Cleveland Advocate - Members of the House and Senate continue to try to find a compromise between each chamber’s preferred method of delivering billions in tax relief to Texans. The Senate has made property taxes a priority, passing a bill to provide more than $2 billion in tax cuts by raising the homestead exemption.
...Though many of the bills relating to the session’s top issues have already passed the Senate, lawmakers continued this week to work on passage of other key pieces of legislation. Monday, the Senate approved a bill that would protect the identities of pharmacies that supply drugs used by the state to execute prisoners.
Senator Joan Huffman of Southside Place says that such pharmacies have faced harassment from anti-death penalty advocates, which could make obtaining the necessary drugs harder and harder.
“I think it had a chilling effect on reputable pharmacies wanting to provide these compounds to the state of Texas and it’s been very difficult for the state to procure these compounds,” she said.
Texas GOP Vote - There’s a renewed push at the Texas Capitol to prevent people from skirting their responsibility to make child support payments through misclassification. Worker misclassification, also known as "payroll fraud," causes all kinds of problems throughout the construction industry and our society.
Misclassification happens when employers pretend their workers are "subcontractors” even though, by law, they meet the definition of an employee.
...State Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, has been working on a practical solution for this. He’s proposed a change in state law that would help expedite the collection process when a person is properly classified and then switches jobs. In other words, his legislation would make it more difficult for a person to be properly classified then switch employers and suddenly become a contractor, thus allowing them to avoid garnishments.
The Dallas Morning News - The Texas Ethics Commission would get more enforcement power in a bill overhauling the entity that passed in the House late Monday night.
This bill is among the those addressing ethics, something Gov. Greg Abbott declared one of his emergency items of the session. It was approved overwhelmingly though there was much debate on failed amendments that would have required elected school trustees to file personal financial disclosures and dismissed ethics complaints not completed within a year.
The legislation — carried by Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place — would allow for the Texas Ethics Commission to disclose confidential information to law enforcement agencies. But that would be limited to the law enforcement agency and any other disclosure of such confidential information would be a Class C misdemeanor.
Austin American-Statesman - After making some changes, the Texas Senate approved Gov. Greg Abbott’s pre-kindergarten improvement legislation Thursday. The vote was 25-6 with all tea party-aligned Republican senators on the losing end of the decision.
House Bill 4 by state Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, would distribute up to $130 million in grant funding to school districts as long as they meet certain quality requirements, including having certified teachers, using a state-approved curriculum and developing a “parental engagement” plan.
Texas Observer - Four years after Texas passed one of the strictest voter ID laws in the nation, lawmakers will debate another measure on Thursday that could make it even more difficult for Texans to vote.
House Bill 1096, by Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston), would require the address on a voter’s approved ID, such as a driver’s license, to match their voter registration address. Currently voter ID addresses and voter registration addresses do not have to match.
If a voter registrar believes a voter’s residence is different from that indicated on registration records, the registrar may send the voter a residence confirmation notice. Voters can respond by submitting a signed response confirming their residence.
Texas Public Radio - A controversial bill that would make it harder for homeowners and companies to recover certain damages from their insurance companies — cheered by the insurance industry and criticized by liberal groups and some businesses — cleared the Texas Senate on Thursday.
Senate Bill 1628 by state Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, would make broad changes to the way homeowners and businesses can sue insurance companies who don’t deal with them fairly, or don’t adequately pay out on claims made under property and casualty insurance policies, such as losses after a storm, fire or accident.
The bill would establish a two-year time limit on seeking claims.
The Texas Tribune - State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, has been trying for months to pass legislation that would make it tougher for local entities to bring in more tax revenue by taking advantage of rising property values.
On Thursday, he managed to add language to a bill from state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, that could do just that, though not as severely as many local officials had feared.
Creighton’s bill, Senate Bill 1760, aims to make the administration of local property taxes more transparent with provisions such as directing the comptroller to publish a ranking of property tax rates statewide and requiring local entities to justify future tax increases on election notices and ballots.
Guns.com - A bill to suspend state taxes on sales of guns, ammunition and other sporting goods the last weekend in August sailed through the Texas Senate by a vote of 21-10 last week and is headed to the House.
The measure, which is a revamp of legislation that failed last year but is proving more successful the second time around, would set aside a weekend as a tax-holiday for guns, ammo and also archery equipment, hunting blinds and stands, decoys, optics, gun safes and cases, and firearm cleaning supplies.
The legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, cites neighboring Louisiana‘s gun tax holiday as an benefit that Lone Star sportsmen should have as well.
State Impact - Houston area residents who live near some scrap metal recycling facilities are inhaling dangerous levels of a metal carcinogen called Chromium Six. It’s the same pollutant at the heart of the class action lawsuit portrayed in the film Erin Brockovich. The Houston Chronicle first reported about the pollution in 2012, after the city received 189 complaints over five years about red and yellow smoke, explosions, fire, and difficulty breathing in the affected areas.
State Representative Gilbert Peña, a Pasadena Republican, introduced a bill, HB 3760, that would give regulators at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) more oversight over metal recyclers. At a committee hearing on the bill Tuesday, Peña said the solutions required by the bill would be simple.
Breitbart - A police body camera bill passed in the Texas Senate on Thursday by a split vote of 22-8, but faces the Texas State House which has two of its own bills. The bill does not mandate that Texas peace officers use body cams, but mandates uniformity of policies by those using the cameras provided by a grant. The eight Senators that voted against the bill were all Republicans.
SB 158 was authored by Royce West (D-Dallas) and was co-authored by Senators Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and John Whitmire (D-Houston). As passed, the bill applies to sheriff’s departments, city law enforcement offices, and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). Local police and sheriff’s departments could apply for grant funding but it is a volunteer program. Senator West was the author of the legislation that provided for cameras in patrol cars.
...The bill is now on its way to the Texas State House where similar issues are expected to be raised. Texas State Representative Allen Fletcher is the Chair of the Emerging Issues in Texas Law Enforcement House Committee and the bill, and those like them, will have to go through his committee. Breitbart Texas spoke to Chairman Fletcher who said he would be carrying the Senate Bill through the House.