Notable bills address both constituent interests and gaps in Texas
AUSTIN, TX — Serving Texas House District 148, State Representative Jessica Farrar continues to develop legislation to complete her legislative packet. The following are brief descriptions of notable bills currently filed by Rep. Farrar:
Texas Women's Health Program
Last session, the Legislature enacted the abortion-provider affiliate ban on the federally funded Women's Health Program. As a result, Planned Parenthood and similar providers are now excluded from the program. During the interim, the federal government refused to continue to fund the Women's Health Program because the program discriminates against abortion providers and affiliates. The federal government cited this discrimination as a violation of the Social Security Act. Because of opposition to Planned Parenthood, Texas decided to forgo federal matching of state funds that would give $9 in Federal funds for every $1 in State funds instead of reinstating Planned Parenthood. Texas then created a state-run program called the Texas Women's Health Program (TWHP). While HHSC remains confident that TWHP has the capacity to serve the nearly 55,000 women that Planned Parenthood previously served, Rep. Farrar and her colleagues remain skeptical because of numerous flaws and inaccurate reporting mechanisms found in both the original provider list and the capacity survey.
HB 1708 would require HHSC to submit an annual report to the Legislature detailing TWHP providers' capacity to accept new patients, describing the services of each of these providers. Ideally, women should be able to pick their provider of choice for receiving basic well-woman services. However, since selecting their provider of choice is not possible under the current TWHP, this bill would at least ensure that HHSC continuously monitors the capacity and effectiveness of services provided by its TWHP providers.
Right to Breastfeed
Breastfeeding provides numerous lifelong benefits to infants. These include improving cognitive development, and reducing risk factors for childhood obesity, asthma, celiac disease, post-neonatal death, and certain cancers. In the Health and Safety Code, Texas law recognizes a mother's right to breastfeed in any location in which she is otherwise authorized to be. However, the public does not generally know about this right. Rep. Farrar is filing this bill for the fifth time.
HB 1706 would strengthen current laws ensuring that the mother’s right to breastfeed is known and protected. The bill would require the comptroller’s office to provide the public with notice of the right to breastfeed and prohibit interference with that right. Also, HB 1706 would provide redress to a person whose right has been infringed upon through a private civil cause of action. These provisions would ensure that a mother’s right to be in a location may not be revoked solely because she begins to breastfeed. Further, it would generally prevent a person from interfering with a woman's right to breastfeed. Finally, the bill would require state agencies, to the extent practicable, to develop a “Mother-Friendly” worksite policy supporting the practice of worksite breastfeeding.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, five-billion pounds of electronic waste were discarded in the United States in 2007. Approximately eighty-two percent of this waste ended up in landfills or incinerators. This waste contains toxic chemicals including mercury, lead, and arsenic that could leak into groundwater when dumped in a landfill or could be released into the air when incinerated. A number of states have banned their disposal in landfills. These states include Arkansas, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Landfill bans have been a strong driver for recycling, not just in other states but also here in Texas, for car batteries, used oil filters, and whole tires.
HB 1694 would create an offense to dispose of certain used equipment at municipal solid waste facilities. The bill would also enhance HB 2714 from the 80th Session by expanding proper disposal of electronics more broadly. Commonly known as the Texas Computer Takeback Law, the bill provided free and convenient recycling, but only for computers. HB 1694 builds upon this previous legislation by expanding the electronics disposal ban in landfills. The bill would also ban the incineration of any electronic equipment.
During the last Special Session, an amendment was added to the must-pass budget bill that requires driver's license applicants to prove citizenship or to prove legal resident status. The driver's license provision affects every Texan as a result, however. Rather than solving the problem, the amendment creates two new ones. First, this change in policy causes many individuals without the means to prove citizenship or legal residency to drive without auto liability insurance because a driver's license is required to obtain insurance coverage. Second, this amendment undermines Texas' ability to know who is present in the state. Applying for a driver's license requires the applicant to provide an address, a photo, and fingerprints, all of which are very useful law enforcement tools in obtaining the identity of persons located within the state. Tying the problems associated with immigration to driver's licenses has proven to be a poor policy.
HB 1700 would repeal all additions to last session's budget regarding proof of citizenship for driver's license and personal identification cards.
In 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas, the United States Supreme Court held §21.06 of the Texas Penal Code, which criminalized homosexual conduct, to be unconstitutional due to concerns of due process and equal protection. Despite this ruling, Texas has yet to repeal that offense from its statutes. Not only is the Penal Code unchanged, but several sections of the Health and Safety Code that relate to sexual education of minors still erroneously condemn homosexuality as a crime. In refusing to revise the laws, Texas is misinforming its citizens on the prevailing interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.
HB 1701 and HB 1696 each address the offense and the sexual education requirements separately. HB 1701 would repeal the offense of homosexual conduct, reflecting the ruling of the United States Supreme Court in 2003 that homosexual conduct is not a crime. HB 1696 would remove the references to the homosexual conduct offense in educational programs related to sexual conduct, AIDS, and HIV. This bill would ensure that the sexual education of minors is free from political bias.
An additional array of bills is forthcoming that will continue to address constituent requests and community concerns.
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