Bills On Juneteenth, Drones And Bowie Knife Filed Ahead Of Texas Legislative Session | KERA News

Bills On Juneteenth, Drones And Bowie Knife Filed Ahead Of Texas Legislative Session

Nov 14, 2016

Texas lawmakers sure are eager -- on the first day they could file bills for the 85th state Legislative session, they filed several hundred of them, as well as dozens of resolutions.

Many of the bills filed so far won’t carry much weight -- and several don't have a chance of passing. Several bills that didn't have luck in the past have been filed again — banning texting and driving, abolishing the death penalty, increasing minimum wage and forgoing daylight saving time, just to name a few. 

This year, lawmakers face more pressing issues like the overhauling Child Protective Services, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s school choice and transgender bathroom priorities and abortion regulations

Creating a budget this session is going to be trickier than two years ago, too, The Texas Tribune reports. State revenue is expected to be tighter and the hot-button issues are more expensive.

With that in mind, here are a handful of bills that may be important on the local level in various Texas towns, but aren’t exactly high on the Legislature’s list.

Taking pictures with “unmanned aircraft” 

House Bill 106 authored by state Rep. Armando "Mando" Martinez would make a few changes to the current “umanned aircraft” regulations already in place in Texas. Long story short: Taking pictures with an unmanned aircraft (commonly known as drones) for educational, environmental and investigative purposes is OK. The only scenario removed from the bill’s scope is capturing an image “of real property or a person on real property that is within 25 miles of the United States border.” If passed, the act would take effect Sept. 1, 2017. Unmanned aircraft were first regulated by the state during the 2013 Legislative session.

Selling fireworks on or before the Juneteenth holiday

Juneteenth celebrates June 19, 1865. That’s the day a Union general arrived in Galveston to spread word that slavery ended. A bill filed Monday wants those with a retail fireworks permit to be able to sell fireworks during the days leading up to and on June 19 to celebrate. This isn’t the only recent action being taken regarding Juneteenth. Opal Lee, a 90-year-old woman from Fort Worth, is symbolically walking to Washington on a mission to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

Opal Lee is joined by Willie Johnson, principal of E.B. Comstock Middle School in Dallas for a leg of the walk.
Credit Christopher Connelly/KERA News

Designating the Official Knife and the Official Knife Capital of Texas

Two different resolutions focus on knives. The town of Bowie, Texas — named for Alamo defender and slave trader Jim Bowie — wants to make the Bowie knife the state's official blade. In the resolution, author Rep. Drew Springer writes, “the knife has served as an evocative reminder of Texas’ storied past, and it is forever linked with the fierce and independent spirit of the Lone Star State.”

Bowie knife.
Credit Tim Lively / Wikimedia Commons

According to the other knife-related resolution, Spurger, Texas “has become a state and national center for knives and knife enthusiasts thanks to the efforts of a local company, Texas Knives and Collectibles” and should be known as the Knife Capital of Texas for 10 years, in accordance with Section 391.003 (e). This section of the Government Code says a day, week or month of recognition can be re-designated after a decade.

Banning corporal punishment as a method for discipline in schools

Paddling and other antiquated methods of physically disciplining students are still technically allowed in Texas. Authored by state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, House Bill 166 aims to prohibit corporal punishment for good and discipline school district employees who violate the ban. Texas is one of 19 states that still allow corporal punishment, and a study finds the method is not used equally among students, according to Texas Standard.

Map: Which school districts employed corporal punishment and how often in the 2011-2012 school year.

Renaming the Texas Railroad Commission

The Texas Railroad Commission wants to be renamed as the Texas Energy Resources Commission so the public would have a better understanding of what the 125-year-old agency does. It regulates the state's oil and gas industry.

Wayne Christian was elected Texas Railroad commissioner on Nov. 8.
Credit Wayne Christian Campaign / Facebook

An attempt to do just that failed last Thursday. The Texas Tribune reports: “The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission — consisting of 10 state lawmakers and two members of the public — snubbed that and several other recommendations opposed by the oil and gas industry that were meant to enhance agency efficiency and environmental oversight.”

The commission did make one recent change, however. Former state Rep. Wayne Christian won the race for Texas railroad commissioner last Tuesday.

Bills and more bills

Here are a few other bills not making headlines. 

  • HB 51: Relating to the management of commercial oyster boats in the state
  • HB 55: Exempting sales tax on feminine hygiene products
  • HB 57: Regulating raw milk and raw milk products
  • HB 59: Allowing lottery winners to remain anonymous
  • SB 103: Providing bags “made of any material “ to customers at checkout
  • HB 173: Licensing and regulation of certain rainwater harvesting
  • HB 210: Designating March 21 as BRAVE (Breast Restoration Advocacy and Education) Day
  • HB 220: Defining eligibility of a law student from an unapproved school to take the bar exam

There’s more where that came from. Here are all of the bills filed by Texas lawmakers