The regular session of the 82nd Legislature concluded on Monday, May 30th.
For myself and many other lawmakers, it was a grueling 140 day process filled with critical issues to address, such as: balancing Texas’ budget, redrawing state legislative districts, reforming and reauthorizing several large state agencies and addressing the local priorities of each member’s district. While there were several accomplishments this session, the work of our state governing body is not complete, as Governor Rick Perry has called the legislature back into a special session.
During the regular session, I was honored to have several bills I authored pass into law on a variety of topics. Below is a brief summary of these accomplishments that I authored on behalf of Texas and House District 63.
This session was a tremendous victory for lake recreational safety. I was privileged to author multiple bills that will better prepare lake enthusiasts with the knowledge necessary to safely enjoy our public waterways. House Bill 1395 was arguably my greatest achievement in this domain. This bill will implement a slow phase-in approach to boat operator education by requiring an education component for all operators born after September 1, 1993. This phase-in approach mirrors Texas’ system of hunter education, which drastically decreased the number of accidents and death in this outdoor activity.
House Bill 596 prohibits the dangerous maneuver of boats circling vulnerable water-skiers. This specific maneuver was what attributed to the death of Highland Village teenager Britteny Lindt, and the act was appropriately named after her. I was also able to author a law that will require the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to notify local law enforcement agencies in real time of the release of an inmate from their jurisdiction, which will improve the speed and efficiency of the process and provide significant taxpayer savings.
Protecting our Children
Possibly the highest honor I had this session was to author legislation that will better equip teachers and other school employees with the tools necessary to better detect and prevent all forms of child abuse. Senate Bill 471 builds off of Jenna’s Law, which I created last session, and sets the national model for other states to follow in preventing ongoing child abuse. I also authored House Bill 434, which gives statutory guidance to day care facilities that will ensure proper care of children with special medical needs.
Additionally, I authored a new industry standard that will ensure that home septic systems are designed with “child proof” lids that cannot be accessed by anyone except the septic system’s owner or a licensed maintenance provider. Also, in an effort to protect a foster child’s continuity, I authored a new law that requires CPS to provide 48 hours notice before they move a foster child from their current foster home. This will ensure that foster children and families will have the ability to say an appropriate goodbye and preserve the only parental relationships that some foster children will have in life.
Transportation and Additional Topics
I was also able to pass legislation authorizing the Department of Transportation to enter into a comprehensive development agreement to expand capacity on I-35 E from north Dallas to the city of Denton. This 28 mile expansion of I-35 E will create significant economic activity, grow jobs, ease congestion, improve air quality and most importantly improve safety for all citizens who utilize this central transportation artery in North Texas. I was also fortunate to author legislation to end the bounty system of paying voter registrars a set amount for every voter registration card they turn in. This pay for performance model led to much of the recent voter registration fraud that Texas and the nation have experienced in recent elections. Lastly, I authored legislation in other areas, including authorizing additional economic development projects in Denton County.
Even though the legislature has already been called into a special session to address additional work to be done, this was a successful session on many fronts and next month I look forward to updating you on the accomplishments of the legislature as a whole. If you ever wish to share a thought or comment, please feel free to contact me at my Capitol office at 512.463.0688 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives.