(Austin, TX) – State Representative Jared Patterson highlighted the many accomplishments of the 87th Legislature, which include passing legacy pro-life measures, constitutional carry and other pro-second amendment legislation, pro-law enforcement legislation, supporting public education, ensuring religious freedom, strengthening election integrity, and a balanced budget lower than the state’s spending caps.
The budget adopted for the upcoming biennium tightens the state's purse strings and decreases spending by nearly $13.5 billion. Despite cutting spending, Texas maintained key commitments to public education, higher education, healthcare, and a substantial increase to border security.
The budget also included a record 25%, or $20 million, increase in funding for Texas' Alternatives to Abortion program. Independent legislation supporting life in what has been heralded as the most pro-life session yet, included monumental accomplishments, such as the Texas Heartbeat Act (SB 8) and the Trigger Ban (HB 1280). The Heartbeat Act prohibits an abortion once a baby's heartbeat is detected and the Trigger Ban, a proactive bill, would trigger a ban on abortions in Texas when the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade.
Other historical accomplishments include the overwhelming passage of legislation strengthening Second Amendment rights, including HB 1927, the first constitutional carry legislation to ever be taken up by both chambers and sent to the governor's desk. Other measures include:
HB 2622 - establishes Texas as a Second Amendment Sanctuary State.
HB 957 - removes federal restrictions on firearms suppressors that are manufactured in Texas.
HB 2112 - redefines "holster" in statute to include any type, not just on a shoulder or belt.
HB 1407 - ensures the rights of Texans to carry a gun holstered in their car or truck without keeping the holstered gun on their person.
HB 918 - allows Texans 21 and up to obtain a Concealed Carry License if they are under certain court-ordered protections.
The legislature answered the overwhelming cry of Texans in favor of defending themselves with pro-Second Amendment legislation, but they also made sure to protect those who have sworn to defend the citizens of this state by passing pro-law enforcement measures. Such measures include:
HB 9 - makes the action of knowingly obstructing the passage of an authorized emergency vehicle subject to criminal punishment, primarily affecting rioters.
HB 624 - increases the punishment for retaliation crimes committed against public servants.
HB 1900 - freezes property tax revenues and allows citizens to de-annex from certain municipalities attempting to defund their police departments.
HB 2366 - enhances criminal penalties for the use of laser pointers and creates an offense for the use of fireworks to harm or obstruct the police.
SB 23 - requires voter approval for certain counties seeking to reduce law enforcement budgets.
SB 22 - establishes a COVID-19 presumption for first responders and public safety personnel to ensure qualifying individuals who contracted the disease receive proper benefits.
Regarding education and classroom reform, in addition to maintaining funding levels from the 86th Session, the legislature also passed:
HB 1525 - improves the state's school finance system by directing over $2 billion to address public school costs for learning loss from COVID-19 and the February Winter Storm.
HB 3979 - eliminates Critical Race Theory (CRT) from Texas' classrooms. CRT is a radical curriculum which teaches students their only value is tied explicitly to their race and specifically targets white people as evil.
HB 2497 - establishes the 1836 Project as an advisory committee to promote patriotic education, increase awareness of Texas values and civic literacy, and create a better understanding of the importance of Texas' unique history.
HB 2681 - amends current law to allow students grade six and above (previously grade nine and above) to take an elective course on the Hebrew scriptures or the New Testament.
One education bill that overwhelmingly passed in the House but failed in the Senate was HB 764. This comprehensive legislation sought to overhaul the current assessment framework for Texas students and would have eliminated all non-federally mandated STAAR tests, removed the high stakes of end-of-course exams in high school, provided local control to school districts by allowing them to use the STAAR test or another accredited assessment model, reconfigured the assessment framework for special needs students, and addressed the need for flexibility on assessments should another disaster or emergency occur.
The legislature also worked to pass bills strengthening healthcare and expanding access to care and coverage for Texans. HB 4 broadly expands telemedicine services eligible for reimbursement, some of which include preventative health, case management, and physical therapy. Other healthcare bills passed include:
HB 2056 - allows for teledentistry practices, particularly for rural Texans.
HB 18 - lowers prescription costs for the uninsured and under-insured by establishing a fund for prescription rebates.
SB 1137 - clarifies pricing guidelines by requiring a hospital to disclose to the public certain health care cost information.
HB 119 - prohibits health care providers from denying organ transplant services to an individual based on their disability.
SB 827 - caps the co-pay for a 30-day supply of insulin at $25 to ensure accessibility for patients in need.
A number of other bills addressing ovarian cancer tests and Medicaid for pregnant women and children were also passed.
HB 428 - seeks to improve prevention and provide for earlier detection of ovarian cancer by assisting in covering costs for ovarian cancer tests.
HB 133 - continues the eligibility of women receiving Medicaid benefits during pregnancy for a six-month period after the birth of the child, and ultimately seeks to assist in addressing maternal mortality.
HB 2568 - provides for two consecutive six-month periods of Medicaid coverage for children. It also provides protection against abuse of the system by checking income eligibility.
For many Texans, religious liberty became increasingly concerning during COVID-19. To prevent this from occurring again, the legislature passed HB 1239, which ensures no church or house of worship is closed by government overreach. A constitutional amendment - SJR 27 - was also approved by the legislature but will need to be approved by voters come November. SJR 27 would allow Texas voters to decide whether to strengthen religious freedom by amending the Constitution to include a ban on local officials closing houses of worship.
Bills addressing the disaster of the winter storm and the discrepancies of the Texas' power grid were also passed this session. SB 3 reorganizes how we manage our power grid making multiple reforms to ensure Texas is prepared for future natural disasters, including establishing rules preventing lengthy rolling blackouts, creating a statewide power outage alert system, and providing for greater oversight of the Public Utility Commission (PUC).
Other passed legislation on Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the power grid includes:
SB 2 - reforms the governance of ERCOT by establishing residential requirements for members, requires industry-specific expertise for members, and creates a board member selection committee with representation appointed by the Governor and legislature.
HB 1510 - provides the funding mechanism necessary to ensure proper winterization of Texas power grid infrastructure.
HB 1520 - provides securitization financing for gas utilities to recover costs from the winter storm and requires a study of measures to assist in preventing similar future costs.
One of the issues that failed to pass this session was SB 7, the state's omnibus election integrity bill. Governor Abbott has stated his intentions to call the legislature back for a special session to address election integrity more robustly, along with other issues. That said, the legislature did pass several other components of election integrity, including funds dedicated in the state budget to secure voting machines and training for county election officials. Other bills are
Election integrity bills passed include:
HB 1128 - clarifies who may be lawfully present at a polling place, early voting ballot board and central counting stations.
HB 2283 - prohibits election administrators from accepting large donations from private individuals and organizations to administer elections.
HB 574 - increases the penalties for conducting fraudulent activity in elections.
HB 1264 - makes the process of removing deceased individuals from voter rolls more efficient.
"The convention of the 87th Legislative Session was threatened by COVID-19, Winter Storm Uri, and the forecast of a budget deficit. Despite such issues, legislators prevailed in not only addressing concerns from the pandemic and the winter storm but also cinched historic conservative victories. I am proud of the work accomplished this session and stand ready to tackle any upcoming special sessions deemed necessary," stated Rep. Jared Patterson. "There is still work to do, but the 87th Legislative Session was a strong start."
Jared Patterson represents House District 106, which encompasses the eastern portion of Denton County. During the 86th Legislative Session, Patterson authored and passed initiatives in policy areas such as transportation, education, property taxes, as well as eliminated unnecessary and burdensome government regulations. Patterson serves on the House Committees on Business & Industry, Calendars, and Homeland Security & Public Safety. He also serves on the Texas Cybersecurity Council. His family resides in Frisco.
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