16 new laws & a veto

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last email update and during that time, several of my bills were signed into law, an important local project was funded and one measure fell victim to the governor’s veto.

I’ll start off with the bills we had signed into law. For the sake of brevity, I’ll touch on some of the “bigger” bills and not each of our 16 measures that made it across the finish line and are now law.

  • College Transferability (SB 25): Students lose time and money taking courses that won’t transfer from one institution to another. As Chairman of the Higher Education Committee, I made it a priority to work with Senator Royce West to improve this situation. SB 25, which I authored and sponsored in the House, will do several things to address the transferability of college courses, including requiring colleges and universities to develop lists of courses required for every degree they offer and make that list publicly available.
  • Transcript Notation (HB 449): Aimed at protecting students, this new law will make colleges aware if an incoming student is ineligible to re-enroll at their previous school due to a serious disciplinary violation, including sexual assault.
  • Reducing textbook costs (HB 3650/HB 3652): The cost of textbooks is on the rise, making these laws critical for students and their families. Both of these laws will lead to increased access to Open Educational Resource (OER) material, lowering textbook costs for those taking college classes.
  • Better health care (HB 3041): This law will help improve health care for both patient and medical providers by putting an end to lapses in medical treatments for Texans with chronic conditions by letting doctors request early renewal of pre-authorized treatments and medications.
  • School data transparency (HB 3007/HB 3011): Both of these new laws will improve transparency by increasing a school district’s ability to access the data used to determine their A-F rating. This was an important issue brought to us by Arlington ISD and one that will positively impact school districts across Texas.

In addition to these stand-alone measures, with the help of our House budget writers, I was able to direct $750,000 through the state budget to the East Arlington Recreation Center and Library in the form of a “Library Innovation Zone Grant” that will provide access to free Wi-Fi to residents in the neighborhoods surrounding the library.

Located in the heart of 76010, the Tarrant County zip code with the largest number of residents living below the poverty line, many in this part of our community do not have reliable access to the internet to use for school or to find work. I hope that this funding will provide these neighbors with additional tools needed to succeed.

As with many things, including legislative sessions, you have to take the bad with the good.  

On Saturday, I got the call that no legislator wants – news that the governor was going to veto one of my bills. In this case, it was my common-sense car seat measure backed by the medical community, law enforcement, and first responders. It was a bill that would literally save lives.

Unfortunately, despite evidence to the contrary, the governor didn’t see it that way.

Instead, he viewed the proposed law – which would have required parents and other caregivers keep their children in a rear-facing car seat until age 2 – as an overly prescriptive overreach. It didn’t matter that 15 states have already passed the law, including our neighbors Oklahoma and Louisiana. It didn’t matter that it passed both the Texas House and Senate with strong bipartisan support. Nor did it matter that several state agencies, including the Texas Department of Public SafetyTexas Department of Transportation and the Texas Department of State Health Services all recommend keeping children in rear-facing car seats until at least age two. He still vetoed it.

The good news – his action didn’t go unnoticed. In fact, quite the opposite.

In the hours and days to follow, the veto received a great deal of media coverage and if the hundreds of social media comments that followed are any indication, Texans agree with pediatricians and other public health experts and oppose the governor’s action.

On Monday, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal penned an editorial panning the governor’s decision. In it, they wrote, “Texas highways are already overly dangerous, and while no one is a fan of government intrusion, it’s unfortunate this bill, which would have clarified the existing statute and strengthened protection for infants and toddlers, did not become law.”

I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I am committed to working to pass this measure again in two years.