My first bills passed the Texas Senate; plus, key bills to protect kids, stop rogue prosecutors, ensure Texas’ water supply

April 10, 2023

Improving the Texas Grid:  My First Three Bills Pass the Texas Senate

On Tuesday, the first three bills that I authored passed the Senate, all crafted to help improve the reliability and security of the Texas grid.  I’ve written to you about these bills in detail in my March 12th newsletter:

  • SB 1287 will cap the cost that is passed on to electricity customers on their electric bill, limiting the amount you will pay for the power generation company’s transmission lines.
  • SB 2014 will take away the mandatory subsidy that Texas electricity customers are currently paying for renewable energy. ERCOT is approaching 50,000 MW of renewable generation and this subsidy is no longer necessary. The program will continue on a voluntary basis.
  • SB 2015 states that beginning in 2024, at least 50% of all new energy generation produced must be dispatchable, meaning it’s “ready to go” and not dependent on the weather.

These bills were passed as part of the Texas Senate’s Power Grid Reform Package, which includes a total of nine critical bills to prioritize dispatchable generation and ensure grid reliability.  For example, SB 6 establishes the Texas Energy Insurance Program and SB 7 creates a new ancillary service for dispatchable generators.  

On Monday, I laid out three electricity-related measures – the first bills I authored – and I’m pleased to report that all were adopted by the Texas Senate.  

Providing Water for Texas’ Growing Population:  Senate passes SB 28

The population in Texas has been growing at a breakneck pace, and we must be prepared with water resources needed to sustain this growth.  By 2070, the population is expected to grow by another 70% from 29.7 million in 2020 to nearly 51.5 million people in 2070.

Last Monday, SB 28 passed the Senate. This bill establishes the Texas Water Fund and the New Water Supply Fund which will create a solid future for water infrastructure and supply in the state. With this action, Texas is demonstrating long-term thinking to ensure our grandkids – and their kids – have the water they will need.   

With our booming population, Texas must plan ahead so we have the water we need for residential homes, businesses, farming, ranching and a host of other needs. SB 28 is an important step that will need to be approved by voters in a November constitutional referendum.

Banning Government Vaccine Mandates

Last Monday, we passed SB 29 which would prohibit any state entity, state agency, or local governmental entity from implementing, ordering, or otherwise imposing a mandate, regardless of variant, that would:

  • Require an individual to wear a facemask or face covering to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
  • Require an individual to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
  • Require the closure of a private business, school, open enrollment charter school, or private school to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Protecting Children:  Banning Drag Shows Where Children Are Present

We’ve seen the outrageous examples, and we’ve watched in horror as these incidents seem to grow: inappropriate, sexually-themed drag shows where children are present.  It’s frankly disheartening that we’ve reached a point where legislators have to address this matter, but that is where we are. As a result, we are taking action. 

SB 12, passed last week, would impose fines on businesses who present sexually themed performances to children.  SB 12 will levy a $10,000 fine on businesses that host drag shows considered sexually oriented where children are present. Performers violating the proposed restriction would also face a Class A misdemeanor, which could result in up to a year in jail, a $4,000 fine or both.

We also passed SB 1601, which will deny funding to municipal libraries that host drag story time performances in front of children.

Making Texas Safer, Ensuring Justice, Stopping Rogue Judges and Prosecutors

Last week we passed a series of bills to strengthen our criminal justice system and crack down on violent criminals.

First, SB 20 addresses the trend of some Texas prosecutors who adopt internal policies refusing to prosecute certain laws. SB 20 bars prosecuting attorneys from refusing to prosecute a class or type of criminal offense, other than to comply with an injunction, judgment, or order issued by a court.  A prosecuting attorney who violates these provisions commits “official misconduct” and would be subject to removal.

Next, SB 21 addresses certain judges who are abusing their judicial discretion, completely disregarding the law to carry out their personal political agenda.  SB 21 would expand the Legislature and Commission on Judicial Conduct’s ability to investigate a judge when there is persistent or willful violation of the process for setting bail.  The bill would also establish a more expedient review of complaints submitted to the commission regarding judicial misconduct and limit a judge’s ability to serve as a visiting judge if they have received multiple sanctions from the commission.

Finally, under SB 23, criminals who use a gun during a violent crime will receive a minimum ten-year mandatory sentence. 

Cracking Down on Catalytic Converter Theft

Catalytic converters are legally required in Texas and all other states, and theft of these devices – which can be removed in less than a minute – continues to be a huge problem.  Thieves target these devices because they contain precious metals such as palladium, rhodium and platinum, which are worth thousands of dollars per ounce. 

To provide law enforcement with another tool to combat catalytic converter theft rings, we unanimously passed SB 224, the Darren Almendarez Act. This bill makes catalytic converter theft a state jail felony under the criminal mischief statute if a motor vehicle is damaged, destroyed, or tampered with during the removal or attempted removal of a catalytic converter. To underscore the urgency of this problem, we passed an amendment to make this bill go into effect immediately as soon as it is passed by the Texas House.   

Honoring the Texas State Guard in the Senate

It’s been a privilege and an honor to serve in the Texas State Guard for many years. This week, the senior leadership class of the Texas State Guard was in Austin learning about the legislative and budget process as part of their senior leaders course. The Texas State Guard provides help for our citizens during emergencies and disasters, as well as assisting with border security and community service. It began in 1941 and is the largest federally-authorized state defense force in the country.

Banning Ranked Choice Voting

A disturbing trend over the last few years has been the emergence of “Ranked Choice Voting”, whereby voters rank candidates in order of preference which eliminates the need for a runoff election in the event no one receives a majority.  If none of the candidates were chosen as the number one pick by a majority of voters in the first round, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated from the ballot. People who selected that lowest-performing candidate as their top pick would automatically have their votes changed to their second choice. Then the scores would be repeatedly recalculated until one of the candidates finally won a majority as the second, third, or even fourth choice of voters.  This could lead to a scenario where a voter’s ballot might wind up being cast for the candidate he ranked far below his first choice—someone for whom he would never support in a traditional voting system.  

Ranked Choice Voting is fraught with problems, including ballots being thrown out when voters fail to rank all candidates and their first choice is eliminated.  It’s confusing, and allows candidates to win who are not supported by a majority of voters. That is why last week the Senate passed SB 921, which bans Ranked Choice Voting in Texas.  Both the Texas Republican Party and the Republican National Committee have passed resolutions opposing Ranked Choice Voting.

This week, students from Trinity Christian Academy were at the capitol and prayed for me.   Such an encouragement!

Cheryl and David Barton (left) and their son Tim Barton (right) were in town last week.   David and Tim testified in support of my “Ten Commandments” legislation, which I will outline in a future newsletter.