P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1, 2015
AUSTIN – The 84th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature has adjourned sine die after fulfilling its constitutional duties to pass a state budget and consider changes to state law. The 140-day session, which began on January 13, 2015, included extensive debate on education, transportation, tax relief, health and human services and a wide range of other issues.
"We passed a responsible budget that makes wise investments in transportation, education, and border security as well. We provided much-needed tax relief to businesses and homeowners. We made our government more accountable and transparent, and we took significant steps to make our health and human services agencies more efficient," said Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. "This session we addressed our most pressing challenges and made decisions that will help Texas rise to greater economic heights."
Following is a report on Senator Nelson's legislation and its status in the legislative process:
State Appropriations Bill: HB 1, the state appropriations bill, is our two-year state budget, which addresses our needs in a fiscally responsible manner -- growing by 3 percent over the current budget when adjusted for tax relief. "Our state budget responsibly meets our growing needs while addressing our priority issues, including education, border security and transportation. This budget will keep Texas strong and prosperous." Status: Sent to Governor.
Property Tax Relief: SB 1 increases the homestead exemption for school district property taxes from $15,000 to $25,000, providing $1.2 billion in property tax relief over the biennium for Texas homeowners. "Our economy is producing sufficient revenue to meet our needs and return a substantial portion of those dollars back to the taxpayers. Texas homeowners are shouldering a disproportionate amount of the overall tax burden, and they deserve a much-needed break." Status: Sent to Governor.
Franchise Tax Relief: HB 32 reduces the franchise tax on Texas businesses by 25 percent, increases the revenue threshold for businesses to use the E-Z rate from $10 million to $20 million and reduces the E-Z rate from .575 percent to .331 percent. It would provide $2.56 billion in tax relief to businesses over the biennium. "For our economy to continue to thrive, for businesses to grow and for jobs to be created, we have to support our businesses. This is a smart investment, not just for our economy but also to ensure that our state keeps producing jobs and opportunities for our citizens." Status: Sent to Governor.
Supplemental Appropriations: HB 2 provides supplemental appropriations for the 2014-2015 budget, including $768 million for TRS-Care, the state's health care plan for retired teachers, continuing Medicaid and border security operations. "Because we have a two-year budget, we rely heavily on estimated costs and revenue. This legislation aligns our current budget with the fiscal reality. As a former teacher, I'm proud that this legislation will help us meet our commitment to retired teachers, who deserve our support for their invaluable service to this state." Status: Sent to Governor.
Zero-Based Budgeting: HB 5 requires that state agencies undergo a zero-based budgeting review at the same time they are undergoing sunset review. "Even though this legislation did not become law, we will continue to work over the interim to ensure that the budgets of state agencies undergo a deep scrubbing." Status: Left In Conference Committee.
General Revenue Dedicated Account Reform: HB 7 reduces the state's reliance on General Revenue-Dedicated accounts for budget certification, increasing transparency in the budget process and ensuring fees are spent on intended purposes. It also provides $250 million in tax relief through repealing occupations taxes. "When we dedicate revenue for specific purposes, those funds should be put to use as intended – not stashed away in reserves. This bill will reduce our reliance on dedicated accounts and provide for greater transparency in the budget process." Status: Sent to Governor.
Graduate Medical Education: SB 18 addresses Texas' medical workforce needs by expanding graduate medical education in our state. "A strong health care workforce is key to a healthy Texas, and this bill will help ensure that Texas-trained doctors are able to finish their training and continue their careers in Texas. By working towards a goal of a 1.1 to 1 ratio of residency slots for medical school graduates, we will not only retain our own graduates, but also attract graduates from other states to help meet shortages in regions and critical specialties." Status: Sent to Governor.
State Contracting Reform: SB 20 reforms state contracting practices and strengthen contract oversight across state government. "Texas citizens rely on state contracts to receive services they need, and we must ensure that those contracts are awarded fairly and transparently. This legislation will protect taxpayer resources and make our agencies more transparent." Status: Sent to Governor.
Veterans Mental Health Grant Program: SB 55 creates a grant program at the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to support community programs for veterans mental health. "While Texas has several programs to help veterans, the program created in SB 55 is truly unique because the state will partner with communities and the private sector. We will be able to tailor these programs to the needs of each community. More importantly, we will be helping our fighting men and women heal from the psychological wounds of war." Status: Sent to Governor.
Texas Council on Family Violence Funding: SB 59 ensures that funds appropriated to help family violence victims reach Texas shelters more efficiently. "Our shelters should not have to go through this much bureaucratic red tape in order to receive the funding they need to assist victims of domestic violence. I want to ensure that the funding we approve reaches these organizations swiftly and efficiently." Status: Sent to Governor.
Child Advocacy Center Clarification: SB 60 aligns Child Advocacy Center (CAC) statutes with current best practices, clarifies that victim interviews can be conducted offsite and prohibits the distribution of victim interviews to unauthorized parties. "By ensuring our laws line up with current practices, we will strengthen our ability to protect and help child victims of abuse." Status: Sent to Governor.
Health and Human Services Sunset: SB 200 is the Sunset legislation for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and reorganizes Texas' five health and human services agencies. "This legislation is critically needed to help our most vulnerable citizens navigate what is currently a confusing system with blurred lines of accountability and similar programs spread across five independent agencies. The new structure will better serve the needs of Texans who rely on these important services." Status: Sent to Governor.
Department of State Health Services Sunset: SB 202 is the Sunset legislation for the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), which eliminates unneeded regulation and allows DSHS to squarely focus on its core public health mission. "By de-regulating several occupational licensures and transferring others to different agencies, we will help this department focus squarely on its core mission of public health" Status: Sent to Governor.
Texas Health Services Authority Sunset: SB 203 is the Sunset legislation for the Texas Health Services Authority (THSA), which would continue THSA as a state agency for six years before allowing it to function as a private non-profit entity. "The Texas Health Services Authority has been very successful in promoting the establishment of electronic health exchanges that lead to better coordinated care and higher quality care. By keeping it in statute for six more years, we will ensure it is ready to take the next step in its development." Status: Signed by the Governor.
Cremation Waiver: SB 292 authorizes physicians to waive the 48-hour waiting period for cremation to assist grieving families who wish to cremate loved ones within 48 hours. "This bill protects religious freedoms and eliminates unnecessary red tape for grieving families who wish to mourn in accordance with their beliefs." Status: Sent to Governor.
Camelot Landfill: HB 281 states that, in addition to going through the normal process at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, a city-owned landfill located entirely within another municipality's jurisdiction must obtain the consent of that municipality in order to expand. "My constituents believe – and I agree wholeheartedly – that it is profoundly unfair to have one city's will imposed upon another concerning a landfill within its own jurisdiction." Status: Sent to Governor.
Respectful Burial: HB 635 ensures parents who have experienced a miscarriage have the option to give their child a respectful burial, regardless of the age of the fetus. "Every parent who experiences a miscarriage should have the opportunity to provide their child with a respectful burial." Status: Sent to Governor.
Mondragon Highway: HB 1044 names a segment of FM 423 in Denton County the U.S. Army Sergeant Enrique Mondragon Memorial Highway, to honor U.S. Army Sergeant Enrique Mondragon who died in Afghanistan in the line of duty in 2012. "I hope this memorial will serve as a reminder to the residents of Denton County of the ultimate sacrifice our troops make to secure our liberty and freedom." Status: Sent to Governor.
Tuition Reimbursement: HB 3337 requires a state agency to establish rules for employee tuition reimbursement payments, increasing transparency and accountability for tuition reimbursement payments for state employees. "While state employees should have professional development opportunities, there needs to be more transparency and clear policies in place on how employees are reimbursed." Status: Sent to Governor.
To search legislation, visit the Texas Legislature online at www.capitol.state.tx.us.
EDITOR'S NOTE: All quotes in the capsules above are attributable to Senator Nelson.