The 2019 legislative session

Abbott HB3 Presser
Abbott HB3 Presser

The Texas Tribune

Texas’ top political leaders wrapped the 2019 session of the Texas Legislature with an air of accomplishment. They passed two major pieces of legislation that they had been working toward for years – a finance boost and a bill aimed at slowing the growth of property taxes.

But there were some key failures too, most notably a sales tax increase that would have allowed lawmakers to lower property taxes even more. That measure died due to lack of support. Many others died due to lack of time or a procedural obstruction by an opponent.

The session ended May 27, so time has run out for proposed bills. The deadline for Abbot to sign or veto bills was June 16. Here’s a look at how 25 of the most notable bills turned out:

  • Signed into law

Red-light cameras

HB 1631: Signed June 3

Though the ban for red-light cameras monitoring goes into effect immediately, the devices could still linger in some communities for a few more years, as the bill only prevents cities from renewing their current contracts with vendors.

School safety

SB 11: Signed June 6

In the first session since 10 people were fatally shot at Santa Fe High School, lawmakers wrote this school safety measure that will strengthen mental health initiatives in schools, require classrooms to have access to a telephone or other electronic communication, and create teams that identify potentially dangerous students. The bill was amended in the House to include the creation of a Texas Mental Health Consortium – originally part of SB 10, which died hours earlier on a technicality.

Raising the smoking age

SB 21: Signed June 7

This measure will raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21, except for military personnel.

Defunding abortion providers

SB 22: Signed June 7

This measure will prohibit state and local governments from partnering with agencies that perform abortions, even if they contract for services not related to the procedure.

Teacher pension fix

SB 12: Signed June 9

This bill will shore up the teacher pension fund in Texas. It will increase state contributions and give retirees a one-time additional check.

Religious freedom

SB 1978: Signed June 10

Known by supporters as the “Save Chick-fil-A Bill,” this proposal will prevent government entities from taking adverse action against people or businesses based on their religion. But some members of the LGBTQ community fear it would be a license to discriminate.

School finance reform

HB 3: Signed June 11

This bill is a complete overhaul of Texas public school finance. It aims to increase per-student funding, expand pre-K offerings and lessen the state’s reliance on “Robin Hood” payments from wealthier schools. The measure also includes pay raises for veteran teachers and other school employees.

Property tax reform

SB 2: Signed June 12

This bill, a top priority of Texas’ three main political leaders, will require voter approval when local governments want to increase their property tax revenues by more than 3.5%.

Creating a state flood infrastructure fund

SB 7: Signed June 13

This bill would create special flood infrastructure funds to help communities harmed by natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

“Born-alive” act

HB 16: Signed June 14

This proposal would require doctors to treat a baby born alive in the rare instance of a failed abortion attempt.

Repealing the Driver Responsibility Program

HB 2048: Signed June 14

This bill would eliminate the program that critics have said traps low-income Texans in a cycle of debt. It has survived past attempts to kill it because money from fines helps fund the state’s emergency trauma care system. The bill offers alternative funding sources for trauma care.

Extending statute of limitations for sex abuse lawsuits

HB 3809: Signed June 14

This bill doubles the amount of time that victims of certain types of sexual abuse have to sue abusers or entities, from 15 years to 30 years after a victim turns 18.

Budget

HB 1: Signed June 15

This two-year budget plan calls for spending roughly $250 billion on priorities including public school funding, teacher salaries and early childhood intervention programs.

Rules governing alcohol sales

HB 1545: Signed June 15

This bill is part of the state’s regular sunset process, which requires agencies to undergo regular efficiency reviews or face closure. The Senate amended the bill to allow breweries to sell beer to go and allow individuals to hold up to 250 liquor store permits.

  • Failed bills and resolutions

Sales tax increase

HJR 3: Failed to pass May 7

Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen proposed increasing the sales tax by 1 percentage point and using that money to lower property taxes statewide. The measure failed to gain popular support among rank-and-file lawmakers.

Elections

SB 9: Missed key deadline May 19

This wide-ranging legislation would have elevated the penalty for Texans who vote when they’re ineligible – even if they did so unknowingly. They also would have been subject to a felony charge that could include jail time and a fine up to $10,000. It failed to make it onto the House’s calendar.

Lobbying ban

SB 13: Missed key deadline May 19

Every session, the Texas Capitol draws lobbyists who were previously members of the Legislature. This bill would have banned members of the Texas House and Senate from certain kinds of lobbying for a period of time – about two years in most cases – after they stepped down from their elected offices. It never made it onto the House agenda.

Scooter regulation

SB 549: Missed key deadline May 19

Texans would have been banned from riding electric scooters on sidewalks under this measure, and would have required that users be at least 16 years old. It also would have prohibited more than two people from riding a scooter at once. It missed a key deadline and never made it to the House floor.

Ban on certain abortions

SB 1033: Missed key deadline May 19

This controversial bill would have banned abortions on the basis of the sex, race or disability of a fetus and criminalized doctors who perform what opponents call “discriminatory abortions.” It would have also disallowed abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy even if the fetus has “severe and irreversible” abnormalities. It missed the deadline for making it onto the House agenda.

Confederate monuments

SB 1663: Missed key deadline May 19

As Texas cities and universities weighed whether to remove Confederate monuments from public land, some lawmakers wanted to give the Legislature more say in those decisions. This bill would have required that two-thirds of members in both chambers approved of the removal, relocation or alteration of any monuments or memorials that have been on state property for more than 25 years. It missed a key deadline in the House and never received a vote from the full chamber.

Social media

SB 2373: Missed key deadline May 19

This bill would have let the state’s attorney general take legal action based on consumer complaints of censorship against social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Some critics questioned whether the measure conflicted with federal law that allows social media platforms to regulate their own content. It never made it onto the House’s calendar by a key deadline.

Lessen pot penalties

HB 63: Missed key deadline May 22

People caught possessing small amounts of marijuana would have faced smaller criminal penalties – a Class C misdemeanor instead of a Class B misdemeanor – under this bill that passed in the House but was declared dead on arrival in the Senate by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Daylight saving time

HJR 117: Missed key deadline May 22

This proposal would have eliminated twice-a-year time changes and let voters decide in November on Texas’ permanent time. Voters would choose between exempting the state from daylight saving time or observing daylight saving time year-round.

Bail reform

HB 2020: Missed key deadline May 22

This legislation would have created a pretrial risk assessment tool for county officials to use when making bail decisions. It would have considered a defendant’s likelihood of posing danger or skipping court hearings. The bill came after bail practices in Dallas and Harris were found to be unconstitutional for discriminating against poor criminal defendants who can’t pay for their release from jail.

Intellectual disability and the death penalty

HB 1139: Missed key deadline May 25

It’s been more than 15 years since the U.S. Supreme Court said executing prisoners who are intellectually disabled is unconstitutional. This bill originally would have created a pretrial process to determine if a capital murder defendant is intellectually disabled. It changed in a Senate committee to simply codify existing rulings from the high court that those with intellectual disabilities couldn’t be sentenced to death and that such determinations must align with current medical standards.

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