Capitol Update - Senator Dan Patrick
The following is an update from Texas Senator Dan Patrick of the 82nd Legislative Session.
Less that a Month to Go
With only 21 calendar days to go before the 82nd Regular Session ends, every moment of every day counts. We still have numerous important legislative issues to consider and vote on, not the least of them is the final approval of all the redistricting maps (State Board of Education, House Districts, Senate Districts and Congressional Districts). Of the approx. 5,800 bills filed in the House and Sen ate this session, the bulk will be coming to the floor in the time remaining.
I will work hard to keep you informed right up to the end of session. Please click here to follow any legislation you wish to follow.
Headed to the Governor's Desk
After months of work, I passed the Sonogram Bill out of the Senate. The House has expressed their support, so the bill will head to the Governor’s desk to be signed shortly. Because the House and the Senate passed the bill with two-thirds vote, the Sonogram Bill will become effective immediately.
The Sonogram Bill is historic legislation making Texas a leader in a woman’s right to know. The Sonogram Bill also restores the physician-patient relationship and requires a high level of informed consent for all abortion facilities.
In order to ensure that women are fully informed about the abortion procedure, the Sonogram Bill requires the performance of a sonogram by a physician or certified sonographer 24 hours before an abortion is performed. Alt hough a few exceptions were required, this bill will apply to and protect 97% of all women seeking abortions in Texas.
Women will now be better informed and have more time to consider their decision after receiving all the facts. I believe that this bill will result in the saving of over 10,000 future Texans every year.
The Budget (HB 1)
After lengthy debate this week, the Senate passed the budget. Throughout the budget process, I have remained committed to writing a balanced state budget that does not raise taxes and prioritizes classrooms, teachers and essential state services.
The budget that the Texas Senate passed reinforces our commitment to the taxpayers and schoolchildren of Texas by:
- Balancing the state budget with no tax increases while spending $11 billion less than current spending levels.
- Spending half a billion dollars more than the current biennium on public edu cation with an increase of $1.3 billion for the Foundation School Program to fund classroom and teacher salaries.
- Increasing funding for public safety and border security.
- Protecting the integrity of the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund) by keeping reserves available for future emergencies
I am particularly proud of this last point. I was the only Republican to vote against the Senate budget in committee because it included the use of Rainy Day Funds. Conservative senators then joined together to resist spending the Rainy Day Funds. As a result, these funds were removed before the bill passed. In its place, is an across-the-board contingency cut to state spending if it becomes necessary.
Maintaining a substantial amount in the Rainy Day Fund is critical as our economy continues to struggle through the uncertainty of these coming two years.
A look at the following chart will be helpful in comparing the Senate’s proposed funding with our current budget. I have listed only our education and health and human services areas since they are approx. 90% of our new budget.
Progress of My Bills
Felony Arrest (SB 904)
Yesterday the Senate voted out Senate Bill 947 which will allow federal agents, officers and investigators who perform federal law enforcement duties to arrest if a state felony is committed in their presence. This bill will act as a force multi plier throughout the state in support of our local law enforcement professionals, helping to reduce crime.
School Flexibility (SB 12)
I co-authored this bill to give school districts requested and needed flexibility to keep more teacher jobs in the face of reduced funding. This bill is stuck without the needed 21 votes to bring to the Senate floor for a debate.
Enhanced Penalties for Intoxicated Drivers (SB 838)
In 2009, Texas ranked #1 in DWI fatalities in the nation. Harris County had the most DWI related or alcohol related fatalities per capita for the top 10 largest populations in the U.S., i.e., four fatalities per 100,000 residents. This issue is a personal concern of mine.
I have passed legislation through the Senate SB 838 that doubles the penalty for intoxicated drivers who are double the legal limit of 0.08. Drivers at this level of intoxication are barely conscious and a great danger to the public. In Houston in 2008, 67.92% of drivers in fatal accidents had a blood alcohol content of 0.16 or higher.
Property Tax Relief for Disabled Veterans (SB 516)
Currently, 100% disabled veterans are given property tax exemption. However, this exemption expires when the veteran passes away. This does not recognize the sacrifices made by the families of those veterans. SB 516 allows the spouse to retain the exemption as long as he or she does not remarry.
I was privileged to recognize the Texas Honor Ride with a resolution from the Senate floor. The Honor Ride supports our wounded warriors at the Brooke Army Medical Center. Pictured with me are the Riders and Senator Brian Birdwell.
Bills to Watch
The Senate had quite a debate last week on the proposed redistricting map for the School Board of Education (SBOE) districts. I was vocal in my support of the map proposed in E 118 because I was convinced that it was the best reflec tion of the changes from the 2010 Census and would encounter the least re sistance from Department of Justice. The House and Senate district maps are coming up quickly, and it is my hope that these maps fairly reflect the people of Texas.
School Finance (SB 22)
The school finance bill restores equity in school finance by gradually eliminating the target revenue system through 2017. This bill cuts school districts far less than the House school finance bill and provides a responsible transition plan for all districts to move to formula funding. This bill is expected to come to the floor shortly.
Last Day of Regular Session - May 30th