It's that time of session where things move fast, and “if you don't stop and look around, you might miss something.” Things are about to get lost the in chaos as we begin the last lap of the 83rd Legislative Session. So far since the House debated the budget, the trend is for the House to adjourn hours before the Senate, but this could easily switch. The Senate has already passed out over 200 bills this session, while the longest calendar day in the House to date had a total of 8 eight bills on it. The House will hopefully pick up the pace, and in the meantime here's a few things to look out for:
HB 377 by Representative Burnam renames a part of I35W in Fort Worth to Cesar Chavez Memorial Freeway. This bill pushed through the House and was just received in the Senate yesterday. There has been some push back for reasons passing understanding regarding this bill. Even if the bill is placed on the intent calendar, it can sit there for weeks until the bill can pass the two-thirds vote to get onto the floor for debate.
Speaking of a bill that has been sitting in the Senate Intent Calendar for weeks, SB 537, has been there since April 2nd. This is the bill by Senator Deuell that essentially regulates away abortion in Texas. The bill makes abortion clinics comply with a hundred page statute making it an ambulatory surgery center. This will basically force all clinics in Texas, save five, to shutter their doors because they can't afford the compliance cost. If this bill goes to the floor, it will be because a Democrat let it happen. There are democrats in the Senate who are vulnerable to and have mixed voting history with this issue in the past.
Online voter registration, HB 313 had it's first hearing in House Elections yesterday. This bill is being carried by Representative Mark Strama working with Travis County elected officials including the newly elected Travis County Tax Assessor/Collector Bruce Elfant. The bill has some likelihood of passing, seeing there is a Republican joint author of the bill. It address the serious issue of access to voter registration by allowing for online voter registration in Texas. The best place to read about the bill, and any election updates is Michael Li's blog, Texas Redistricting and Election Law. Empower the Vote Texas is also a reliable source of legislative information.
Finally, HB 2019 is one of multiple legislative attempts to reign in the reckless payday lenders in Texas. Former Speaker and Dean of the Texas House of Representatives, Tom Craddick, a rare ally in progressive legislation, particularly one that regulates a business, is the author of the bill. The bill simply regulates the fees that payday lenders charge, not the interest rate, which is about 150 percent. Tom Craddick has a constituent, who took out a loan of $6,000 dollars for the funeral of a loved one. She has now paid over $12,000 to the payday lender, which is all kosher under current law. Craddick filed the legislation last session, along with Travis County Representative Eddie Rodriquez, but it died in committee. Senator Davis carried a companion bill a little further on the Senate side but it was removed from the intent calendar days before the end of session.