In the News, Out of Committee, Under the Radar
From the newsletter sent March 26, 2021.
It’s been a whirlwind of a week here in Austin — many of you may have seen news articles highlighting some of the high profile (and often contentious) bills currently working their way through the Texas Legislature. Because of the intense rhetoric surrounding these issues, it can often be hard to find accurate information. The issues with the most headline ink also often drown out the very important, but less contentious legislation going through the process. So, I wanted to provide some clarity on where each of these bills stands.
The Elections Committee hearing on Thursday was the hottest ticket in town, as the committee was scheduled to hear testimony on HB 6, which is Chairman Cain’s election integrity bill. As one might imagine, interested parties from all sides of the issue flocked to the Capitol to make their voices heard. The hearing abruptly came to an end when the Chair and Vice-Chair of the committee were unable to work out some differences in a timely manner. Despite the Chairman’s clearly stated policy on only allowing committee members to ask questions, the Vice-Chair attempted to circumvent the rule while the Chairman was laying out his bill. This ultimately resulted in the Elections Committee adjourning for the day, and they will start the whole process over again next week.
On the same day, the State Affairs Committee was considering another high-profile bill down the hall — HB 749 by Rep. Middleton, which would ban the use of public funds for lobbying. Essentially, this bill would bar state and local government entities from using taxpayer dollars to hire lobbyists (though it would allow counties and cities to have associations and would allow elected officials to travel to Austin to lobby on behalf of their entities). It was more than ironic that many of those who testified against the bill were lobbyists hired using taxpayer funds.
Also on Thursday and continuing into the early hours of Friday morning, the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee held a marathon hearing on a series of gun-related legislation. Of particular note, the committee heard testimony on three bills (HB 1911, HB 1238, and HB 2900) which would each allow individuals to carry a firearm without a permit — often referred to as constitutional carry.
While most of the attention has been focused on the bills I’ve just mentioned, there’s plenty of work happening outside of the spotlight. The first bills were voted out of the House, committees are in their fourth week of hearings, and I’m working with a number of other chairmen and members on a healthcare cost improvement plan that we feel will bring down the incredibly high price of both health insurance and overall healthcare costs in our great state. We will be discussing these plans in detail over the coming weeks as the various bills move through the committee process.
Finally, I’ve included some information below on vaccine distribution along with new and relaxed nursing home visitation rules that have just been released. There’s also a brief update on our MSU bill.
As always, thank you so much for allowing me to represent HD69 in the Texas Legislature.
May God bless you and your family,
James B. Frank