Legislative Highlights and Rainy Day Fund

March 29, 2017


Firearms – Yesterday, my committee heard two constitutional carry bills that allow the unlicensed carry of a holstered handgun where licenses are now required. We had over 300 attend to testify. Those who registered a position were almost equally distributed “for” and “against”. The hearing began at 8 am and concluded at about 9 pm. As you might imagine, there are very strong opinions on both sides of this issue.

Transgender Bathroom Legislation – I have received many, many calls, emails and Facebook messages about the “bathroom bill.” Bottom line, I don’t want any male going into the restroom with my wife, daughters or granddaughters. Period. Although this hasn’t occurred in Parker or Wise county schools, it is particularly offensive that a public school would intermix males and females in locker rooms and restrooms. I will vote “for” legislation that prohibits this in public schools and government buildings.

Voter ID – The voter ID bill, SB 5, passed the Senate this week. This will ensure integrity at the ballot box and comply with recent court rulings. I am the House sponsor of this bill and expect a hearing soon. The courts have struck down previous versions passed by the Texas Legislature.

License to Carry Fee, CSHB 300 – I am the House sponsor of this bill which is intended to lessen the burden on individuals who wish to obtain a license to carry a handgun. The bill passed out of my committee, Homeland Security and Public Safety, yesterday. It will decrease the application fee from $140 (3rd highest in the nation) and the renewal fee of $70 each to $40 (which is the actual cost to the state).

Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, CSHB 200 – House Bill 200 bans partial-birth abortions and prohibits the sale of fetal tissues and organs. While partial-birth abortions are banned by federal law, state prosecutors cannot enforce federal law; this provides an enforcement mechanism for Texas to prosecute those who perform partial-birth abortions. House Bill 200 establishes a statewide ban on the sale of fetal tissue.

Anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanction, CSHB 89 – I am the House sponsor of this legislation. It prohibits the local and state government from investing public funds in companies that boycott Israel and from contracting with companies that boycott Israel. The bill passed out of the State Affairs committee today with no opposition.

Sudan, Iran, House Bill 1142 – This legislation strengthens existing state sanctions against Sudan, Iran and foreign terrorist organizations. It updates state contract law to prohibit government entities from contracting with companies engaged in active business operations with Sudan, Iran or a foreign terrorist organization. Aligns government entity contracting laws to protect American values.

Sanctuary Cities, SB 4Last week the House Committee on State Affairs heard SB 4 which would outlaw sanctuary cities. A “sanctuary” city is the common term for local governments that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities in the enforcement of immigration law. Over 600 witnesses signed up to testify with the hearing going until after midnight. Banning sanctuary cities is on the list of emergency items by declared by Governor Greg Abbott and we expect this legislation to be signed into law sometime in May.


One thing you’re sure to hear about during the remainder of the 85th Session is the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), commonly known as our “Rainy Day Fund.” I thought it might be helpful to provide a little background information about the ESF leading up to these conversations.

The ESF was first established in the late 1980s as a result of the economic crisis in Texas caused in large part by a sharp decline in the oil industry. Facing a severe cash deficit, Texas voters approved an amendment to the Texas Constitution to create the ESF, effectively a savings account for the State of Texas. The goal of this fund was to save money for the future in case Texas ever faced another cash shortfall. The ESF is funded by Oil Production and Natural Gas Production tax revenues, one-half of any unencumbered General Revenue surplus (a revenue surplus that does not have any claims against it) at the end of each biennium, and interest earned on the ESF balance.

Today, 46 states have some version of an ESF, but since everything is bigger in the Lone Star State, Texas holds the largest. Our ESF balance for Fiscal Year 2016 is approximately $9.7 billion, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. So, what does that mean for the 85th Legislature?

Well, proposals have been floated that would spend some money from the ESF. Though not unprecedented, it is something that has not been done since 2005. Unlike bills that require a simple majority (50 percent plus one) to pass, expenditures from the ESF require a higher threshold: either a three-fifths vote of members present in both chambers in some circumstances or a two-thirds vote of members present in others. Either way, it is a difficult (though not impossible) threshold to clear.

Be looking for what will be strenuous discussion of the ESF as we begin the budget debate next week on the House floor.