AUSTIN — Lawmakers left Sunset bills and other major issues unresolved in the closing days of the 81st Texas legislative session that ended on June 1.
The Legislature, through the Sunset process, may tweak, overhaul or dispose of entire state agencies. Left undecided were the fates of the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Department of Insurance, the Texas Racing Commission and the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation. Also left unresolved was the bill to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program to more Texas families.
But Gov. Rick Perry dismissed suggestions that the Legislature’s failure to pass such major bills would force him to call lawmakers back to Austin for a special session this summer.
Perry lauded the Legislature for certain bills they did pass, namely the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association bill, legislation that provides coverage in hurricane-related disasters. Perry also cheered the cutting of the profit margin tax on small businesses.
The House and Senate did manage to pass 128 substantive bills that became law immediately when the governor signed them. On Sept. 1, 133 more bills will become law. And, on Jan. 1, 2010, five more bills will be on the books as new laws. The governor has until June 21 to exercise his veto power.
Now, here are a few random samples of new state laws:
• HB 205 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, makes municipal leash laws not apply to a dog used to protect livestock on property controlled by a property owner while the dog is being used on such property for that purpose.
• HB 328 by Rep. Joe Heflin, D-Crosbyton, eliminates the inspector of hides and animals, a county-level office created in 1871 to aid in the prevention of cattle theft by a thorough inspection of hides and animals shipped out of a county for sale.
• HB 375 by Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, reclassifies farm elk and elk hybrids as livestock under the Agriculture Code.
• HB 772 by Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, requires the Texas Education Agency to provide a live audio and video webcast of all State Board of Education meetings and to maintain a publicly accessible archive of webcast meetings.
• SB 37 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, grants eligibility to a child for services under the deaf-blind with multiple disabilities waiver program at the time of the child’s diagnosis. The bill ensures the receipt of services that enhance the child’s ability to communicate and learn.
• SB 83 by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Grapevine, authorizes a victim of, or a parent or guardian of a victim of a sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault or continuous sexual abuse of a child, to terminate a lease early and avoid liability, if the assault took place at the leased property.
• SB 1291 by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, removes provisions in the Insurance Code authorizing a health insurance policy to require that services of a licensed professional counselor or a marriage and family therapist be recommended by a physician.
• SB 2225 by Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, amends current law relating to the civil and criminal consequences of engaging in certain conduct involving the transporting or transferring of a firearm and making firearm smuggling a criminal offense.
House members pledge for Straus
In the days after sine die adjournment of the Legislature, evidence of team-building in the House emerged. Some 106 House members signed pledge cards in support of a second term as speaker for Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.
Straus’s first and current term as speaker extends until the 82nd Legislature convenes in 2011. Many Democrats signed cards, even with the possibility that their party could gain control of the House by picking up a couple of seats in the November 2010 election.
On June 5, Straus released the list of pledges, saying broad bipartisan support for him is “a clear indication that members of both parties can set aside their differences to work together to find solutions to critical issues facing our state.”
AG charges tax protest business
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott charged Houston-based O’Connor & Associates with violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and other law, for filing tax protests without taxpayers’ consent, failing to appear at clients’ tax protest hearings and submitting fraudulent notarized documents.