax bills – often driven by rising property values – Abbott called on the Legislature to tackle measures aimed at reining in increases in local property taxes. Local government officials argue the bills would hamstring their ability to deliver services their residents expect.

Related billsHB 3HB 4SB 1

STILL PENDING

Caps on state government spending

Under the Texas Constitution, state spending cannot grow faster than the state’s economy. Ahead of each legislative session, state leaders set a growth rate for state spending based on the estimated rate of growth in Texans’ personal income over the next two years. Abbott has asked lawmakers to require future legislatures to limit how much state spending can grow to the estimated combined growth in population and inflation, a figure that is often lower than the one lawmakers currently use.

Related billsHB 41HB 127SB 9

STILL PENDING

Caps on local government spending

Abbott asked lawmakers to cap how much additional money local governments could spend each year without an election, drawing immediate criticism from city and county officials. They say such a limit would make it difficult to develop long-term financial plans and fund maintenance and services that residents want from their local governments.

Related billsHB 206SB 18

 

STILL PENDING

Limits on local tree regulations

Dozens of cities and towns across Texas have ordinances protecting trees on private property; in many cases, property owners either have to pay a fee or replant trees if they cut down larger trees on their land. These measures would make those local ordinances illegal, though current versions of the bills focus specifically on ordinances that prevent residential property owners from cutting down trees as they please. Cities can still regulate what commercial property owners do with their trees.

Related billsHB 70SB 14

 

STILL PENDING

Speeding local government permitting

Lawmakers want to make it easier for developers to get approval for projects in cities. Abbott wants state law changed so that permits would be approved automatically if cities don’t respond to them fast enough. Lawmakers are also looking at outlawing construction permitting rules currently in place in Austin that expedite permitting for projects that include certain worker protections such as offering worker’s compensation insurance.

Related billsHB 164SB 13

 

STILL PENDING

Preventing local rule changes on already acquired properties

This bill would prohibit cities and towns from enforcing any local regulation on a property that was not in place when that property was purchased. Critics have expressed concern that the measure could have far-reaching consequences on environmental, health and other local ordinances in place in communities across the state.

Related billsHB 188SB 12

 

STILL PENDING

Texting-while-driving

Texas will be under a statewide texting-while-driving ban starting Sept. 1. But Abbott has complained that this measure leaves in place a “patchwork quilt” of driving safety regulations that differ across cities and counties. He has called on lawmakers to effectively preempt local ordinances in more than 40 Texas cities that are stricter than the statewide ban.

Related billsHB 171SB 15

 

STILL PENDING

Bathrooms, showers, locker and changing rooms

Among the most contentious issues during the regular session, proposals to bar transgender men, women and children from restrooms that do not match their biological sex are back under consideration in legislative overtime. Efforts to pass such restrictions fizzled out in May as part of an ongoing fight that’s pitted Republicans against business and Republicans against Republicans. Lawmakers are now considering proposals that would affect bathrooms overseen by both school districts and local governments like cities and counties.

Related billsHB 46HB 50SB 3SB 91

 

STILL PENDING

Union dues deduction

State lawmakers are considering for the second time this year a measure that would end the practice of collecting membership dues automatically from the paychecks of certain public employees who are in labor unions or other associations. The proposal would apply to public school teachers, corrections officers and other government employees, but would exempt firefighters, police officers, emergency first responders and charitable organizations — a carve-out that’s received a lot of pushback, even from some of the law enforcement groups that would benefit from the exemption.

Related billsHB 156SB 7

 

STILL PENDING

Taxpayer funding for abortion

State and federal law already prohibit using tax dollars to pay for abortions, but Abbott wants the Legislature to broaden that ban to block local and state government agencies from entering into any financial contracts — including lease agreements — with clinics that are affiliated with abortion providers, even if those clinics don’t perform abortions.

Related billsHB 14HB 163SB 4

 

STILL PENDING

Abortion insurance

Lawmakers are considering measures that would require women to pay additional premiums if they want their health plans to cover abortions performed outside of medical emergencies.

Related billsHB 214SB 8

 

STILL PENDING

Abortion reporting

The Senate has passed two bills that would require physicians and facilities to report more details about abortions — and fine those who do not comply. Under one measure, in procedures where complications occur, physicians would be required, within 72 hours, to submit reports to the state health commission that include detailed information like the patient’s year of birth, race, marital status, state and county of residence, the date of her last menstrual cycle, the number of previous abortions and the number of previous live births. Another measure would also require reporting on whether minors seeking abortions did so because of a medical emergency and whether they obtained parental consent or a judicial bypass.

Related billsHB 13HB 195HB 215SB 10SB 73

 

STILL PENDING

Do-not-resuscitate protections

The governor has asked lawmakers to ensure that patients or their legal guardians have consented to a do-not-resuscitate orders before doctor can issue them. Proponents say it codifies practices already in place at many hospitals, while some opponents say that it could needlessly complicate the process of issuing a do-not-resuscitate order.

Related billsHB 12HB 43SB 11SB 80

 

STILL PENDING

Mail-in ballot fraud

Amid an investigation of mail-in ballot irregularities affecting city council races in Dallas, Texas lawmakers this year put a newfound focus on mail-in ballot fraud, a documented vulnerability in elections. During the 2017 regular session, Abbott signed into law a bill that overhauls absentee balloting at nursing homes, in an attempt to shore up that process. During the special session, Lawmakers are considering bills to increase criminal penalties for those found to have committed mail-in ballot fraud.

Related billsHB 184SB 5

 

STILL PENDING

Maternal mortality

In 2013, lawmakers created The Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity to examine why so many Texas mothers die within a year after their pregnancies end. A study last year in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that Texas’ maternal mortality rates had nearly doubled between 2010 and 2014. While public health experts and legislators have not been able to pinpoint reasons for the spike in deaths and pregnancy complications, there’s bipartisan support behind extending the task force until 2023 to continue its work.

Related billsHB 9SB 17

 

STILL PENDING

Municipal annexation

A bill that would have allowed homeowners targeted by a city for annexation to vote on the proposal died during the regular session when state Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, launched a filibuster against it, claiming it offered inadequate protections to military bases from encroaching development. Now that Abbott has included annexation reform on the special session agenda, lawmakers are looking to resurrect the issue.

Related billsHB 6SB 6

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