The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.
Texas lawmakers began submitting bills for the next legislative session on Monday. One long-time member of the Texas House is hoping the fourth time will be the charm for one of his bills. Tom Craddick of Midland has been pushing for a statewide ban on texting while driving. He says right now there’s a lot of piecemeal legislation in Texas.
“There are 100 cities in the state that have some form of no texting while driving on the books,” Craddick says. “They’re all different. We need one uniform type law across the state and I think this will do it.”
In the past Craddick saw his measure clear the House and the Senate, only to be vetoed by then-governor Rick Perry. This time around, Craddick says both Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are on board with a ban.
Also among the bills submitted Monday was one by a Houston politician hoping to get truck drivers involved in combating human trafficking. Houston Public Media’s Al Ortiz took a look:
State Sen. Sylvia Garcia has introduced a bill to require that applicants for commercial driver licenses take a course on identifying and reporting human trafficking.
Garcia thinks teaching these professionals about this type of crime would be productive because “we have almost 200,000 truck drivers in the state of Texas that can be our eyes and ears on the road and in places like motels and truck stops and restaurants, where victims are being exploited every day.”
The Democrat senator says staff from the Texas Department of Public Safety would teach the course.
If her bill becomes law, not only new applicants for a commercial license would have to take it, but also truck drivers that would be renewing their licenses.
Minal Patel Davis is Mayor Sylvester Turner’s special advisor on human trafficking and she says there are some key signs that can help identify potential victims.
“At truck stops in particular, I think you can look for people that are dressed in a way that may not be suitable to the weather, things like that. Oftentimes, when you are seeing them, they are going to be selling commercial sex,” Patel Davis explained at the press conference held in southeast Houston where Garcia, who represents District 6, announced her bill.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, just last year there were more than 5,000 cases of human trafficking in the United States.
The Texas Trucking Association is in favor of the bill introduced by Garcia, who is confident it can gather bipartisan support in Austin.
The lieutenant governor has a powerful role in determining which bills will be considered and among the issues on Dan Patrick’s wish list are lower property taxes, a way for parents to use public funding to send their kids to private schools, and penalties for cities that ignore federal immigration law.
Also, as promised, he wants a bill that prevents transgender people from using the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
For a little perspective on all these bills: about 6,200 bills were filed during the last legislative session, and only 21 percent of those actually made it to the governor’s desk.