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Texas Legislative Sessions: What people would be surprised to know

ROBYN H. JIMENEZ | 7/31/2017, 12:22 a.m.
During the 85th legislative session, which ended May 29, a total of 10,672 bills were filed on behalf of the ...
State Rep. Eric Johnson Texas House of Representatives

He was also disappointed that his bill designed to outlaw discrimination against the LGBT community in the work place, as well as his bill that would have required state agencies to use data proved by the state climatologist about weather changes and climate changes to plan ahead during projects, also died waiting to be heard on the House floor.

Johnson also filed a bill to fund high quality, full-day pre-K throughout the state. However, his bill, as well as the governor’s pre-K bill, was also killed. Although Dallas ISD now has full-day prekindergarten in all of its elementary schools, not all cities across the state offer the full-day program.

Johnson noted that – when looking at areas in which to cut the budget – lawmakers may have felt early education was one of the least important areas for Texas to invest funding.

He compared the $800 million that the Legislature repeatedly designated toward border security – which he felt really showed Gov. Greg Abbott’s commitment to securing the Texas border – to the $118 million geared toward pre-K in all Texas elementary schools last year.

“The governor sent the wrong message in 2015 by putting so little money into pre-K, because it sent the message to the Legislature that he didn’t care about it that much, which emboldened the Legislature to do what it did in 2017, this past Legislature [session], which was to get rid of it all together,” he stated.

“The governor claims it was important to him. But the amount of money that he put into it, which is the only language we really speak in Austin is money, suggested otherwise.”

Moreover, Johnson noted that Abbott has not complained about the bills being killed.

“Pre-K is not a priority of the Legislature nor of the governor, really,” Johnson said.

Along with bills that weren’t passed, the Legislature passed a few bills that Johnson called “really bad bills.” Among those bills was the voter ID law that would require certain forms of ID at the polls in order to vote, which may eventually be struck down by the court; the sanctuary cities law, which is among the strictest bills and allows law enforcement to inquire about citizenship of anyone they pull over during a traffic stop; and a law that states if a woman has a miscarriage or an abortion, the doctor has to arrange burial or cremation of the remains through a funeral home.

Special Session

The governor called the Legislature is back in Austin for a Special Session to listen to 20 bills that were left on the table. The session started July 18 and can last up to 30 days.

“But he put in an interesting wrinkle. He said, ‘You – the House and Senate – have to deal with this one bill, which is called a Sunset Bill,’ which is a bill that determines the rules that will govern a particular state agency,” Johnson explained. “We call those Sunset Bills. Or if you don’t pass them the agency will go away. There’s a Sunset Bill related to the Texas Medical Board, which actually licenses all the doctors in the state, that has to be passed or the agency will go away, which obviously really can’t happen because there wont be anymore licensed doctors in the state of Texas.