AUSTIN —Legislation filed by Texas State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, is moving quickly in the final days of the 87th Regular Legislative Session. The following is a status update on where her bills stand:
Unemployment Compensation Fund Fix: HB 7, co-sponsored by Senator Nelson, protects businesses from a major increase in unemployment taxes amid the pandemic. The tax is recalculated annually based on the number of layoffs that have occurred. HB 7 exempts disaster-related unemployment from the calculation, which will give the state more time to consider ways to address the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, which was depleted in June. "Employers should not be punished for layoffs that occurred because of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic," Senator Nelson said. "At a time when our businesses are working so hard to reopen and rehire, we cannot allow them to face a dramatic tax increase, and HB 7 will prevent that from happening." The bill was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott. It is effective immediately.
Appraisal Reform: SB 63reforms the governance of appraisal boards, establishes term limits for board members and expedites taxpayer applications. "Last session we made significant strides towards ensuring a more transparent property appraisal system," Senator Nelson said. "This bill will improve public confidence in the appraisal system by ensuring transparency and making the process more taxpayer-friendly." The bill is on its way to the Governor’s desk.
Law Enforcement Peer Network: SB 64, which was sent to the Governor, creates a peer-to-peer counseling network and increases access to licensed mental health providers for Texas Law Enforcement Officers (LEO). The bill is funded at $1M in the state budget. “Those working in law enforcement are at increasingly higher risk of suicide, depression or other mental health challenges. Because officers are more likely to open up to their colleagues, we believe this peer support program will save lives,” Senator Nelson said.
Animal Welfare: SB197provides a sales tax exemption for nonprofit animal welfare organizations that rely on foster homes to care for displaced animals. Currently the Tax Code exempts organizations that operate an animal shelter facility from collecting sales tax. SB 197 extends that same exemption to rescue groups that operate through a network of foster homes rather than a facility. "The spirit of this law was to exempt rescue organizations as they work to find forever homes for stray animals. This is the right thing to do and will help connect more animals to people who will love and care for them," Senator Nelson said.SB 197 awaits the Governor's signature.
Retired Officer Certification: SB 198, which has passed both chambers, makes it easier for retired officers to meet the firearms qualification requirement of their Texas Commission on Law Enforcement licensure. Current law requires retired officers to complete their weapons qualification at the law enforcement agency from which they retired. SB 198 allows them to work through any certified license-to-carry instructor. "Backing the blue is a lifetime commitment, and we stand by both our retired and active duty officers," Senator Nelson said.
AED Liability & Training Reform: SB 199 extends current liability protections regarding automated external defibrillators (AED) usage to businesses and property owners. The bill also extends civil liability protections to any person or entity that owns, occupies, manages, or is responsible for an AED, unless they did not comply with requirements in statute or were willfully negligent. Senator Nelson passed legislation in previous sessions that extended Good Samaritan protections to lay persons and expanded use of AEDs at state buildings, gyms, malls, airports and other businesses. "AEDs are easy to use and have proven to save lives — even before trained first responders reach the scene," Senator Nelson said. "SB 199 furthers Texas' efforts to expand access to AEDs by alleviating burdensome regulations and legally protecting Good Samaritans." SB 199 is headed to the Governor.
Cybersecurity & Public Data Privacy: SB 475 provides the state with more tools to prevent and respond to cyber incidents, while increasing security and standards in handling Texan's personal data. "As we have seen with recent data breaches, the bad actors are becoming more sophisticated in their attack and are a clear and present danger to Texas. We have to stay ahead of the threat." The Senate concurred with House amendments. SB 475 is on its way to the Governor.
Sexual Assault Response Teams: SB 476 directs the establishment of Sexual Assault Response Teams, multi-disciplinary teams that collaborate on sexual assault cases. "When sexual assault occurs, we need to bring all resources to bear. This bill will ensure that law enforcement coordinates with social workers, counselors and other professionals to meet the holistic needs of sexual assault victims." In addition, SB 1, the appropriations act authored by Senator Nelson, provides $29.6 million for rape crisis centers, an increase of $4.7 million over the current budget. SB 476 is headed to the Governor's desk.
Wayfair Clean-up: SB 477 aligns the Tax Code so that collection requirements for marketplace providers are in line with those applicable to other types of sellers. Senator Nelson sponsored legislation last session allowing Texas to collect online sales tax in compliance with the Supreme Court's Wayfair decision. "This is a cleanup bill to update the work we did last session on online sales tax collections — which has proven to be acritical component of our fiscal resilience in the face of the ongoing pandemic," Senator Nelson said.
Document Access for Domestic Violence: SB 798 allows survivors of domestic violence to obtain a new birth certificate and a state ID at no cost by amending the Health and Safety Code as well as the Transportation Code. "Survivors of domestic violence may not have time to grab personal identification documents when fleeing dangerous living situations. SB 798 makes it easier to obtain the appropriate documents — at no cost — so they can focus on healing and moving forward." The bill was sent to the Governor.
Contracting Cleanup: SB 799 cleans up procurement statutes to simplify training for state agency employee sand, in some circumstances, provides greater flexibility for agencies to streamline the contracting process. "This is a clean-up bill to align statute with our state budget, standardize contracting thresholds and improve procurement training across state government," Senator Nelson said. SB 799is on its way to Governor Abbott's desk.
Obsolete Reports: SB 800 streamlines agency reporting requirements. This legislation repeals obsolete reports, reduces the frequency of some reports, and redirects certain reports to relevant recipients as recommended by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. "Agencies should be focusing their time, energy and taxpayer dollars on serving the people of Texas — not producing reports that no one reads. This bill streamlines resources by eliminating redundant or obsolete reporting requirements." The bill is currently in being reviewed in a conference committee.
Department of Public Safety Windshields: SB 2222 provides bullet resistant windshields for Department of Public Safety (DPS) patrol vehicles. Senator Nelson filed this bill in response to the 500% increase in attacks on DPS officers over the last two years. "Texas sent a clear message when it passed SB 2222," Senator Nelson said. "We refuse to stand by while our troopers are being ambushed!" SB 2222 is en route to the Governor.
Sexual Assault Survivors' Task Force: Sponsored by Senator Nelson, HB2706 increases access to resources for survivors of sexual assault. Enacting recommendations made by the Sexual Assault Survivors' Task Force, the bill expands access to forensic medical exams and clarifies the reimbursement process. It further codifies the state's commitment to survivors by removing the word "alleged" when referencing a sexual assault or other sex offense within state statute. "Texas stands with survivors of sexual assault," Senator Nelson said. "Expanding access to Sexual Assault Forensic Exams will help deliver justice to survivors across our state." The bill was sent to the Governors' desk.
SENATOR JANE NELSON represents District 12, including portions of Tarrant and Denton Counties. She is Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and the highest-ranking Republican in the Texas Senate.
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