A Record of Success in the 85Th Session
Overall, 12 of the bills I filed or sponsored made it to the Governor’s desk, and an additional two bills survived as amendments to other bills. In total, 14 of the ideas I worked on passed the Legislature and have been signed by the Governor. In a session during which only 19.7% of House Bills passed, over half of the bills I worked on made it. I’d call that a successful session for House District 129!
HB 302 – Second Amendment protection
Under Texas law, law-abiding adults are permitted to keep firearms in their homes and vehicles. This law is intended to make sure Texans are able to protect themselves at home or as they travel. Unfortunately, not everyone has been able to take advantage of this legal protection. Although the law protects you in your car and in your home, it does not in all instances protect you in transit between those two points. Some residential landlords have been skirting the intent of the law by placing what are known as “30.06 signs” at the entrances of their apartment or condominium complexes. A sign, which is a reference to the Texas Penal Code, prohibits the carrying of handguns. The use of these signs in this manner effectively criminalizes an apartment renter carrying their handgun from their car to their home. Whether you own or rent, no law should deny a person the right to self-defense in their home. That’s why I authored and passed into law House Bill 302, which will close this loophole in state law.
HB 303 – Houston Space Port
In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration granted a license to the Houston Airport System to operate a commercial spaceport at Ellington Field. The Houston Spaceport will be used for astronaut training, zero gravity experimentation, and spacecraft manufacturing, and launching microsatellites.
Only spaceport development corporations created under the auspices of state law are eligible to receive funding from the Spaceport Trust Fund. The Houston Airport System was ineligible to create a spaceport development corporation because of a requirement in law for cities to partner with counties to form the corporation.
Because the City of Houston, which has the financial resources to independently develop a commercial spaceport, and which fully owns and operates the Houston Spaceport, had no mechanism to access the Spaceport Trust Fund, I authored and passed House Bill 303, which will allow the Houston Airport System to independently create a spaceport development corporation. This legislation is a crucial step in the development of Houston1’’s next great space endeavor.
HB 304 – Taxing District Reform
Municipal management districts are special taxing districts that were created to improve blighted areas within a city. While property owners within these districts tend to agree with the stated goals of these districts, there is a concern about a lack of oversight. House Bill 304, which I authored and passed into law, makes several changes to the statute governing these districts to improve transparency and property owner involvement. While the legislation made many changes to the management of these districts, there are two main highlights:
- Allows property owners to have a voice in who serves on the boards of directors for these districts
- Lowers the voter threshold to dissolve a district that is no longer needed
HB 305 – Local Government Transparency
One of the things legislators hear all the time is that if people are unhappy about their property taxes, they should go talk to their local officials. The problem is, in many cases, people can’t even find out who those local elected officials are. There is no accountability in that.
To address this problem, I authored and passed into law House Bill 305, which will require local governments that levy taxes and that maintain a public website to post the following information online:
• A mailing address
• A phone number
• An email address
• Officeholder names
• The date and location of the next election
• Information on how to run for office
This came about from a constituent who was frustrated that in today’s internet age, he was unable to find even basic information about some of his local taxing authorities, like who the board members are or when the next election will be held. It was my honor to tackle a problem brought to me by a constituent and to get the bill across the finish line.
House Bill 1552 – Red Tape Cleanup for Retired Law Enforcement
A portion of Texas law is in conflict with the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA). This has caused confusion and has caused some retired federal law enforcement officers, or former out-of-state officers who have moved to Texas, to be denied the firearms qualification certificate needed to be able to carry a concealed firearm as a peace officer. My House Bill 1552, which has been passed into law, reconciles Texas law with LEOSA to eliminate much confusion in the law enforcement community.
House Bill 2320 and 3365 – Storm emergency reforms
As Hurricane Harvey pulverized the gulf coast with its wind and flooded Houston with its rain, everyday citizens came together to show the rest of the world what “Texas tough” really means. Throughout the recovery process, we learned what worked and what could be improved.
The Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas made several recommendations to better prepare Texas for the next major disaster. My House Bill 2320, which was passed into law, directs the Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) to:
- Collaborate with public and private entities that provide communications services during a disaster to determine the availability of portable cell phone towers and satellite communications equipment that can be deployed immediately following a disaster
- Locate and identify methods of hardening from natural disasters infrastructure critical to the State of Texas
- Produce a report to the legislature on improving the oversight, accountability and availability of building trade services following a disaster
Another takeaway from Hurricane Harvey was the need to expand the state’s existing Good Samaritan laws to cover volunteers who provide assistance during a declared disaster. I was made aware of this problem by Matthew Marchetti of Crowdsource Rescue, which was created literally overnight during the height of Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts. Crowdsource uses GPS tracking to match individuals in need of rescue with rescue volunteer. My House Bill 3365 extends the current civil immunity in state law to provide protection to emergency management agencies that request civilian help with response to a disaster. The bill also extends protection to any civilian or charitable organization that responds to the call to help.