FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 19, 2015
(AUSTIN) — Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, passed 102 bills during the 2015 legislative session, breaking her personal record and passing more bills during the session than any other legislator. As the Senate's top bill passer, she passed 44 Senate bills and 58 House bills, surpassing by 19 the next most productive senator and bringing her total bills passed to 897.
"This session we enjoyed many productive opportunities to make a positive difference for the families of Senate District 21 and our great state," she said. "We achieved legislative success in a wide array of policy areas, including not only education and health and human services, but also public safety, natural resources, justice and the judiciary, veterans and local issues."
"As members of the minority party, Democrats have to work harder to pass legislation and to have an impact on major issues, and we did." Senator Zaffirini added. "We can succeed only with strong bipartisan support. Those who considered this impossible were wrong.”
Senator Zaffirini passed legislation in a wide variety of areas, including some new ones. Her legislative victories this session include passing bills increasing access to justice for Texans who cannot afford to hire attorneys, improving training and transparency for higher education governing boards, addressing cargo and oil and gas theft, facilitating organ donation, protecting persons with disabilities from abuse and neglect and reversing the indefensible practice of requiring parents to relinquish their parental rights before securing mental health services for their children.
She also passed nine bills to address corruption, abuse, and cronyism in Texas' system for appointing attorneys and guardians ad litem. (A list of legislative highlights follows.)
"I file legislation that is important to my district and our state, and every bill is important to someone," Senator Zaffirini said. "What's more, some of my best legislation was suggested by constituents, and I encourage all Texans to participate in the policymaking process."
Not all of Senator Zaffirini's 2015 legislation passed this session. Another fourteen were passed by the Senate, but died in the House of Representatives. Her biggest disappointment was falling one vote short of passing legislation allowing Texas to join the 46 other states that prohibit texting while driving.
"The key to productivity in the Texas Senate is hard work and persistence," Senator Zaffirini said. "Many bills don't pass until the second or third try. This was the fourth consecutive session I've filed a texting ban bill, and the 2017 session will be my fifth.
"My staff and I already are working with stakeholders and constituents to improve bills that didn't pass and develop new ones for the session that convenes on Jan. 10, 2017.
"We hope to continue my tradition of filing the first bills for the session, allowing us to hit the ground running.”
Senate’s top bill-passer (102 bills—44 SBs, 58 HBs; Senator Kevin Eltife was second with 86.).
Set another national record, having cast more than 55,000 consecutive votes in the Texas Senate, never having missed a vote since January, 1987.
Served on committees important to her district: State Affairs; Health and Human Services; Natural Resources; and Vice Chair, Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs.
Elected Senate Chair of the Eagle Ford Shale Legislative Caucus.
While her legislative agenda continued to focus on early childhood and higher education and on health and human services, she expanded into new areas of interest:
Access to Justice
- Passed two bills to increase access to justice by creating simple, standardized forms for landlord-tenant disputes, wills, and other basic legal matters. These will benefit low-income Texans who cannot afford to hire attorneys and enhance the efficiency of courts.
Ad Litem Attorneys and Guardians
- Passed nine bills to address the corruption, abuse, and cronyism that have been publicized for more than 20 years. Her legislation will enhance transparency and accountability by requiring reporting of appointments; using a rotation system for appointments; strengthening alternatives to guardianship; and protecting persons under guardianship, including by safe keeping their assets, ensuring access to their interested spouses and children, and defending them from those with adverse interests.
- Continuing her efforts (since 1995) to reform state contracting, authored four bills to improve management, efficiency, and transparency at every stage of the process, including planning, procurement, contract formation, and oversight. When her top three bills died in House Calendars, she attached them as amendments to Rep. John Otto’s HB 15, which also died. The effort will continue in 2017.
- Passed HB 2634, eliminating a loophole that reduced competitive bidding for construction projects.
- Passed SB 1828, creating the offense of cargo theft, which is so prevalent that Texas ranks #1 in violations that previously could not be prosecuted effectively.
- Passed HB 1424, increasing the penalties for manufacturing or distributing synthetic marijuana, an addictive substance that poses serious health risks.
- Passed HB 388, closing a loophole to ensure that family violence victims receive needed protections after a perpetrator is released from prison.
Health and Human Services
- Passed SB 1889, reversing the indefensible practice of requiring parents to relinquish their parental rights before securing mental health services for their children and then listing them as neglectful for doing so.
- Passed her sixth bill related to organ donations, facilitating more donations.
- Passed SB 1880, ensuring persons with disabilities served by managed care organizations are protected from abuse, neglect and exploitation.
- Passed HB 1428, enhancing the ability of persons with disabilities to become homeowners.
- Passed HB 504, establishing Direct Support Professionals Week to pay tribute to these workers' important contributions to our state.
- Passed SB 24, improving training for members of higher education system governing boards.
- Passed SB 27, ensuring that conference call meetings of higher education governing boards are broadcast over the Internet.
- Passed SB 947, calling for a study of private-sector work study opportunities.
- Passed SB 1714, allowing institutions to automate the exchange of information for reverse transfer degree awards.
- Passed HB 3291, addressing the serious issue of theft of oil and gas.
- Authored pre-k legislation prioritized by Gov. Greg Abbott. Eventually sponsored by Senator Campbell, the legislation is an important first step in ensuring more Texas families have access to high-quality early childhood education. Senator Zaffirini successfully amended the bill to include data collection provisions that will help the state further enhance early education programs.
- Authored and passed legislation clarifying that students 18-22 years old who receive special education services do not count against a school's performance measures, which will encourage more schools to offer the services.
- Passed HB 1430, providing students interested in public service information about careers in the field of mental health.
Public Safety & Security
- Authored and passed a package of cybersecurity bills that would enhance the security of data in the state's information technology system.
- Passed HB 229, helping ensure that law enforcement agencies have the vehicles and equipment they need to address crime along the Texas-Mexico border.
- Passed a package of cybersecurity bills, enhancing the security of data in the state's information technology system.
- Continuing her multi-session effort to improve government efficiency and transparency, passed SB 1844, laying the groundwork for improving how agencies share data online with the public.
- Passed HB 1584, supporting Texas' funds for veterans’ assistance.
- Passed SB 1879, ensuring that donations to those funds are used where they are needed the most.
- Championed bipartisan legislation to keep the San Marcos River clean, safe and enjoyable for all while protecting private property rights.
- Passed HB 2861, establishing an overweight vehicle corridor to move cargo efficiency and reduce traffic congestion and stopped vehicles.
- Passed HB 716, helping San Patricio County police officers enforce commercial vehicle regulations.
- Passed HB 1422, facilitating the development of San Patricio County's rail infrastructure, which is critical to the county's economic development efforts.
- Passed two bills naming portions of highways in Atascosa and McMullen counties for fallen law enforcement officers.
- Passed HB 3615, allowing the City of San Marcos to use its hotel tax to defray the cost of hosting sporting events that boost the local economy.