AUSTIN – The Texas Legislature adjourned sine die for the 85th Regular Session today with hundreds of bills signed into law or on their way to the governor's desk, including 16 authored by Texas State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound.
"It is a great privilege to represent the people of Tarrant and Denton counties in the Senate. Every day in Austin I fought to advance the priorities for our region, and I am grateful for the faith my constituents have placed in me," Senator Nelson said. "We passed a responsible budget that meets our essential needs. It continues the policies of fiscal restraint that have shaped our success, and it positions Texas for a bright future. The budget was the most critical piece of legislation to get passed. I also succeeded in passing several local bills and legislation allowing general law cities to create child safety zones, protecting young girls from a horrible practice called FGM, and ensuring sexual assault victims do not have to co-parent with their assailant."
The Legislature also approved several bills co-authored by Senator Nelson. Among those are bills to ban sanctuary cities; putting a stop the practice of fetal dismemberment; punishing teachers for misconduct with a student; strengthening voter identification and creation of a grant program to provide high caliber bullet proof vests for law enforcement officers.
Following are some highlights of Senator Nelson's legislative package:
State Appropriations Bill: SB 1, the appropriations bill, was approved overwhelmingly in both chambers. It establishes the state's funding priorities for the next two years. "This is a responsible budget that meets our essential needs. It continues the policies of fiscal restraint that have shaped our success, and it positions Texas for a bright future," Senator Nelson said. Status: Sent to Governor
Supplemental Appropriations: HB 2 provides supplemental appropriations for the current 2016-2017 budget. Each session, the Legislature approves a supplemental budget to address revised revenue estimates and supplemental needs. "This legislation protects the most vulnerable among us -- our children. It balances the ledger for our current budget and puts Texas in a strong position to meet the challenges ahead," Senator Nelson said. Status: Sent to Governor
Emergency Leave: SB 73 addresses the use of emergency leave at state agencies. It requires agencies to have a policy governing employee leave and posted to the agency website; limits the discretion of an agency head to only grant emergency leave to employees they believe will return after that leave period; report employees who receive 32 hours of emergency leave to the comptroller; and directs standardized accounting codes for employee leave. The bill also authorizes emergency leave for veterans suffering from mental health challenges. “This bill will ensure that emergency leave is reserved for true emergencies," Senator Nelson said. Status: Sent to Governor
High Needs Mental Health: SB 74 improves access to specialized mental health providers and further integrates mental and physical health in Medicaid. It streamlines credentialing requirements for providers seeking to offer targeted case management and rehabilitative services to children, adolescents, and their families. It will increase statewide capacity for targeted case management and rehabilitative services for high-needs children, adolescents, and their families. Approximately 4,000 children in foster care have been identified as high-needs requiring these intensive mental health services. An estimated 30,000 Texas children in poverty need this particular kind of care. “We have a serious need, especially in the foster system, to serve children with high mental health needs. By streamlining the credentialing process, we will increase our capacity to connect these children and adolescents with the intensive treatment they need," Senator Nelson said. Status: Sent to the Governor
Terminating Parental Rights after Sexual Assault: SB 77 ensures that victims of sexual assault are not forced to co-parent with their attacker. SB 77 was filed in response to a case in Flower Mound in which a woman who was brutally raped by her husband was unable to have her attacker's parental rights terminated because sexual assault of the other parent was not grounds for termination under Texas law. SB 77 adds this offense to the list and maintains a judge's discretion to terminate parental rights - if the judge has grounds and finds termination of rights in the best interest of the child. "This bill originated from a horrible experience of one of my constituents, and I'm so thankful that it has been signed into law. Sexual assault victims are not forced to co-parent with their rapist," Senator Nelson said. Status: Signed by the Governor
CASA Computers: SB 78 adds Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) to the list of state entities eligible to receive used computers from the State of Texas. "Providing these computers to children who have suffered abuse or neglect will go a long way to helping them connect to information and establish a sense of normalcy," Senator Nelson said. Status: Sent to Governor
CPRIT: SB 81 clarifies that Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Oversight Committee members must file financial disclosures with the Texas Ethics Commission. It gives CPRIT the tools it needs to exercise its fiduciary responsibility and protect the state’s investment in cancer research. It also extends CPRIT's Sunset date to 2021 to ensure that it can fulfill its 10-year commitment under Proposition 15. “It is vitally important that CPRIT have the tools it needs to carry out its important mission in the most transparent, ethical and effective manner.” Status: Sent to Governor
Grapevine Tourism: SB 82 directs the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to work with Grapevine on road closures that will impact festivals and other community events. The bill ensures that the city can partner with TxDOT to keep local public events accessible and open to tourists. "Tourism is critically important to our economy. The state should partner with local communities to mitigate unnecessary roadblocks to ensure that festivals, community events and other tourism efforts are successful," Senator Nelson said. Status: Sent to Governor
Female Genital Mutilation: SB 323 protects Texas girls from female genital mutilation (FGM). Specifically, SB 323 makes it a state jail felony to transport or facilitate the transport of a person for the purpose of FGM. In addition, it clearly states that neither custom nor consent can be used as a defense to prosecution. All eight female senators signed on as joint authors of the bill. “There is no place in our society for this wicked act, which carries no medical benefits and indeed causes negative health consequences that can last a lifetime," Senator Nelson said. “There is no place in our society for this wicked act, which carries no medical benefits and indeed causes negative health consequences that can last a lifetime," Senator Nelson said. Status: Sent to Governor
Cybersecurity: SB 532 strengthens cybersecurity across state government by directing the Department of Information Resources (DIR) to assess each state agency's Information Technology (IT) security when making a major IT purchase. It also requires agencies to consider cloud storage or a DCS for their data storage needs. Senator Nelson also included funding in the budget to strengthen cybersecurity and sponsored HB 8, which improves training and directs risk assessments to test the state's firewalls. "SB 532 will help us better secure the sensitive data stored by our state agencies, assess our security measures and protect against cyber-attacks," Senator Nelson said. Status: Sent to Governor
DFW Privacy & Emergency Vehicles: SB 1023 ensures the confidentiality of customer information collected by DFW Airport, as they begin a new program for travelers to book and pay for airport parking online. SB 1023 Enhances DFW airport safety by allowing all security vehicles to use universally recognized emergency lighting - security vehicles owned or leased by DFW Airport will use blue and amber flashing lights. "Both of these bills enhance public safety at DFW Airport by allowing its airport security vehicles to use easily recognizable emergency lighting," Senator Nelson said. "Protecting the privacy of airport visitors is also going to be made possible by SB 1024 as we ensure that sensitive billing information is kept confidential." Status: Sent to Governor
Linkage Fees: HB 1449 by Representative Simmons and sponsored by Senator Nelson prohibits cities from imposing linkage fees on homes, commercial, and multifamily developments to pay for affordable housing elsewhere. It protects home buyers, renters, and small-business owners from property taxes disguised as linkage fees. "Linkage fees drive up the cost of housing for everyone," Senator Nelson said. "They provide no benefit to the individuals paying the fees, and this legislation prevents them from being imposed in Texas." Status: Sent to the Governor.
UNTHSC MD Program: Senator Nelson sponsored HB 1913 by Representative Green expanding medical education opportunities at the University of North Texas Health Science Center to offer both doctor of osteopathy and doctor of medicine degrees. The bill also allows the president UNTHSC to be someone other than a doctor of osteopathic medicine. "This institution is a jewel for our state with a history of graduating highly qualified osteopathic doctors who play a major role in helping us meet the needs of Texans in rural in underserved areas," Senator Nelson said. "We added a pharmacy school, which is thriving, and I am sure this new medical school will be a resounding success." Status: Sent to Governor.
Child Safety Zones: Language of Senator Nelson's SB 76 was added by amendment to HB 1111 (Senfronia Thompson) allowing general-law municipalities the authority to pass local ordinances that place residency restrictions on sex offenders. "Children should be protected from sex offenders in every city," Senator Nelson said.
A few of Senator Nelson's priorities did not make their way to the governor's desk. SB 17, phasing out the franchise tax, passed the Senate and never received a hearing in the House. "This tax is an impediment to Texas businesses and needs to be eliminated," Senator Nelson said. SB 75 requiring parental consent for a minor to join a union, passed the Senate and the House Committee on Economic and Small Business Development but died in House calendars. "Parents should be involved in any contract their minor child signs, and it's disappointing that this bill did not make it through the process." SB 669 which would have reformed the property appraisal review process - making it more fair to taxpayers did not pass.
To search all legislation from the 85th Legislative Session visit the Texas Legislature online at www.capitol.state.tx.us.
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