On Friday, the House of Representatives passed Open Carry legislation for the first time in state history. The Senate’s version of the bill was passed just a week earlier, and both chambers will soon meet to send the final version to the Governor.
The House has also finalized its version of the biennial state budget; a conservative spending bill which leaves approximately $8 Billion unspent, lies well below the constitutional spending caps, and sets up the largest balance the Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund) has ever seen, at an estimated $11 Billion by the end of the biennium. This budget builds on last session’s successful effort to end our reliance on dedicated accounts to certify the budget, increases dedicated spending for roads and highways, and allocates $800 million to Border Security.
The House Ways & Means Committee has also passed a pair of bills, which will lower the state’s major taxes by a combined $4.9 Billion. HB 31 and HB 32 will cut the state sales tax from 6.25% to 5.95%, and is set to be the first sales tax cut in state history. The measures also cut the state’s business franchise tax across the board – leading to more money in Texans’ pockets.
Several of my personal initiatives have made significant headway in recent weeks. House Bill 2027, which I filed in response to serious concerns about voting integrity, has been set for debate on the House Floor on Wednesday the 22nd of April. This bill prohibits what is commonly referred to as “rolling polling,” the act of moving voting machines around during an ongoing election in an attempt to target certain voters at the exclusion of others. The bill passed unanimously out of the House Elections Committee, and I expect the full House to approve the bill without hesitation.
HB 1927 requires that all local entities actually send mail ballots to qualified mail voters. Some local municipalities and school districts have intentionally chosen to deny these voters the ballots to which they are entitled. My bill, which was voted out of the Elections Committee last week, will force those ballots to be delivered to their rightful recipients.
HB 1781 was passed unanimously out of the House last Thursday, and is on its way to the Senate. This bill changes a serious flaw in state law that currently prohibits children who were adopted from seeking access to their biological siblings. I am sincerely humbled by the dedication and perseverance shown by Carl and Theresa Gustafson and their children, who have traveled to the Capitol at each opportunity to advocate for this critical reform. With their help, the Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee passed the bill unanimously, and the Gustafsons were present on the House Floor to witness its final approval.
One bill that has not garnered much attention is House Bill 1305, which has been passed out of the House Public Education Committee. This bill would remove provisions in state law that require public schools to participate in the federal school lunch program. Several schools in Galveston County and elsewhere have opted out of the federal food regime in recent years, citing declining participation and frustration at the poor quality of meals under the federal government’s nutrition standards and vendor requirements. HB 1305 grants each school the full ability to opt-out of the federal meal programs and provide a private alternative to their students. These schools will no longer be subject to the federal Administration’s nutrition guidelines, nor will the state’s public education funding formula impose unintended financial penalty for establishing a private program. The result is that local elected school boards, with the input of students, parents, teachers, and voters, will have the right to conduct their campus meal program as they see fit; rather than complying with a one-size-fits-all program from Washington, D.C.
Another important bill of mine has recently passed the House, and is currently being assigned to its Senate committee hearing. HB 1945 grants Texans the right to contract directly with their physician for medical service, leaving insurance and federal regulations out of the picture entirely. The ability to secure Direct Primary Care will remove unnecessary red tape from the healthcare process and will provide a direct doctor/patient relationship that is so lacking in today’s marketplace.
House Bill 620 was heard in the Human Services Committee last week as well. This bill, which I filed along with several others to target fraud and financial misconduct that takes valuable dollars from taxpayer accounts, would require every Lone Star Card issued in this state to have a photo ID of the food stamp or cash assistance recipient on the card itself; along with the recipient’s name. “Food Stamp Fraud” is a serious and intolerable waste of Texans’ tax dollars, and this measure will help protect the integrity of our financial programs.