FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 30, 2019
(AUSTIN) — Almost ten percent of the 820 new laws that become effective on Sunday (Sept. 1) were authored or sponsored by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D- Laredo. They include 23 Senate Bills (SB) that she authored and 55 House Bills (HB) that she sponsored during the 2019 legislative session.
Her SB 38, for example, will significantly reform Texas' anti-hazing law in the aftermath of three fatal hazing-related incidents in the last two years. The new law defines coercion to consume a drug or alcohol as hazing, strengthens institutional reporting requirements and holds colleges and universities accountable for transparency on campus. It also facilitates the prosecution of perpetrators of hazing, ensuring persons face meaningful consequences for this behavior.
"I am delighted that after 14 years of trying to pass this critical legislation, we finally have taken a significant step toward eliminating hazing in our state," Senator Zaffirini said. "I will monitor the implementation of SB 38 and continue to support our colleges and universities in their efforts to end this horrific practice."
She passed 127 bills during the 2019 legislative session, breaking her personal record for the third consecutive session and passing more bills than any other legislator. Since 1987 she has sponsored and passed 1,160 bills and 36 substantive resolutions—more than any other legislator in Texas history.
"I believe this proves that lawmakers are actively working together to improve the lives of Texans regardless of their political affiliation. Very few bills are passed strictly along party lines, and I am grateful for the leadership of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, legislative colleagues and staff for making this session as cooperative and successful as it was," Senator Zaffirini said.
In addition to the senator's landmark hazing legislation, new laws taking effect this week will increase protections for vulnerable populations. Her SB 31, for example, created the Guardianship Abuse, Fraud and Deterrence program, which will help prevent the exploitation of persons who need a legal guardian because they cannot care for themselves. It enables the Office of Court Administration to hire auditors and establish an electronic database to review all guardianship cases to ensure compliance with state laws.
"We developed this legislation after hearing testimony about terrible physical and financial abuse that went undiscovered for years," the senator said. "I hope with this additional support, oversight of guardianship cases will be more effective, precluding further harm."
She continued her efforts to promote access to justice by passing SB 41, which encourages appointing pro bono attorneys for low-income Texans. What’s more, legislation the senator sponsored will increase the damages that may be awarded to elderly victims of Internet-based fraud (HB 883).
As a member of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, Senator Zaffirini protected her constituents' economic interests by passing HB 2697, which addresses "coerced debt" by providing victims of family violence and financial abuse tools to repair their credit and more easily leave abusive situations; and a package of bills (HB 2624, HB 2625 and HB 2945) to address credit card skimming, a constant issue for Texas consumers and businesses alike.
The senator also improved health and human services for Texans by creating a pilot program to allow children to accompany their mothers who rely on Medicaid transportation services (HB 25); clarifying that women may express breast milk at public sites where they can breastfeed, facilitating their earlier return to work after giving birth (HB 541); and ensuring that defendants who may have a mental illness or intellectual disability are interviewed timely by an expert (HB 601).
Additional legislation passed by Senator Zaffirini this session authorizes legal aid services for veterans and establishes the Texas Veterans County Service Officer Task Force to better leverage local resources (SB 2104); and encourages proper recycling and reduces contamination, as well as addressing market demand for recyclables (SB 649).
"Even after 32 years of serving in the Senate, my constituents continue to amaze me," remarked Senator Zaffirini. "Some of my most successful legislation began with suggestions made by constituents. They can count on me to listen to their suggestions and develop additional legislation for the next legislative session that convenes in January, 2021."
Senator Zaffirini is Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development and a member of the Administration, State Affairs and Business and Commerce committees. She also serves on the Texas Judicial Council and the Texas Access to Justice Commission.
Her legendary work ethic is reflected in her 100 percent perfect attendance in the Texas Senate since 1987, except for breaking quorum deliberately to prevent an untimely re-redistricting that the U.S. Supreme Court (2006) ruled violated the Voting Rights Act and disenfranchised voters in SD 21. Continuing her career-long 100 percent voting record, she has cast more than 64,000 consecutive votes.
SEVENTY-EIGHT NEW LAWS that take effect on Sept. 1 were authored or sponsored by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. They include measures to combat hazing and credit card skimming, increase access to justice, improve health and human services, protect the vulnerable and enhance consumer protections.