A ‘Report Card’ For The Bills We Followed This Legislative Session

Texas Standard previewed 10 bills in our “Why I Filed This” series. Here’s a look at what happened to those bills by the end of the legislative session.

By Kristen CabreraMay 28, 2019 1:09 pm,

The Texas Standard spoke with nine state lawmakers about 10 bills they filed this session in our series “Why I Filed This.” Now that the session is over, how well did those bills do?

El Paso Rep. Joe Moody filed House Bill 446. His measure would eliminate the state’s long-standing ban against carrying knuckles, or brass knuckles. Moody says too many people were being charged with a crime for owning the self-defense tool.

“We recently also lifted the prohibition on switchblades,” Moody said. “We aren’t living in ‘West Side Story.’ Maybe at one point this was used to identify criminal elements, but it’s just not the case anymore.”

Ultimately, Moody’s bill passed both the House and Senate, and Gov. Greg Abbott signed it on May 16.

Next is legislation from Sen. José Menéndez who wanted to expand the number medical conditions that could be treated with medical cannabis. Current Texas law only permits those with severe epilepsy to use medical cannabis, so Menéndez filed Senate Bill 90 to amend the state’s Compassionate Use Act. It’s legislation that was personal to Menéndez.

“The people who are not getting the benefits of medical cannabis are law-abiding citizens like my father in law who suffered from cancer, [who] wouldn’t use it even though he suffered greatly – wouldn’t use it because it was against the law,” Menéndez said.

But SB 90 never made it out of committee. However, House Republican lawmakers did file another medical cannabis bill, House Bill 3703, which did pass both chambers. It would increase the number of medical conditions that can be treated with medical cannabis, including terminal cancer. That bill is now on its way to the governor’s desk. 

Rep. James White filed two bills this session, and they both had to do with fireworks on holidays.

“I filed HB 581 and 582. These are two great bills opening up the sales of fireworks on Juneteenth and Labor Day,” White said.

But, for now, Texans still won’t get to celebrate those holidays like they do on New Year’s or Independence Day, when passersby can purchase fireworks from roadside vendors; the measures never made it out of committee.

Rep. Vicki Goodwin filed House Bill 1182, “which requires a personal financial literacy course for high school students so that we can ensure young adults are getting out of high school with an idea of how to handle their personal finances,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin’s measure passed in the House, but then died shortly after in the Senate.

Only one of the five bills mentioned so far passed both chambers. Only five more to go!

Rep. Celia Israel filed House Bill 810, also known as the “hot dog” bill. It would protect someone from being sued if they break into someone else’s car to rescue an animal from the heat. The bill passed out of a House committee but failed to make it to a vote on the House floor.

Rep. Gina Hinojosa filed House Bill 375, saying, “College students deserve easy access to polling places just like the rest of Texans do, and my bill would require college campuses with 10,000 students or more to have a polling place on campus.” 

That bill did not pass, but Hinojosa says it’s likely not the end of that legislation. 

“Sometimes it just takes several sessions to get something pushed. But one of the byproducts of filing a bill and having hearings on it is that you actually educate people on what is going on,” Hinojosa says.  

Rep. Donna Howard filed a bill this session that had also come up, and didn’t pass, in past sessions. 

“I filed House Bill 311 in regard to exempting feminine hygiene products from the sales tax,” Howard said. 

But her bill did not succeed, again. The state will continue to apply a sales tax to tampons and pads.

Dallas/Fort Worth-area Republican Sen. Kelly Hancock filed the “fido friendly” outdoor dining measure, Senate Bill 476. The bill would eliminate extra fees and inspections required of restaurant owners in order to allow dogs on their patios. Hancock said he modeled the legislation after a Texas city with a more liberal reputation.

“Can you imagine a hardcore conservative actually mirroring Austin law and putting it in statute statewide?” Hancock said. “We looked at their statute and thought they did a good job in how they addressed this locally with in the city of Austin and thought, why not? ”

SB 476 passed both the Senate and House, and is now on its way to the governor’s desk.

The last bill in “Why I Filed This” is, in part, about air-conditioning – a fitting way to wrap up the series as summer approaches. San Antonio Democratic Rep. Diego Bernal filed House Bill 266 to require certain standards in public housing, including heating and air conditioning. He said, often, those who live in public housing are “the most vulnerable among us.”

“They’re disabled, they’re veterans, they’re single parents with small children. This has everything to do with safety,” Bernal said. 

But Bernal’s bill never made it out of committee.

Here’s the final tally: two out of the 10 bills we followed passed both chambers, with one on its way to the governor’s desk, and one already signed into law.