By Ed Sterling
Director of member services for the Texas Press Association
AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott, in the last 10 days of June, posted news releases pointing out specific lawmakers and their plans to file bills that fulfill his expectations for the 30-day special session, which he called to begin July 18.
Abbott said lawmakers first must pass a “sunset bill” to extend the life of the Texas Medical Board and then tackle a 19-item list of other issues in the month-long session. Abbott’s list is a pretty close match to a list of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s priorities. Here are a few of those items:
– Legislation to reform property taxes, by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, and Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton. “Skyrocketing property taxes in this state are unacceptable, and Texans need reform right now,” Abbott said.
– Legislation to prevent local governments from taking private property rights by drastically changing property development rules on landowners after they have purchased the land, by Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Austin, and Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia.
– Legislation to speed up the permitting process for local governments, by Sen. Konni Burton, R-Fort Worth, and Rep. Workman of Austin. “Some local governments are doing everything they can to over-regulate, and in the process, stifle our economy and interfere with job creation,” Abbott said.
– Legislation to protect the privacy of women and children, by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton. This issue — commonly referred to as the “bathroom bill” — sparked much controversy during the regular legislative session. It has to do with the accommodation of transgender students.
– Legislation to limit the growth in local spending to no more than the growth of population and inflation, by Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, and Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas. “Fiscal responsibility does not begin and end with state government,” Abbott said. “Government, at all levels, has a responsibility to operate within a budget that does not shift the unnecessary and excessive cost of unchecked growth onto its taxpayers.”
– Legislation to limit the growth in state spending to no more than the growth of population and inflation, by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, and Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy. “A key component to good governance is fiscal responsibility,” Abbott said. “By passing laws that ensure state spending does not exceed the growth rate of population and inflation, we can limit the size of government and control spending, while retaining the flexibility to meet the needs of our fastest growing communities,” he added.
– Legislation to bring about “pro-life” insurance reform, by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, and Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo. “No Texan should be forced to pay for insurance that covers elective abortions,” Abbott said.
– Legislation to strengthen patient protections related to Do-Not-Resuscitate orders, by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, and Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Galveston. “Patient protections relating to Do-Not-Resuscitate orders must be strengthened and clarified under law,” Abbott said.
AG offers help in inquest
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on June 28 announced the Office of the Attorney General would assist Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson in her investigation into allegations of voter fraud in Dallas County precincts.
Johnson said help from Paxton’s office would enable her office to broaden and deepen its ongoing voter fraud investigation. “We believe as they assist us, that we will be able to restore faith in our electoral process here in Dallas County,” she said.
San Antonio officers shot
Two San Antonio police officers suffered gunshot wounds in an incident near the city’s downtown area on June 29.
Both officers, who were on patrol when the shootings occurred, were hospitalized. A suspect in the incident was shot and killed by police; a second suspect was wounded and was taken into custody.
Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Paxton issued public statements following the incident. Paxton offered his agency’s assistance in the investigation. In a Twitter posting, Abbott wrote: “Sending thoughts & prayers to the two @SATXPolice officers shot in the line of duty.”
DPS increases patrols
The Texas Department of Public Safety on June 29 increased traffic enforcement during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, looking for drunken drivers, speeders and seat belt and other traffic violators.
During last year’s Fourth of July enforcement period, state troopers issued more than 85,267 tickets and warnings, including 1,372 seat belt and child safety restraint citations, the agency said.
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