FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 06/08/2015
84th Legislative Session Comes to an End; Adjourns Sine Die
As another session ended, I reflected on how blessed I am to have this exceptional opportunity to represent the best set of citizens in the great State of Texas. As usual, the last two weeks of the session were hectic. Throughout the 84th Legislature, lawmakers filed and considered many bills. Wisely, our Founding Fathers developed a system that kills more bills instead of passing a lot of legislation. The process purposively weeds out legislation, but elevates great legislation. This session I was proud to send 15 bills, which I authored or sponsored in the House Chamber, to Governor Greg Abbott.
Last Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice heard House Bill 2398, which provides the necessary tools to combat the prevailing factors leading to truancy. This legislation provides educators and judges with several means to enhance school attendance and positively impact academic achievement, HB 2398 provides the courts with the discretion to dismiss cases where a child may have a valid reason for failing to attend school or a child is a first time offender with no likelihood to recidivate. In my research, I found a case in which a young woman was charged with truancy after missing school to visit her mother who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Without this bill, the court would not have the capacity to dismiss her case, and thereby, placing further burden on this child’s life. Along with the ability to dismiss, this legislation allows the courts to clear the records of offenders after they turn 18. I chose to give the courts this tool in order to secure our children’s futures when they apply for college or work. Finally, with input from judges across the state, the bill allows the county commissioners' to establish a judicial trust fund. In some instances, children and parents have difficulty making it to school due to financial constraints. For example the parent does not have gas in their car, or the child does not have clothes, shoes, a backpack or lunch money. Most important, this legislation decriminalizes the truancy offense for juveniles, but keeps consequences intact for those students who choose not to attend school. The bill is headed to the Governor’s desk for signing.
Texas is a special place. We are the only State with the distinction of being an independent Republic before joining the United States. Therefore, Texas has a unique history of declaring, fighting, and winning its independence. At the insistence of many Texans, I filed HB 1150, which expanded the dates in which Texans can express their God-given freedom and buy and sell fireworks in the State of Texas. The proposed dates for expansion are Texas Independence Day and San Jacinto Day. The bill also includes Memorial Day. Texas is a State that strongly supports our military veterans and honors their sacrifice to secure Liberty. Our state senator, Robert Nichols, joined me as a partner in this effort and as the Senate sponsor successfully guided HB 1150 through the Senate. HB 1150 is currently sitting on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature. If HB 1150 becomes law county commissioner courts will have the option to allow these dates.
In the last week of this legislative session the House passed several critical pieces of legislation. Most importantly the House passed HB 1, the state budget, which is the only bill the Texas Constitution mandates the Legislature to pass. The 84th Legislature has passed a fiscally conservative balanced budget that addresses our core government functions of education, transportation, and border security. It also adequately funds programs for our most vulnerable Texans in nursing homes, foster care, and dealing with challenges such as mental illness or disabilities. HB 1 adequately funds the estimated public school enrollment increase of roughly 160,000 students over the next two years. On top of that funding, HB 1, provides an additional $1.5 billion for public education. Reversing a decades-old practice, the budget uses all of the money in the State Highway Fund for transportation instead of using some of those dollars for other programs. With HB 1, the Legislature budgeted $840 million for border security. This will fund the hiring of 250 new Department of Public Safety troopers and allow a 50-hour work week for all troopers.
In the waning days of session, the House also restored Second Amendment rights. HB 910, which I was proud to joint-author, passed through both chambers early in the last week of session. HB 910, would allow law-abiding citizens who have acquired their concealed handgun license to to openly carry a handgun. The House also passed Senate Bill 11, which would allow the same licensed gun holders to conceal carry on college campuses. I co-authored the House companion bill for SB 11. HB 910 and SB 11 are awaiting Governor Abbott's signature.
While the Legislature was completing its business, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) hosted the state academic meet in Austin. I was proud to greet many of my constituents to the Capitol that had the distinction of representing their school districts. Students and teachers from Leggett, Hardin-Jefferson, Buna, Kirbyville, Jasper, Silsbee and Livingston stopped by their State Capitol. I was proud of these students for making it to state.
With the end of the legislative session, I look forward to returning home to Southeast Texas and living under the laws that the Texas Legislature passed. My staff and I thank God for allowing us the privilege of serving you and I ask that he bless my colleagues as they all head home to their families for much needed rest.
The House stands adjourned Sine Die.