State representatives and senators saw some of their proposed bills fail and others become laws during the regular session of the 85th Texas Legislature, which ended May 29.
State Rep. Kevin Roberts, R-Spring, authored House Bill 1183, which proposed granting county commissioners courts the authority to regulate the use of fireworks during certain hours in unincorporated areas. The bill did not pass the House, and some members criticized it as an attempt to restrict what they believe to be an essential aspect of Texas culture, Roberts said.
Once debate on the bill began, Roberts said various members asked him to withdraw the bill, but he refused to do so. With 98 percent of his district located in unincorporated parts of Harris County, Roberts said he felt an obligation to not make any changes to the bill.
“I was elected to be the voice of my neighbors, and I cannot do that if I am willing to bend to political pressures on issues that are important to our community,” Roberts said.
After the vote, Roberts said he spoke with Harris County commissioners and the Harris County Fire Marshal’s office about alternative ways to address the issue in the future. Roberts said he will continue to look for a solution to the problem of loud nighttime fireworks because he believes it is an issue for many people living in unincorporated areas such as Spring and Klein.
Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, authored Senate Bill 2, which proposed lowering the property tax revenue cap for cities and counties from an increase of 8 percent over the previous year to an increase of 5 percent. This bill was added as an amendment to HB 4180, which relates to the creation, operation, functions and regulatory authority of certain governmental agencies and officials.
Bettencourt said the House did not name a conference committee on HB 4180, which effectively prevented the bill from moving forward.
“Taxpayers would have loved the news that SB 2 has passed as part of HB 4180,” Bettencourt said. “Sadly that is not the case because House leadership refused to name a conference committee…killing a chance for property tax reform this session.”
Roberts and Bettencourt worked together to author HB 3674 and SB 1085, both of which proposed eliminating the North Harris County Regional Water Authority’s requirement to post a notice at every voting location in a board member’s district if that election is unopposed.
Roberts said this additional posting requirement cost taxpayers $20,000.
“There’s nothing that drives me crazier than government wasting taxpayer dollars,” Roberts said in a written statement.
SB 1085 passed both the Senate and the House and was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 1.
Another bill authored by Bettencourt, SB 7, was signed into law by Abbott on May 26. The bill strengthens educator misconduct laws and prevents educators who engage in inappropriate relationships with students from being able to change school districts without facing consequences.
“SB 7 gives [Texas Education Agency] more tools to pursue and investigate these cases in order to protect the integrity of the teaching profession and, more importantly, protect the students in all of the schools in Texas,” Bettencourt said.
State Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Tomball, authored HB 3555, which proposed a grant program to faith-based organizations that collaborate with the Department of Family and Protective Services to improve foster care. The essential components of this bill were amended to SB 11, which was signed by Abbott on May 31 and will take effect on Sept. 1.