Home Stretch:  Solid Conservative Wins, End of Life Protections, Protecting Small Business, Free State Park Access for Veterans…and more!

May 21, 2023

We are approaching the last week of the 88th Legislative Session which ends on Memorial Day – one week from tomorrow.  
Senators, Representatives and their staff have been working long days; in fact, we are in session today on Sunday. Bills important to members are dying, so frustrations can be high and patience is in short supply. Tensions between the Senate and House rise to the surface, as good people have different approaches on how to address issues facing our great state. I’ve seen the end of sessions play out many times throughout my years as a legislator, and this is not uncommon. 

No doubt there is important work to be done, but legislation is getting passed. Here’s a look at some movement on some of those bills.  

Gender Modification Ban Passes – On to the Governor’s Desk

After initially passing the Texas Senate, on Monday the Texas House passed SB 14, our bill to ban gender modification procedures on minors. The bill came back to the Senate for a final vote on Wednesday, and the bill is now on its way to the Governor’s desk. The testimony I heard related to this issue from those impacted by these procedures was disturbing and sobering. I’m very pleased that we have drawn a line in the sand, making clear that Texas will not allow dangerous, unproven medical practices on vulnerable children. 

Save Women’s College Sports Legislation Passes, Also On to the Governor

After receiving final passage last week, SB 15 is ready for the Governor’s signature. I’ve kept you updated on the progress of this bill, which bans the practice of biological men seeking to unfairly compete against women in college athletics. Last session, as a House member I voted to ban this practice up to the high school level, but we have seen proliferation of this problem at the collegiate level.

If you haven’t followed this issue closely, please listen to testimony of Riley Gaines, a former collegiate swimmer who was a 12-time NCAA All-American and 5-time SEC Champion. I’ve provided this link before, but am doing so again as she provides powerful, compelling information on why this legislation was needed. Please go to 1:40:00 at the following link here.

Senate Passes Texas Regulatory Consistency Act

On Monday, we began the week by passing HB 2127, a key bill to bring fairness, predictability, and consistency to the regulatory process faced by businesses across Texas.
Even with Texas’ reputation as a pro-business haven, some businesses are facing increased costs related to navigating a patchwork of new regulations passed by different cities. In fact, would you be surprised to learn that some large municipalities are using subpoena power to harass local businesses? This is far outside the appropriate role of local government. 
Because of the costs incurred with this growing regulatory intrusion, some companies have even had to resort to laying off employees. Large companies have more of an ability to withstand these costs, but small businesses are significantly impacted. In fact, this bill was the top legislative priority of the Texas Chapter of NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business), which represents small “mom and pop” operations most severely impacted by this disturbing trend of government overreach. 
The Texas Regulatory Consistency Act ensures that municipalities “stay in their lane” and within the constraints prescribed and outlined by the constitution. The bill makes clear that cities can’t have an ordinance that is in conflict with our state constitution, giving local job creators greater confidence in the regulatory landscape. At the same time, local governments will retain clear authority to regulate traditionally local matters; just a few examples include zoning, public safety, employment and housing discrimination, emergency management, fireworks and fire suppression, flood control and drainage, drought and water restrictions.
I actually carried similar legislation in the Texas House last session; however, it died in the final days of the session when Democrats called a point of order to kill it, then fled the state. I look forward to this legislation taking effect later this fall after the governor’s signature.

Landmark Legislation to Ensure Protections and Life Sustaining Treatment for Hospitalized Patients

Sometimes, legislation that has significant impact doesn’t receive the headlines or attention warranted, and I believe this is the case with HB 3162 which has now passed both chambers.
Currently, if a doctor determines that a patient’s life-sustaining medical treatment is “medically inappropriate” and an ethics committee at the hospital agrees, the patient and their family are given 10 calendar days to find a new health care provider. If the family is not successful, the treatment keeping their relative alive can be stopped against their will. You will no doubt remember the 2019 case of Tinslee Lewis (“Baby Tinslee”), a nine-month-old baby with a rare heart condition given only 10 days to live. The courts intervened, her life was sparred, and she is still alive today.
This legislation amends the Texas Advance Directives Act to provide patients on life sustaining treatment – and their families advocating for them – with new rights.  Here are some of the key provisions:

  • Instead of only 10 days, families will now have 25 days to make a transfer for their loved one;
  • Hospitals must perform a procedure necessary to facilitate a transfer before the 25 day countdown may begin;
  • “Quality of life” may no longer be used as a criteria when making decisions about continuing treatment, as this tactic can be used to make arbitrary judgements concerning the elderly or disabled;
  • When hospital ethics committees are meeting, families must be provided at least 7 calendar days notice and be allowed to participate in the meeting;
  • Life sustaining treatment can’t be withheld from a patient capable of communication;
  • Hospitals now have reporting requirements on the dispute resolution process; this information will be made publicly available on the Texas Department of Health and Human Services website 

As a legislator, I’ve been faced with this issue for at least 20 years, and a solution has been elusive. I’m grateful that progress has finally been made to ensure that patients and their families will soon have greater protection during a very stressful and emotional time. 

Increasing Criminal Penalties for Fentanyl Abuse

In previous updates I’ve shared how the unchecked border is allowing a dramatic increase in the increased supply of fentanyl, a dangerous and potent synthetic opioid. In the 12-month period ending in November 2022, the CDC reports more than 75,000 Americans died from an overdose of synthetic opioids, mainly from fentanyl. The Texas Department of Public Safety has seized over 353 million lethal doses of fentanyl since the beginning of Operation Lone Star in March 2021. HB 6, passed last week, seeks to address this issue by increasing criminal penalties for the manufacturing or delivery of fentanyl, expanding the conduct constituting murder, and creating two criminal offenses involving the manufacture or delivery of certain opioids.

Honoring Veterans with Free Access to Texas State Parks

I voted last week to support a bill that would allow all honorably discharged veterans and active U.S. armed forces members free access to our state parks, along with free access to a surviving spouse, parent, child, or sibling of a person who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces.  This is a great way to honor our veterans and show our appreciation for the men and women who have proudly served our nation. Currently, only disabled veterans are eligible for free access, and with this action this courtesy will be extended to all veterans.

A few more items moving through the process:

  • Critical legislation to address Texas’ growing water needs, SB 28, received final passage and is on to the Governor’s desk. This bill establishes the Texas Water Fund and the New Water Supply Fund, which voters will need to approve in a November constitutional referendum.
  • Unfortunately, there has been a growing movement across multiple states to impose state taxes based on net worth or wealth. HJR 132, passed by the Senate, would allow the people of Texas to decide whether or not they want a direct say in the possibility of a net worth tax being imposed by the legislature. Obviously, I would strenuously oppose the creation of a net worth tax.
  • The Senate voted this week in support of expanding broadband availability to rural areas of the state. HB 9 creates the Texas Broadband Infrastructure Fund, administered by the office of the Texas Comptroller. HJR 125 would place a constitutional amendment before Texas voters, who would have to approve the proposed funding.