85th Legislature | KERA News

85th Legislature

Graphic by Todd Wiseman

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the state’s two-year budget Monday, giving his approval to the $217 billion document crafted by the Legislature.

Courtesy of J. Parker

The 85th regular session of the Texas Legislature ended dramatically last week, and the drama's not over: Lawmakers will return to Austin next month for a special session. Two members of the state House, Democrat Rafael Anchia and Republican Jason Villalba, stopped by KERA to talk about a session they say was unlike any other.

From Texas Standard:

What The New York Times is calling one of Texas’ “most tumultuous political moments in decades” is set to play out in a special session announced by Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday.

Lawmakers will return to the Capitol on July 18 for a 30-day special session, the first one Abbott has called during his time as governor.

Gov. Greg Abbott Signs Statewide Ban On Texting While Driving

Jun 6, 2017
Illustration by Todd Wiseman / The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday signed into law a bill that creates a statewide ban on texting while driving.

Gov. Greg Abbott has called for a special session of the Texas Legislature to begin July 18.

"Considering all the successes of the 85th legislative session, we should not be where we are today," he said. "A special session was entirely avoidable, and there was plenty of time for the Legislature to forge compromises to avoid the time and taxpayer expense of a special session."

Pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions based on their religious beliefs may soon be protected from disciplinary action thanks to a bill passed this legislative session. 

Last week, Texas made national news when state lawmakers got into a shouting match that escalated into shoving and even death threats.

But anger among politicians working at the Texas Capitol had been growing for weeks, and some lay blame for that at the feet of a small group of extremely conservative lawmakers. They call themselves the Texas Freedom Caucus

Governor Abbott Pushes Back Announcement On Special Session

Jun 2, 2017
Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott's announcement on whether he will call a special session is not expected to happen before next week.

From Texas Standard:

While Texas lawmakers have left the state Capitol for now, plenty of their bills did not go anywhere. One piece of legislation that didn’t make it to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk was a measure that would have licensed immigrant detention facilities in Texas as childcare providers.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT News

The legislative session just ended. After 140 days of proposals, politicking and press conferences, we’re catching up on what actually passed and how it will change Texas.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of Texas’s 85th Legislature was the demise of a bill that would have added more than half a billion dollars in funding for the state’s public schools.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr for KUT News

The 85th Texas Legislature is over. And while the threat of a special session looms, most of us are still trying to figure out what actually made it across the finish line.

Health advocates were hoping lawmakers would seriously tackle the issue of maternal mortality during the legislative session that ended Monday. But legislative efforts fell short.

Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott signed four child welfare bills into law on Wednesday, measures that aim to recalibrate how the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services works with endangered children across the state. 

MedStar

The "Slambulance" is dead.

The ambulance converted into a party bus — reportedly outfitted with a stripper pole, neon interior lights and a full wet bar — is no longer legal on the streets of Texas. 

Angel Vazquez is 9 years old, has hearing loss in both ears, has trouble speaking and struggles to concentrate in class. He's a year behind in school, just learned how to read and is still learning English. For nearly two years, his mom, Angeles Garcia, tried to get him evaluated for special education at his elementary school in Houston.

Garcia sent the school three letters, pleading for an assessment. She even included medical documents describing some of his disabilities, but she says the school ignored her.

From Texas Standard:

The 85th legislative session focused so much on measures like the "sanctuary cities" bill and the "bathroom" bill that it’s easy to forget that much of the initial focus was supposed to be on something else.

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For patients visiting emergency rooms in Texas, surprise medical bills are common. In 2009, the Texas Legislature developed a mediation system for these hefty bills, but it was limited.

 

Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a new law aimed at improving the system and expanding consumer protection.

Even Before House Scuffle, Rinaldi's Seat Was A High 2018 Target For Democrats

May 30, 2017
Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

State Rep. Matt Rinaldi's scuffle Monday with Hispanic lawmakers is already putting a bright spotlight on his House district — and whether he can hold on to it in 2018.

JORGE SANHUEZA-LYON / KUT

In Austin Monday, both the Texas Senate and the House adjourned, bringing the 85th legislative session to a close. That was expected since the state constitution gives the Legislature exactly 140 days to run a regular session. What wasn’t totally expected was the drama that ramped up as the session was winding down.

Texas Lawmakers Mourn The Bills They Lost

May 29, 2017
MARTIN DO NASCIMENTO / KUT

The 85th Texas Legislature ended Monday, putting to rest (at least for now) escalating tension between the House and the Senate. Lawmakers filed more than 10,000 bills and resolutions for consideration, approving fewer than 4,000 of them. Of those, only about a fourth were actual policy changes.

Some bills were killed by deadlines, many of them dying in the rift between the two chambers. Plenty of others never even got a hearing.

From Texas Standard:

Every odd numbered year, for 140 days, Texas lawmakers meet in the Austin to participate in the political drama that is a legislative session. Each legislator tries to cram as many bills onto the floor as possible in an effort to maybe, just maybe, help it to become law. While the curtains on this year's drama are soon set to drop and all the political actors are making plans to head back to their part of Texas, a potential encore performance may be looming. We're talking about a possible special legislative session.

Julian Aguilar / The Texas Tribune

The normally ceremonial last day of the legislative session briefly descended into chaos on Monday, as proceedings in the House were disrupted by large protests and at least one Republican lawmaker called immigration authorities on the protesters.

Bob Daemmrich for the Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday promised to make an announcement "later this week" on whether he will call a special session.

Texas Lawmakers Teeter On The Brink Of Special Session

May 29, 2017
Bob Daemmrich for the Texas Tribune

With hours to go until the end of the 85th Legislature's regular session, state lawmakers appear to be edging closer to overtime.

The Texas Tribune

Both chambers of the Texas Legislature voted Saturday evening to approve a $217 billion, two-year budget that would boost funding for the state's beleaguered child welfare agency, increase the number of state troopers on the Texas-Mexico border and avoid serious reforms to the state's much-criticized school finance system. 

Texas Governor Jokes About Shooting Reporters After Signing Gun Bill

May 26, 2017
Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday visited a shooting range to sign a bill into law that significantly reduces the cost to get a license to carry a handgun, making Texas one of the states with the lowest fee in the nation.

Laura Buckman for The Texas Tribune

The pension overhaul bill that divided Dallas officials and first responders for months is now headed to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk. The Texas House on Thursday unanimously agreed with the Senate's changes to House Bill 3158.

From Texas Standard:

After months of back and forth over how to fix what ails funding for Texas schools, lawmakers argued late into the night, Wednesday over a bill that would pump more state money into school budgets statewide. In the end, members of the House and Senate couldn't see eye to eye on what to leave in the bill to make school financing more equitable statewide.

Texas lawmakers are close to passing yet another abortion bill, roughly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state's last major abortion legislation.

School Finance Legislation Is Pronounced Dead

May 24, 2017
Bob Daemmrich for the Texas Tribune

An effort to overhaul the state’s beleaguered school finance system has been declared dead after the Texas Senate Education Committee’s chairman said Wednesday that he would not appoint conferees to negotiate with the House.

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