AUSTIN (KXAN) – Here’s what’s happening at the Capitol on May 12, 2015.
If a House bill hasn’t received a committee hearing by now, it is basically dead. Monday is one of many deadlines coming up this week. With only three weeks left until session ends, we’re reminded of how the Texas Legislature is meant to kill bills, not pass them. After Tuesday, if a House bill is not on the House Daily Calender (36-hour required layout) consider the bill dead. If it isn’t on the calender by tomorrow, it isn’t happening.
On the Floors:
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about whether same-sex couples can get married under the Constitution a few weeks back. Conservatives in Texas say, ‘so what?’ Tuesday, the House will likely vote on connecting issues. The first is a bill by Magnolia Republican Cecil Bell banning government officials from issuing or recognizing same-sex marriage licences. Earlier this year, a Texas judge said our traditional marriage law was unconstitutional. That led to the Travis County Clerk issuing exactly one same-sex marriage license to an Austin couple. If passed, Bell’s bill would take funding away from local governments – should something similar repeat itself.
The other bill would protect the right of religious organizations to refuse service or recognize a marriage if it’s against their religious beliefs. Last week, scores of pastors and priests came to testify at a similar bill in the Senate. Monday, the Senate voted for their version of the bill 20-11.
In the House Public Health Committee, Senator Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, will lay out his bill that would allow the Governor to declare a “state of infectious disease emergency.” It would also boost training and stockpile equipment in case of another infectious disease outbreak like we had last year when Ebola was discovered in Dallas. The public hearing is set for 8 a.m.
Shall it be property taxes cuts or sales tax cuts this session? In one of the first public confrontations —and possibly the last— Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, lays out the Senate’s major property tax relief bills in front of Angleton Representative Dennis Bonnen’s House Ways and Means Committee. Bonnen is the author of the House’s sales tax cut and the lower chamber’s most passionate and confrontational advocate. If this session goes into overtime, the tax cut battle is likely what it will be for. Both plans save the average Texas family around $200, but in different ways. The House’s plan cuts the state sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5.95 percent. The Senate’s plan raises the homestead exemption to around $33,000. Critics of both plans say the average Texan won’t notice it. Supporters say both plans are good. But pride and the ability to boast who cuts your taxes is what will bring us into special session, if necessary. SB 1, SB 7, and SJR 1 will be laid out – all by Senator Nelson. SB 1760 by Senator Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, will also be up for debate. The hearing begins at 8:30 a.m.
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee will take and debate a bill by Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress. If someone is pulled over by a peace officer and the person owes court fines, penalties or fines, this bill would allow the person to pay up their balance with the officer on-scene through a credit card and electronic device. Supporters say it saves time and money. Opponents say it distracts peace officers and puts the money collecting burden on them. The idea passed overwhelmingly out of the Texas House. When lawmakers are finished on the floor, the committee will begin.
In Texas, a court – if deemed appropriate – can grant permission for a minor to get an abortion without parental consent. Religious conservatives don’t like this and a bill by Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, would limit that process. It’s known as “judicial bypass” and it’s always been a controversial topic, with around three hundred teenagers a year terminating a pregnancy through this process. The House will likely pass this measure this week.
According to Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and State Affairs Chair Joan Huffman, R-Houston, they have the votes to pass a statewide texting and driving ban out of committee. Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, has tried two sessions in a row for this, last session the idea died in committee. This week, the State Affairs Committee is expected to vote it out to the Senate Floor for one of the last major steps to law. According to Sen. Huffman, the vote on the Senate floor “will be close.”