85th Texas Legislative Session

85th Texas Legislative Session

On May 29, the 85th Texas Legislative Session adjourned sine die, meaning without another day. I am excited to be back home and spend meaningful time with family, friends, and neighbors. This legislative session was undoubtedly difficult, and we faced several challenges along the way. For 140 days, my staff and I worked diligently to bring about meaningful legislation for our HD125 community. The Legislature approved fewer bills this session than it has in two decades, with only 1,211 being sent to the Governor’s desk—many still awaiting approval or veto. Despite these challenges, I am proud of what my team and I were able to accomplish. I am pleased to share that 7 of the bills we authored, 3 bills we joint-authored, and 20 bills we co-authored have been sent to the Governor’s desk, 11 of which have already been signed into law. I look forward to sharing more on our successes at our upcoming Town Hall where I will discuss significant legislation, bills we passed, the budget, and other important highlights from the 85th Legislative Session. Be on the lookout for details soon! For now, please read below for an overview of what we were able to achieve.

  • Historic Tax Credit Program Expansion
    • SB 550(Campbell), (HB 1199(Rodriguez)), was one of the first pieces of legislation this session to make it to the governor’s desk. With this bill we will bolster the Texas Historic Tax Credit Program, which has already proven its ability to build on the federal program, promote job creation, and revitalize downtowns across the state. This bill broadens the market for tax credits earned under the program by allowing insurance companies to use the credit— thus providing capital to rehabilitation projects involving our state’s historic buildings.
  • CPS Energy Assistance Program
    • SB 758(Menendez), (HB 1633(Rodriguez)), was signed by the governor and will go into effect September 1, 2017. CPS Energy has offered a bill payment assistance program for low-income customers since 2007. Due to current law, CPS is required to threaten customers with disconnection before they qualify for the program. This legislation will streamline the process for CPS Energy allowing low-income status as the only criterion to qualify for this program and no longer require customers to be threatened with disconnection.
  • Excused Absence for High School Students Joining the Military
    • SB 1152(Menendez), (HB 1152(Rodriguez)), was signed by the governor and is effective immediately. Under this bill, school districts will be allowed to excuse the absences of students who miss school to pursue enlistment in the military, similar to the excused absence process for students visiting institutions of higher education.
  • Increased Oversight for the Department of Family Protective Services
    • SB 213(Menendez), (HB 951(Rodriguez)), passed the Senate and the House and currently awaits final approval by the governor. This legislation will subject the Department of Family Protective Services to independent and impartial oversight to ensure that families in the state of Texas are protected and taken care of. Under this bill, the entirety of the Department will be under the ombudsman’s jurisdiction giving Texans recourse if they notice deficiencies in the Department’s operations or investigations.
  • Degree Plans for Community College Students
    • HB 655(Clardy), which I joint-authored, was signed by the governor and is effective immediately. This legislation will assist students at community colleges by having students select a pathway or degree plan after 30 credit hours are completed. By having students select a pathway early on in their post-secondary education we can reduce credit loss, save students time and money, and potentially streamline the transfer process from a community college to a 4-year university.
  • Community College Trustee Election Reform
    • HB 961(Rodriguez) passed the House and the Senate, and currently awaits final approval by the governor. This legislation will allow our community colleges to save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year an election is held for trustees. Before this bill, community college districts were required to hold runoff elections if no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote. This often resulted in costly runoff elections with very little turnout. Now, community college districts may elect to avoid costly runoffs by passing a resolution to elect future trustees by plurality vote.
  • School of Osteopathic Medicine at the University of Incarnate Word
    • By amendment to SB 491(Watson), which awaits approval by the governor, we were able to amend our bill HB 1065(Rodriguez) to include the new school of osteopathic medicine at UIW as eligible for the statewide preceptorship program. This new eligibility will allow students access to funding to participate in the program focused on primary care and ultimately serve the growing healthcare needs in San Antonio and communities across South Texas.