The last day of the 83rd Regular Session for the Texas legislature is fast approaching, on Monday May 27, 2013. If a bill is not passed by the House and Senate by then, it will have to wait until the next session starting January 13, 2015. The last day the governor can sign or veto a bill is June 16, 2013.
HB 182 Reducing Penalty for Possession of Marijuana to a Class C Misdemeanor – This bill has been referred to the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee where it will likely die. Although this outcome was predicted, it is unfortunate for both juveniles and potential medical marijuana users.
HB 308 Permitting Recognition of “Traditional Winter Celebrations” in Public Schools – The most recent vote for HB 308 was 145 yes, 2 nos (Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman and Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler) and 2 non-votes. A public hearing was held yesterday, Tuesday May 14, 2013. I am concerned this bill may pass, maybe not until the next legislative session, but as it flies in the face of current Supreme Court precedent, the issue would be appealed and most likely years later be struck down by the Supreme Court.
This issue is reminiscent of the Kountze, Texas cheerleaders who Judge Hardin Thomas ruled on May 8, 2013 are constitutionally able to have Bible verses on their cheering banners at public high school football games. Almost everyone reporting on this believes Judge Thomas will be overturned. So do I. HB 308 may end up being similarly decided.
HB 1057 Limiting Sex Ed Instructors and Requiring Parental Permission for Sex Ed – HB 1057 was sent to the Public Education Committee who made a report and have provided a report to the Calendars Committee on May 1, 2013 to be put on the calendar for the whole House to consider. As no votes have been taken yet it is hard to guess exactly where all the Representatives will fall. However, I predict this issue will die before the end fo the session May 27th.
SB 1114 Eliminating School Tickets – The most recent verbal vote was 31 to 0. A corrected Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Report has been “sent to calendars” or waiting to figure out a date to be heard by the whole senate. The Center for Children Law & Policy is hopefully SB 1114 will be passed this session as this will help students avoid the juvenile justice process for minor infractions at school.
Texting and Driving Bills – Currently, several of the texting and driving ban bills have become inactive or are still pending in committees, including HB 27, 63, 69, 108 and SB 28, However, HB 347 was on the calendar for today, Wednesday May 15, 2013. The Senate voted 31 to 0 for the bill today. The House passed HB 347 on April 23rd with 130 Yeas, 15 Nays, and 2 Present, not voting. However HB 347 is NOT a comprehensive texting and driving bill. This bill only prohibits drivers from using wireless devices on school property and in school crossing zones.
Although HB 347 is a good start for safer driving, the other bills were more comprehensive, banning texting and driving anywhere, and would be better in my opinion.