Priorities Include: Bus Safety, Extended Lunch Hours for Teachers, and Procedures for Defendants
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TUESDAY, JANUARY 6, 2015
AUSTIN, TX- In advance of the 84th Texas Legislative Session, Representative Oscar Longoria - Texas House District 35, has pre-filed several bills, which range from bus safety to changing procedures for defendants. The Texas Legislature reconvenes from January 13, 2015 to June 1, 2015.
“My staff and I have worked closely throughout the interim with District 35 constituents and stakeholders to ensure that we continue to advance the priorities of our region and find solutions to the problems that have been brought to our attention, Representative Longoria said. “Entering my second term in office, I am confident that this will be another great session for the Rio Grande Valley Delegation, and I look forward to continuing our progress as the 84th Legislature convenes.”
Representative Longoria’s bills include the following:
• House Bill (HB) 243, changing the route a school bus takes when transporting a public school student.
o Last year, a student from La Joya ISD was struck and killed while crossing the road, after being dropped off by a school bus.
o The vehicle that struck the student did not stop while the school bus was unloading, per the law.
o Per current law, there is only so much we can do regarding the safety of our students when they are picked up/dropped off for school.
o Through many meetings and conversations, I thought a viable solution was to pass a law which required students to NOT cross roadways when being dropped off, meaning, students should not, under any circumstances, have to cross a road to get home.
o Through research with the Department of Public Safety (DPS), I also discovered that incidents like this one are not uncommon in Texas. In 2012, 625 vehicle crashes occurred in school zones throughout the state, resulting in two deaths and 112 serious injuries. August and September of 2013 alone saw 104 crashes in school zones. The most common factors contributing to these crashes were driver inattention, failure to control speed and failure to yield the right-of-way at stop signs.
o HB 243 would require that school buses drop off all students on the side of the road on which they live, avoiding the current situation in which thousands of students are forced to cross the road upon being dropped off by a bus.
• HB 244, extending the lunch period for classroom teachers at the elementary, middle school, junior high school, or high school grade level.
o A concern brought to my attention by educators throughout my district is the fact that although teachers do have a 30-minute lunch break, per law –most teachers still have to perform other duties during this time and in reality have very little time to actually lunch.
o In speaking with fellow educators, I am astounded by how little time they do have to eat, before their next class begins.
o Teachers have a long day filled with classes, parent conference hours, and other activities, which can run on for over an hour and a half each.
o In addition, because the shortage of staff and time, teachers are often required to either provide tutoring during their lunch hours or assist in overseeing students during lunch.
o I believe it is important for our educators to have at least a 45 minute lunch, which is why I proposed HB 244.
• HB 333, enhancing procedures for defendants who successfully complete a period of state jail felony community supervision – reduces a conviction for a Class A misdemeanor in lieu of a state jail felony.
o Last year, I filed HB 1790, which passed both the House and the Senate, but was unfortunately vetoed by Governor Perry. I have refiled the bill again, this year.
o HB 333 would allow state jail felons who successfully complete probation to have their convictions reduced to a class A misdemeanor.
o The bill, which excludes assaults and other "crimes against persons" (Title V of the Penal Code) will help alleviate state jail populations, reduce prisoner healthcare costs and encourage state jail defendants to take probation terms seriously, including restitution for victims.
o In order to take advantage of HB 1790, the defendant would need to successfully meet all probation terms, and then petition the court to reduce their conviction seventy days prior to the end of their probation period.
o The defendant would be informed of the reduction incentive by their judge during sentencing.
o It would also allow defendants the real opportunity to live out their lives without a felony on their record, which affects their employment.
o In Texas, state jail felons have the highest recidivism rates among all released inmates: over 33% of state jail felons will be convicted of a new crime after being released compared with 26% of regular prisoners.
o This bill provides defendants with the motivation to successfully complete the requirements of their probation, both saving money and improving public safety.
• HB 344, clarifies the law regarding the transportation of public school students in certain vehicles, including passenger vans.
o In regards to HB 343, this bill would amend Section 34.002 of the Education Code.
o Because of the confusion over the validity of using passenger vans, many school districts thought that they need a bus driver to operate the vans.
o However, this bill clarifies the law by stating that “A school district may not require an operator of a vehicle used to transport students to exceed the qualifications or training required under the Transportation Code or other law.
o This means that school teachers, or employees assigned to the district, may transport students in passenger vans to and from school related events ---without requiring a special license or permit, as previously thought. Previously, schools were spending hundreds of dollars sending teachers to trainings for driving credits, so they could drive passenger vans.
o The law clarifies this issue by stating that bus drivers DO NOT need to be the sole driver of passenger vans and that teachers or other school employees who driver passenger vans DO NOT need to attend trainings to drive the vehicles.
“I am still working with my staff and constituents to craft legislation through the Legislative Council and will be filing more bills throughout the session,” said Longoria. “I urge anyone interested in the legislative process to contact me or my staff so that we can consider any suggestions for improvement or additional legislation. I would also like to encourage everyone to visit the Capitol during session, it is quite impressive to see how our state laws and policies are developed. ”
During the 2013 Legislative Session, Rep. Longoria was appointed to the House Appropriations Committee, where he serves on the sub-committee for Articles I, IV, and V, and as Vice-Chairman of the Budget Transparency and Reform sub-committee. He is also an appointed member of the Investments & Financial Services Committee. Most recently, Rep. Longoria was appointed to serve on the Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking and the Committee to study the Fiscal Impact of Texas Border Support Operations.
Texas House District 35 encompasses both Hidalgo and Cameron Counties and includes the cities/towns of: La Joya, Sullivan City, Peñitas, Alton, Edinburg, Monte Alto, Edcouch, La Villa, Mercedes, Weslaco, Santa Rosa, Primera, Palm Valley, Combes, Harlingen, and La Feria.
Penitas Office (956) 580-6944
La Feria Office (956) 797-2101
Capitol Office (512) 463-0645
District Mail Address