News Roundup: Senate Committee Advances Bill To Prevent Cities From Requiring Sick Leave

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelMarch 1, 2019 12:34 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

A group of Texas senators has advanced a bill that would ban cities from requiring private employers to give workers certain benefits. If passed, Senate Bill 15 would prevent local governments from adopting ordinances related to employment leave, including paid sick days.

One of the bill’s authors is State Sen. Brandon Creighton, a Republican from Conroe. He gave an overview of the measure at a Thursday hearing ahead of public testimony.

“Senate Bill 15 provides consistency across the state to help businesses continue to grow and to keep patchwork laws that can change in a matter of miles from being put into place that continue to put burdens on employers that they cannot survive,” Creighton said.

A number of employers testified before the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee. One who spoke out against the bill was Adam Orman. He owns an Italian restaurant in Austin. Last year, the Austin City C.ouncil passed an ordinance requiring private employers to offer paid sick leave. It hass since been tied up in the courts.

“Paid sick leave should be the bare minimum of benefits offered to keep our employees healthy, which in turn keeps our communities healthy,” Orman says. “If other municipalities decide this is not a necessary regulation for all businesses so be it. But Austin through an open and inclusive process should be allowed to implement the paid sick leave ordinance that was voted on by the democratically-elected city council last year.”

The bill ultimately passed the committee on a 5-to-1 vote and now heads to the full Senate.

Texas lawmakers are considering changes to the in-state tuition program. It currently offers Texas students reduced rates for college compared to out-of-state students. Bills filed in the House and Senate propose new requirements that could limit eligibility for undocumented students, and have them pay more expensive, out-of-state tuition.

Kate Brick with the nonprofit New American Economy tells KERA News, if thousands of undocumented students are priced out of college, Texas could take an economic hit.

“So what we found was that the students who benefited from in-state tuition had a 66 percent higher earning potential than they would have had they not been able to go to college,” Brick said.

Without those students graduating from college, the group estimates Texas could lose almost $400 million in economic activity each year. That includes lost wages and spending power.  Business leaders from across Texas have also signed a compact opposing the proposed changes.

Gov. Greg Abbott still backs his pick for Texas Secretary of State in the face of a court ruling and opposition from Democrats.

This week a federal judge described David Whitley’s advisory flagging nearly 100,000 voters for citizenship review as “a solution looking for a problem.”

Despite this ruling, Republicans on the Texas Senate Nominations Committee advanced Whitley’s confirmation to the full Senate. Still, Whitley faces another roadblock there, since all twelve of the chamber’s Democrats say they’ll oppose him. But in an interview with the Chad Hasty Show on a Lubbock radio station yesterday, Gov. Abbott was asked if Democrats might change their minds.

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Abbott said. “We’ve had ongoing conversations with them and we maintain good relationships with them, and so we’ll see how things turn out.”

A coalition of Texas voting rights groups are urging Senate Democrats to ‘hold the line’ and block Whitley’s confirmation.