Euthanasia, cyber security measures among 35 bills signed by governor so far


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT MCKENNEY

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on May 13, 2013 at 6:26 PM

Updated Monday, May 13 at 6:41 PM

AUSTIN -- For most laws in the Texas Legislature, the journey starts as a bill. 
Bills authored by state representatives are filed with the House Clerk and given the designation "HB" followed by a number in the order in which they're received. Bills authored by state senators are filed with the Secretary of the Senate and given the designation "SB" followed by a number.
After being read once on the floor of the chamber in which they originated, the next stop for a bill is a committee, where a handful of lawmakers decide if the bill is worthy of the full chamber's consideration. If it gets the okay there, it heads back to the floor for a second reading, where the bill can be amended and voted on by the full chamber. If the bill survives its second reading, it's read a third time and opened for additional amendments before a final vote is taken.
For bills lucky enough to clear all three readings in their originating chamber, the journey then goes down the hall and the process begins all over again in the other chamber. If the other chamber makes any changes to the bill, a committee of five representatives and five senators convenes to hammer out the differences. The bill then goes back to each chamber for an up or down vote. Finally, bills approved by both chambers head to the governor's desk for a signature. 
The governor can choose to veto all or parts of the bill, sign the bill into law or allow the bill to become law without a signature. The governor usually has ten days to take action on a bill, but the window is increased to 20 days for bills that reach the governor's desk within 10 days of the session's adjournment. During the regular session of the 83rd Texas Legislature, so far just 35 bills have been signed into law by the governor. 
"It's set up to be easier to kill legislation than it is to pass legislation," said state Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin), one of the few lawmakers at this point in the session to have filed a bill that will become a law. 
"My bill would outlaw the ability to euthanize pets by utilizing carbon monoxide," said Watson, whose SB 360 cleared both chambers unanimously before getting the governor's signature. "It would require that it be done by injection, which is a more humane way, but it's also a cheaper way."  
Another successful bill, SB 974, officially removes the words "at San Marcos" from Texas State University. 
"It was my first bill so there was a lot of spirit with it," said first term state Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), who told KVUE she filed the bill after listening to the concerns of university officials and alumni. "Rather than just continuing as they grow to add names of the towns or cities, they just wanted to make it Texas State University, so we did that."
Lawmakers also created a new state coordinator to guard against cyber attacks. Filed by state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), SB 1102 establishes the post of state cybersecurity coordinator, charged with bringing public and private sector leaders together with cybersecurity experts to guard against electronic threats. 
"It can shut down the systems that we run the Department of Public Safety on, it can shut down electrical grids," said the bill's House sponsor, state Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio). "It can shut hospitals down. A lot of those things, people are vigilant on their own, but if you do it in a coordinated fashion I think it's going to be a whole lot more efficient."
The 35 new laws represent less than six-tenths of a percent of the 5,867 bills filed this session, but the rigorous process serves a purpose.  
"Hopefully they will have enough merit and they can from a public policy standpoint add benefit to the general public," said Larson.
Of the 5,796 House and Senate bills filed by the 82nd Texas Legislature, 1,355 became law. The 81st Texas Legislature filed 7,419 bills, of which 1,424 successfully completed their legal journey. Of 6,190 bills filed by the 80th Texas Legislature, 1,430 became law. On average, roughly one fifth of all House and Senate bills filed successfully become law, which means the governor's desk is likely to look increasingly cluttered as the 83rd Texas Legislature winds down.

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