From the newsletter sent April 23, 2021
This week’s newsletter is brought to you by multiple cups of coffee (Coke Zero in my case) — last night was our biennial “budget night,” where members stay on the Floor late into the evening to debate, amend, and ultimately pass the appropriations bill that funds our state government for the next two years. While it’s a lengthy process, it’s also a reflection of the Legislature’s tradition of allowing each member to have their say and fight for the priorities that matter to their constituents. It was a long night (though 10:30 is actually the earliest we have finished in my 5 terms), but I’m satisfied that we ended up with a fiscally responsible budget that will serve our state well for the next two years. I’ve included some of the bill’s highlights below.
As most of you know, one of our big priorities this session is ensuring that residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities have the right to see their loved ones face-to-face, even in a pandemic. Our bill and constitutional amendment enshrining this right were previously heard in committee, and now the Senate companions have made their way through the House Human Services Committee as well. This brings us one step closer to the finish line, and I’m confident that we will get this important bill into law before the session is over.
If you’re wondering why last year’s WFISD bond proposal was split into two–you aren’t alone. My office has received a number of inquiries about this, so I wanted to explain the issue. As part of ballot transparency measures passed into law last session, school bond proposals which deal with athletics, recreational, or performing arts facilities (among others) must be on a separate ballot. Prior to the changes in 2019, all school bond items could be presented in one proposal. Though voters narrowly approved the bond for new school construction last year, the separate bond for extracurricular facilities failed. The school board has decided to bring it to voters again on the current ballot. More on this below.
Looking ahead, we are quickly approaching the point in session where bills need to be heard and passed out of committee in order to have a decent chance at becoming law. We have been really fortunate so far in that most of our priority legislation is still on track and moving at a steady pace. In fact, we had two more bills reported favorably out of committee this week, and our Medicaid improvement bill unanimously passed the House. We’ve included the details below.
May God bless you and your family,
James B. Frank