State Capital Highlights, June 11, 2015

By Ed Sterling, Texas Press Association

AUSTIN — Governor Greg Abbott has until June 21 to give bills recently passed by the Texas Legislature his final consideration before signing them, letting them take effect without his signature or vetoing them.

By June 1, the last day of the Legislature’s 84th regular session, some 819 House bills and 504 Senate bills earned final passed, plus two House Joint Resolutions and five Senate Joint Resolutions. 

Unlike bills, which are subject to gubernatorial veto, the voters of Texas will find the seven joint resolutions appearing as proposed constitutional amendments on the Nov. 3 statewide ballot. 

By June 4, Abbott had signed 340 bills into law and these vetoed two: HB 225, relating to the prescription and dispensation of “opioid antagonist” drugs; and SB 359, relating to the emergency detention of a person with mental illness. Here are 10 examples of signed, approved bills:

HB 4, establishing a new $130 million “High Quality Prekindergarten Grant Program” to be provided free of tuition and fees to qualifying students.
HB 505, prohibiting the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board from adopting any rule that would limit the number of dual credit courses or hours in a which a student may enroll while in high school or in a given semester or academic year.
HB 593, requiring the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to establish a statewide comprehensive education and training program on canine encounters and canine behavior.
HB 903, requiring the comptroller to adjust the state’s “rainy day fund” investment portfolio periodically by putting some funds into higher-returning instruments to ensure that the balance of the fund is sufficient to meet cash flow requirements
HB 1740, improving community access to rabies vaccination services.
HB 3628, requiring the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety to adopt rules governing the use of unmanned aircraft in the Capitol Complex.
SB 97, prohibiting a person from selling, giving or causing to be sold or given an e-cigarette to someone who is younger than 27 years of age unless the person to whom the e-cigarette was sold or given presents an apparently valid proof of identification. 
SB 339, authorizing a qualified physician under certain conditions to prescribe low-THC cannabis to alleviate the seizures of a patient diagnosed with intractable epilepsy if the patient is a permanent Texas resident.
SB 458, increasing the duties of the aerospace and aviation office of the Texas Economic Development and Tourism Office to promote the retention, development and expansion of aerospace and aviation industry facilities in Texas.
SB 1072, creating a method for counties to remove from office a precinct or county chair who has failed to perform statutory duties provided by the Election Code.

Health agency chief to resign
Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Dr. Kyle Janek on June 5 announced his decision to step down from his position effective July 1 “to make way for new leadership as the agency prepares for major reorganization.” Janek was appointed head of the agency in 2012 by then-governor Rick Perry.

With a budget of $74 billion and more than 56,000 employees, the agency came under fire following publication of a series of investigative reports by the Austin American-Statesman that exposed a lucrative no-bid contract with a computer software firm executed by high-ranking personnel at the agency. Oversight at the agency was a topic of Sunset Commission hearings held at the Capitol in April. 

Gov. Abbott, in a June 5 announcement, said Chris Traylor, chief deputy commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission, will succeed Janek, and Charles Smith, current deputy for child support at the Texas Office of the Attorney General, will be Traylor’s successor.

Rick Perry starts presidential run
Former governor Rick Perry, who served the state’s chief executive from 2001 to 2015, launched his second run in hopes of securing the Republican nomination for president in an Addison, Texas, aircraft hangar on June 4.

Using a C-130 cargo plane as a backdrop, Perry, who served as a U.S. Air Force pilot during the Vietnam War era, was joined in the announcement by military veterans as he talked about his upbringing and recounted his leadership experience. 

Lawmakers won’t seek reelection
Last week, five state representatives and one state senator announced their intentions not to seek reelection in 2016.

The state representatives include: House County Affairs Committee Vice Chair Joe Farias, D-San Antonio; House Education Committee Chair Jimmy Don Aycock, R-Killeen; House Select Committee on Emerging Issues in Law Enforcement Chair Allen Fletcher, R-Tomball; and House Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Sylvester Turner, D-Houston. Turner is a candidate for mayor of Houston. The senator is Senate Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee Chair Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay.


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