We have to continue to vote these democrats out of office because they are not following the Constitution. They are working against America. I do wish that the Governor would have all of the members of the legislature attend an “anger management” and a “civics” class to help them understand how the government in this country and state works.
May 30, 2017 10:02 AM
Tension at the End; Rage on the Final Day; Texas Enacts Statewide Regulations for Uber, Lyft; Major Child Welfare Reforms Head to Abbott
Here is a good summary of what transpired in this latest session of the Texas Legislature. Scroll down to the section entitled ‘
to get a synopsis of what actually was passed and not. Like at the National level, our Texas legislators have grossly deteriorated and have lost their sense of civility. This MUST change!
Here’s what you need to know in Texas today.
MustReadTexas.com – @MustReadTexas
TUESDAY – 05/30/17
> Post-session 20-day deadline for Governor to sign or veto: June 18, 2017
UNCERTAINTY, DEEP TENSION MARK THE END OF THE 85TH REGULAR SESSION:
The Texas Tribune’s
— “Texas’ 85th legislative session has come to an uncertain, rancorous end after a 140-day period that saw the state extend its rightward march and tensions between the two chambers reach new heights — largely because of disagreements within the ruling Republican Party.
Lawmakers gaveled out Monday afternoon — first the House, then the Senate — under a cloud of uncertainty over whether Gov.
would call a special session, which Lt. Gov.
has been pushing for to deal with a number of incomplete priorities. Abbott was coy Monday morning, saying he would announce his decision “later in the week” — and making clear that he would be in charge in the event of an overtime round.
“I would normally say, ‘I’ll see you in 18 months,’ God willing,” Patrick told senators as the chamber prepared to adjourn for the last time in the regular session. “But we’ll see you a little sooner than that.”
The final day was also consumed by a scuffle on the House floor that seemed to embody some of the sharpest tensions of the session: State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, traded accusations with House Democrats after Rinaldi said he called immigration authorities on people in the gallery protesting the state’s new “sanctuary cities” law. The dustup punctuated a session in which Democrats and Republicans alike waged fierce battles over illegal immigration, abortion and LGBT rights.
“This session has been very, very difficult and emotional in many different ways, in many layers, over contentious issues, and there are enough of us here to remember a time in Texas when respect and decorum ruled the day,” state Rep.
, D-Austin, said Monday at a news conference held by House Democrats. “It’s just ironic — my senior members that have been here dozens of years have told me this is the worst session they’ve ever seen.”
Even after both chambers gaveled out Monday afternoon, the fault lines were clearer than ever. Patrick issued a statement that accused the House of killing several of his priorities, including those related to property taxes and bathrooms, which the lieutenant governor said remain “must-pass legislation.” Straus, for his part, issued a statement saying his chamber “feels very good about where we ended up, and now we look forward to returning home.”
The session got underway on Jan. 10 in the shadow of Comptroller
dour revenue estimate, in part due to the downturn in oil prices, ensuring budget writers had their work cut out for them. For weeks, the two chambers sparred over the best way to balance the budget, with the Senate using an accounting trick to free up $2.5 billion — Straus called it “cooking the books” — and the House turning to the state’s savings account, colloquially known as the Rainy Day Fund.
Budget writers ultimately struck a deal that relied on a bit of both methods.
The session also opened against the backdrop of a new Republican administration in Washington led by President Donald Trump. Texas Republicans were hopeful Trump would provide some relief for a state that spent the last eight years at war with a Democrat-led federal government, but the benefits ultimately appeared to be limited.
On one of the items where Texas Republicans have long sought assistance from the federal government — border security — budget writers maintained the current spending level of $800 million.
That did not mean Trump’s influence was not felt under the pink dome. His hardline stance against illegal immigration dovetailed with Abbott’s push for a ban on “sanctuary cities,” arguably the most rancorous proposal of the session. After the Senate passed the legislation, Senate Bill 4, House leadership sought to water it down, an ultimately unsuccessful endeavor thanks to a polarizing amendment by state Rep.
The amendment allows law enforcement officials to ask the immigration status of anyone they detain — not just those they arrest. Its passage, mainly along party lines, marked something of a coming-out party for the newly formed House Freedom Caucus, a group of 12 conservative lawmakers who spent the session working to advance their priorities through their knowledge of the rules and procedure.
“Our fingerprints are on many pieces of policy,” Schaefer said in an interview earlier this month, “and that’s not by accident.”
The sanctuary cities ban was one of four emergency items Abbott declared in his State of the State address, and he signed it into law weeks before the session concluded. He did so without advance notice on a Sunday evening on Facebook Live, spawning another round of protests against the bill.
While Abbott, Patrick and Straus were generally on the same page regarding SB 4, they were far more splintered on a “bathroom bill” that would require transgender people to use the restroom that matches their birth gender. Patrick charged into the session vowing to fight for it, while Abbott kept his distance and Straus made clear he viewed it as potentially bad for the state’s economy.
There were few big surprises regarding the issue during the first half of session. The Senate approved its bathroom bill, Senate Bill 6, early on and sent it to the House, where it languished amid continued resistance from House leadership. But in April, the House debuted what some had hoped would be an alternative to SB 6, House Bill 2899, and got the governor to break his silence — Abbott called it a “thoughtful proposal.”
Still, HB 2899, which would have invalidated local trans-inclusive policies and school accommodations for transgender students, remained stuck in a House committee — even as it accrued a total of 80 co-authors. The issue wouldn’t show signs of life again until after a remarkable turn of events that began May 11, when the Freedom Caucus, at a boiling point with House leadership, went on a bill-killing spree that claimed what is known as the sunset safety net bill. In the House, the failure of the measure, which keeps some state agencies from shuttering, meant the Senate would have to pass it to avoid a likely special session.
Patrick seized the opportunity, vowing to hold the bill hostage until the House acted on a bathroom bill and property tax reform. Abbott aligned himself with Patrick, calling them priorities in the home stretch — but stopped short of threatening a special session over them.
“It definitely, I think, kind of shifted the balance, so to speak, or shifted the playing field on what was going to get done in the session or whether there was going to be leverage at all for this issue or the property tax issue,” one Freedom Caucus member, state Rep.
of Fort Worth, recalled Sunday.
With time running out, the House worked to appease Patrick, passing measures that dealt with the two issues more narrowly than the lieutenant governor had preferred. The period marked the apex of pressure that Patrick had been applying on the House since the session’s early days, hoping to bend it to his chamber’s more conservative will.
“I think Speaker Straus did a terrific job of being basically the voice of reason in that regard,” state Rep.
, R-Richmond, said Monday, reflecting on the Senate pressures. The House had its priorities, Zerwas added, “we got them done, and the lieutenant governor had some of his priorities that didn’t really sync up with our leadership here, so you know, I think ultimately that’s how the political process works. I think we got done the things the state, the citizens, expect us to get done.”
In the final days of the regular session, there appeared to be some hope lawmakers could work out a deal to avoid overtime — Abbott sounded optimistic as of Friday morning. But whatever chance there was for compromise seemed to plummet over the weekend, when the chamber leaders held dueling news conferences — twice — to assign blame to the other side for putting lawmakers on the brink of a special session.
By Monday morning, Abbott, known for his aversion to special sessions, was striking a somewhat different tone. Asked at a bill-signing ceremony whether he planned to call lawmakers back to Austin, he raised the possibility for the first time in 140 days. “I’ll be making an announcement later this week,” the governor said.”
SESSION ENDS IN A FIT OF RAGE:
— “The regular session of the 85th Legislature had much in common with a white hot ball of rage. It started early in the session when a state senator destroyed a tabletop by forcefully gaveling down testimony from a witness against an abortion bill and continued through today’s closing minutes when a House member called Immigration and Customs Enforcement on sanctuary cities protestors in the gallery. Democrats alleged that Republican Representative
of Irving threatened to shoot a Mexican-American legislator in the head. Rinaldi responded by saying a Democrat threatened him and that he only said he would shoot in self-defense.
The floor scuffle broke out as red-shirted members of United We Dream filled the gallery to protest passage of Senate Bill 4, an immigration crackdown bill recently signed into law by Governor
. The House had added controversial language to allow police to ask residency status questions of people they detain. Rinaldi said the protestors displayed a banner over the brass rail that said, “I am illegal and here to stay.” What happened next is in dispute.
Members of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus said they were angered by Rinaldi repeatedly saying he had called ICE on the protestors. Representative
Ramon Romero Jr.
of Fort Worth said Rinaldi only saw undocumented immigrants in the gallery, although not all were. “He saw the crowd, and he saw illegals,” Romero said at a news conference. “In his heart, he has hate for those people and wants to see them gone.” Representative
of San Antonio said there was an exchange between Rinaldi and Representative
of Eagle Pass that led to some words about taking it outside. “There was a threat from Representative Rinaldi to put a bullet in one of my colleague’s head. That kind of threatening language, he needs to be called out.”
Video from KVUE-TV in Austin showed Nevarez repeatedly shoving Rinaldi backward and approaching him aggressively, but their words could not be heard. Other legislators were stopping other members from joining the fray.
Rinaldi’s version of events in a Twitter statement is that Romero “physically assaulted me, and other Democrats were held back by my colleagues. During that time, Poncho told me that he would ‘get me on the way to my car.’ He later approached me and reiterated that ‘I had to leave at some point, and he would get me.’ I made it clear that if he attempted to, in his words, ‘get me,’ I would shoot him in self defense.” Rinaldi said he was in the protective custody of the Department of Public Safety.
Anger has been growing between the Mexican-American caucus and members of the Freedom Caucus, which includes Rinaldi, ever since the April 27 debate on the sanctuary cities bill. Freedom Caucus Chair
, a Tyler Republican, got the House to attach an amendment preventing police departments from restricting officers from asking about citizenship or residency status while detaining an individual. The legislation was opposed by every major police chief in the state, but Abbott signed it into law on May 7.
The confrontation and threats were almost a fitting end to a legislative session that seemed designed to create hard feelings among lawmakers, especially in the House. The chamber had emotionally raw debates over strict abortion and immigration bills, and efforts to regulate which restrooms transgender people use. These were human rights issues that affect state lawmakers in a very personal way. In the House, at least six legislators—two men and four women —broke into tears during floor debates. Democrats snapped at Republicans, stopping just short of calling them racists. A member of the Freedom Caucus stomped around the House floor, essentially decrying the death of democracy on the speaker’s dais.
Two decades from now, it is unlikely anyone will look back and proclaim that the 85th Legislature worked to build a Texas for the rest of the 21st Century.
State lawmakers probably will be back before the summer is out for a special legislative session called by Governor
. Tempers may have cooled by then but the emotional wounds that lawmakers inflicted on each other these past 140 days will likely last for a long time.”
TEXAS ENACTS STATEWIDE REGULATIONS FOR UBER, LYFT:
The Dallas Morning News’
signed a bill Monday to create statewide regulations for ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft, voiding local rules set by cities.
Lawmakers have sparred with city officials over whether the state or local governments should be responsible for regulating the companies after an election in Austin prompted Uber and Lyft to stop operating in the city.
“In Texas we don’t believe in heavy-handed, top-down, one-sided regulatory environments that erect barriers for businesses,” Abbott said. “In Austin, Texas, we’re going to override burdensome, wrongheaded regulatory barriers that disrupt the free-enterprise system upon which Texas has been based and upon which has elevated Texas to be the No. 1 state in the entire country for doing business.
The law goes into effect immediately. Uber and Lyft announced plans to resume operations in Austin on Monday, according to The Texas Tribune
Austin had a city ordinance that required drivers for ride-hailing companies to get fingerprint background checks, a policy Uber and Lyft have resisted in other cities. Dallas doesn’t require drivers to have them.
Last year, Austin voters upheld the city’s rules instead of adopting alternative regulations (without fingerprints) backed by Uber and Lyft.
The legislation Abbott signed Monday requires companies to get a license from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to operate in the state. It doesn’t apply to taxi, limousine or other car services. Although the law voids existing city regulations, airports and cruise ship ports would still be allowed to create regulations for rides, as long as they don’t violate provisions of the statewide law.
Last year, Austin voters upheld the city’s rules instead of adopting alternative regulations (without fingerprints) backed by Uber and Lyft.
The legislation Abbott signed Monday requires companies to get a license from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to operate in the state. It doesn’t apply to taxi, limousine or other car services. Although the law voids existing city regulations, airports and cruise ship ports would still be allowed to create regulations for rides, as long as they don’t violate provisions of the statewide law.”
The Dallas Morning News ($)
MAJOR CHILD WELFARE REFORMS ADVANCE TO GOV. ABBOTT:
The Austin American-Statesman’s
— “Keeping their word to address the state’s troubled child welfare system, Texas lawmakers passed major reforms including one that would continue stripping the state of its foster care responsibilities.
Lawmakers on Sunday sent to Gov.
Senate Bill 11 filed by Sen.
, R-Georgetown, which would expand so-called community-based foster care to at least two additional areas in the state over the next two years. The state would transfer foster care case management, including caseworker visits, court-related duties and decision-making on where children live, learn and receive services, to a nonprofit agency or a governmental entity such as a county or municipality.
“We cannot continue to fund a statewide system that does not take into account individualized community supports, efforts and services and further traumatizes children by moving them from one side of the state to another away from their siblings, their family and their community that they know,” Schwertner said.
The move toward privatization comes as Child Protective Services and the foster care system come under the microscope for child deaths, high turnover and a failure to see endangered children within state-mandated time frames.
Abbott included fixing foster care as one of his four priorities for the Legislature this session.
Skeptics of community-based foster care, including four of the six members of the Austin delegation in the House, fear that nonprofits who contract with the state might have interests that do not jibe with the best interests of foster children.
Proponents of the community-based model say that a Fort Worth pilot program has kept a high number of children in their communities, decreased the number of times children moved from home to home and increased the number of foster homes, particularly in rural areas.
SB 11 would also:
• Create standardized policies for child abuse and neglect investigations.
• Require the state to collect and monitor repeated reports of abuse or neglect involving the same child or by the same alleged perpetrator.
• Cover the costs of day care services for foster children.
• Ensure that the state child welfare agency collects data and creates a plan to address foster home shortages in regions where privatized foster care hasn’t occurred.
Also on Sunday, both chambers approved House Bill 5 by Rep.
, R-Wichita Falls, which would make the Department of Family and Protective Services, which oversees CPS and the foster care system, its own agency; currently it’s housed under the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
Last week, the Texas Legislature also advanced two other major foster care and child protection measures — HB 4 and HB 7 — to Abbott. HB 7 addresses the court proceedings that affect foster children and their biological parents and HB 4 would increase payments to people who foster children who are their family members.
The budget approved by the Legislature on Saturday boosts funding to Child Protective Services by $500 million to give caseworkers raises and hire 500 new ones.”