Texas Senators pass bills on 18 out of 20 Special Session Call

Senate voting on bills in Special Session

AUSTIN - Texas Senators passed bills on 18 out of the 20 issues on the Special Session Call in a matter of days, with the majority of the bills being passed in the last seven days.

The Senate recessed just before 2:00 a.m. Wednesday morning and Senators were back and ready to work eight hours later. 

They wasted no time discussing bills, starting with Senate Bill 8 which bans general insurance plans from covering elective abortions.

After initially approving SB8, the Senate also initially approved Senate Bill 5 to increase penalties for mail-in ballot voter fraud.

As well as Senate Bill 6 which will require cities that want to annex communities in counties with a population of less than 125,000 to let those residents vote on whether they will be annexed. 

They also initially passed Senate Bill 15 which gets rid of all city hands-free ordinances and makes the state's new ban on texting while driving the only ban.

"A very real concern is in a very short period of time we could have potentially hundreds and legally thousands of ordinances that vary from town to town," said Senator Don Huffines (R-Dallas) who wrote the bill. 

Senator Judith Zafirrini (D-Laredo) authored the Senate version of the state's new texting while driving law and opposed Huffines bill on the floor. She noted 45 Texas cities and 11 states have hands-free ordinances, which law enforcement officers say are easier to enforce than texting bans. 

"In light of the movement to a more enforceable distracted driving law across the country and across our great state, why Senator Huffines would we want to jeopardize public safety by taking a giant step backward," Zaffirini said. 

She proposed an amendment to implement a state-wide hands-free ordinance, but it failed. 

Senators then initially passed Senate Bill 13 which creates a uniform process and timeline for certain city permits.

And then Senate Bill 14 that prohibits cities from telling land owners what they can do with trees on private property. 

The Senate then adjourned for a short time, came back and took final votes on all the bills. Action that sends the bills to the House where they will be assigned to committees and the legislative process will begin again.

Here's the list of the bills the Senate has passed:

   -Senate Bill 1 - Require mandatory election when local entities increase property taxes by more than 4 percent 

   -Senate Bill 3 - Require people use multiple occupancy restrooms, showers and changing facilities in state, city and county buildings and public and charter schools in accordance with the sex listed on their birth certificates or state issued driver's license, identification card or concealed handgun license

   -Senate Bill 19 - Provide a career bonus in 2018 of $600 to teachers who have been teaching 6 to 10 years and $1,000 to teachers who have been teaching 11 or more years; also directs $212 million to the Teacher Retirement System to reduce out-of-pocket health-care costs

   -Senate Bill 20 & SB 60 - Sunset Legislation to keep a handful of state agencies, including the medical board, operating and funded

   -Senate Bill 2 - Create a tax credit scholarship program for students with special needs

   -Senate Bill 8 - Prohibits general insurance policies from providing coverage of elective abortions

   -Senate Bill 9 - Caps State Spending

   -Senate Bill 7 - Prohibits the state from collecting union and professional dues for state employees, excluding first responders.

   -Senate Bill 10 & SB 73 - Require additional reporting for abortion procedures

   -Senate Bill 16 - Establish a School Finance Reform Commission

   -Senate Bill 6 - Requires cities to hold elections for communities with populations of more than 125,000 that the city wants to annex to get permission to annex

   -Senate Bill 17 - Maintain the Maternal Mortality Task Force

   -Senate Bill 4 - Expands the prohibition on giving taxpayer dollars to abortion providers

   -Senate Bill 11 - Clarifies the operation of “Do Not Resuscitate” Orders

   -Senate Bill 5 - Increases penalties for mail-in ballot fraud

   -Senate Bill 14 - Prohibits cities from regulating trees on private property

   -Senate Bill 13 - Creates streamlined local government permitting process

   -Senate Bill 15 - Preempts all city hands-free and texting while driving ordinances 

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