I am writing this on Thursday, the week before the end of the Texas Legislative session, and that wheezing you hear is the sound of thousands of bills dying as the end of the session gets ever closer. Legislators are looking for bills to which to add their legislation, as a way of “rescuing” bills that are dying or have been killed in other ways.
The Tim Tebow Bill
This week I had a discussion with State Rep. Jimmy Don Aycock, the Chairman of the House Public Education Committee, regarding SB 2046, the Tim Tebow bill, which had passed the Senate on a 27-4 vote. Although Chairman Aycock had not allowed a hearing on the House version of the bill, he suggested that we might have support in his committee to pass this version of the bill. If that was the case he would allow it to be voted out of the committee this week, but he would not support the bill.
In the end, we were one vote short of a majority and thus the bill is dead. As we talked to members of this committee, it became clear that those who opposed the bill did so primarily because public school officials did not like it. In fact, the swing vote told us that he would oppose the bill because his superintendents did.
The fact that we had 5 out of 11 votes on a committee made up of mostly former public school officials or school board members was very positive. We believe support for allowing home school students to participate in UIL continues to grow among the House as well as the Senate, evidenced by a nearly unanimous 27-4 passing Senate vote. We are already planning to return with this issue in the next session.
Another CPS Bill
This eventful week started last Friday when we asked State Rep. Bryan Hughes to offer an amendment to SB 206, which was a 90-page CPS bill that passed the Senate. THSC had raised many issues we had with the bill to the staff of the Senate sponsor, Senator Schwertner, to no avail. Our amendment simply added enforcement language to the bill requiring CPS officials to dismiss cases in which they did not meet the deadlines required in the law. The amendment was postponed on Friday.
On Monday, because the amendment was being offered on the third reading of the bill a ⅔ vote was required in order for the amendment to pass. After the bill received a ⅔ vote a request was made to “verify the vote,” which means to call the roll and make sure that everyone who was recorded as present and voting was actually on the floor. After that, the amendment passed by one vote. Although it was a great victory, the bill was sent back to committee on a technical issue. If the bill comes back it will only require a simple majority for the amendment to be added.
In the meantime, we have become aware that Senator Schwertner has amended part of SB 206 onto a House bill in the Senate. We are researching whether that amendment contains language with which we have concerns.
SB 1543 would end discrimination against home school graduates based on class ranking at state-supported colleges and universities. It was voted out of the House Higher Education Committee yesterday and sent to the Local and Consent Calendar Committee. This calendar is reserved for local bills and those that are considered non-controversial. SB 1543 passed the Senate on a 30-0 vote, and we hope that the House will take similar action and this bill will be signed into law by Governor Abbott.
Calling for Veto of Hospital Empowerment Bill
Finally, THSC and a number of other Texas groups are asking Governor Abbott to veto SB 359, which would change the law requiring medical or hospital officials to have a law enforcement officer validate that a person is a danger to himself or others before he could be involuntarily detained. The new law would allow hospital officials alone to detain someone (including a minor) for four hours on concerns about his or her mental condition. Our concern relates to an increasing number of cases in which doctors or hospital officials call CPS for the removal of children, based on a diagnosis and the parents seeking another medical opinion or seeking to remove the child to another facility. Check here for more information on this issue.
There is only one more week in the legislative session, and this is the time when things are added to bills and sometimes passed in the dark of night. THSC is here in Austin with our team to make sure that doesn’t happen. Thank you for your prayers and support as we continue the work of Keeping Texas Families Free.
Have you joined THSC? Help Keep Your Texas Family Free today at thsc.org/join.