Lege update 5/10

I just got back from the Capital city, I won’t go into the details, but I accomplished a lot of great business. Anyways, I didn’t get the opportunity to discuss all the bills that the House has been passing recently, so let me go down the list.

First up, HB864, which cuts CHL training time, has been sent to the Governor.

The Chron reports that “Guns on Cars” has passed the House, 124-13, and has been sent to the Governor. Among those voting nay were Jessica Farrar and Carol Alvarado.

Using your cellphone as evidence for insurance was also sent to the Governor.

The expanded school breakfast program sent to Perry too.

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The Chronicle reports that the “Space X Bill,” Rene Oliveira’s HB 2623, has unanimously passed the Senate. The bill would allow open beaches to be shut down during SpaceX launches in very limited circumstances. Whitmire previously had some reservations over the measure, but those must have been alleviated. It’s a good bill, and it heads to Perry now.

Speaking of Whitmire, the Statesman reports that he is dropping most of his opposition to the “Guns on Campus” bill. He feels that the new system, which allows opt-outs, is not especially controversial. “I think it will pass,” Whitmire said of the legislation.

 

Legislative update 5/3

I’d like to apologize for my lacking activity in the last few days, it’s finals week. I’ll be done on Monday evening, and will be heading back to Houston on Wednesday morning for nearly four months. My day job this summer will be at the Federal Courthouse downtown, but I can’t go into any more detail than that. I will probably visit Austin 2-3 times in the next couple weeks, though.

Texas Energy Resources Commission
I talked at length a few days ago about a House bill that would, among other things, rename the Railroad Commission to something more relevant to what they actually do. That bill being highlighted was, from what I understand, a House bill, but it has recently passed the Senate **UPDATE: House Committee passed the original legislation as well**. The Trib reports that SB 212, proposed by Senator Robert Nichols, has passed unanimously. The Tribune says it was a “21-0” vote, but it was actually 31-0, hence the unanimity. The new name will be the “Texas Energy Resources Commission.”

Protecting Good Samaritans and victims
The Trib reports that Lon Burnam’s HB  3738 has passed committee. The bill would prohibit police officers from inquiring about the immigration status of either victims of crimes, or witnesses thereto. The online thing-a-ma-bobber doesn’t do roll calls for committee votes, but the number was 8-4-1. The Committee consists of 8 Republicans and Five Democrats. Rene Oliveira has made MIA from the House recently, and he is a member of the committee. Therefore, it looks like four of the Republicans voted for this measure. Good for them.

Hit and run
I discussed a few weeks ago that Senator Watson’s hit-and-run punishment bill had passed the Senate. Now, according to the Statesman, it has done so in the House of Representatives. HB 72 by Allen Fletcher was unanimous and increases the penalty of a hit-and-run to the same level as intoxication manslaughter. The bill is now sent to Perry, and, if he signs it, it would become law immediately.

Statewide texting ban passes House

I got the news first hand on this one (from Rep. Gene Wu), but the Tribune has a full story on it, so I suppose you check that out too.

The State House has passed a statewide texting-while-driving ban by insufficient margins. 98-47, to be clear; a few votes shy of the supermajority required to overcome Governor Perry’s promised veto. HB63, Tom Craddick’s bill, was split along rather unorthodox lines.

Lots of Democrats voted against the measure (there is some discussion on this in greater detail below). The chief Democratic opponent was Harold Dutton. Dutton feared the law would allow for widespread racial profiling by the police under the guise of pulling someone over for violating this rule. His amendments would make the violation a secondary offense, and it was defeated.

The Tribune mentions two successful amendments. The first prohibits police officers from confiscating one’s mobile phone and the second prevents the seizure of cell-records without a warrant. No word on who proposed these or what the roll call was. I could figure it out, but I just don’t find it very important.

Finally, this bill would overrule and pre-empt local measures, including those stronger than the statewide proposal. Joe Pickett successfully got an amendment in that would exempt El Paso, which has a total cell-use ban, from the statewide proposal, which provides exceptions for “looking up numbers” and using a GPS or other map system. The bill now heads to the Senate, which, to my knowledge, still hasn’t passed this out of committee.

Part II
The roll call vote was 98-47. Of the 98 in support, 43 were Democrats and 55 were Republicans. Of the 47 in opposition, 10 were Democrats and 37 were Republicans. 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans were absent (one of them, Ryan Guillen [D-Rio Grande City], was a big proponent but his wife went into labor), and, of course, the Speaker does not vote.

The 10 Democrats voting against the bill were Lon Burnam (Fort Worth), Terry Canales (Brownsville), Joe Deshotel (Port Arthur), Harold Dutton (Houston), Naomi Gonzalez (El Paso), Roland Gutierrez (San Antonio), Eric Johnson (Dallas), Borris Miles (Houston), Senfronia Thompson (Houston) and Hubert Vo (Houston). I will most definitely remember them next year.

This actually means that the Texting ban isn’t quite as dead as we figured it to be. If Guillen is present at the next vote, the number is at 99. The other Democrat missing was Rene Oliveira (Brownsville), who is recovering from an automobile accident. The options for getting the one more vote is to get Oliveira there (assuming he is a supporter), or trying to peel off at least one Democratic holdout. My money is on Burnam, for what it’s worth.

It is worth nothing that just because all but one of the 10 Democratic holdouts is a racial minority, doesn’t mean that African-Americans or Hispanics are any less supportive of this measure. That is just the typical makeup of the House Democratic Caucus nowadays.

Pauken to run for Governor

Tom Pauken, the former Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission, and the former Chairman of the Texas Republican Party, will be running for Governor next year, presumably against Rick Perry. I don’t think his political view really differ that much, one way or another, from the Governor. He has an old website here, which may get a makeover in the upcoming weeks, and may just be discarded in favor of something like ‘paukenfortexas” or what not.

Anyways, Rene Oliveira was injured in a car crash a few days ago, as well. She is expected to make a full recovery. In other State news, Senator Patrick’s big voucher bill had its big hearing recently, where Patrick got quite emotional. Senator Davis also voted against the recent bipartisan budget, citing how little it does for education.

The Trib and Kuff have more. I have a plane to catch–Houston, here I come!