New Session, New Speaker, New Rules

January 15, 2021

On Tuesday, January 12th, for the 87th time in the history of our great state, the Texas Legislature convened for its 140-day long, biennial legislative session.  It is my honor to represent the amazing folks of Archer, Baylor, Clay, Foard, Knox, and Wichita Counties (aka House District 69) for the 5th time.
This session is shaping up to be unlike any session before due to the realities of working in the midst of Covid-19.  There will be difficult choices to make as we grapple with the budgetary impact of the virus - and government response to it - on the economy (and therefore state revenues).  We will also be dealing with the logistical issues that arise when we have the need to stay safe and provide transparency in a situation where members have vastly different views of the risks of Covid.
As always, the first day of session began in the House with the election of the Speaker of the House.  Dade Phelan, my colleague from Beaumont, was overwhelmingly elected as the new Speaker.  I know Dade to be a good, fair man who believes that conservative answers work best for the people of the state.  Wednesday and Thursday were spent voting on the rules that will govern the Texas House during this session (as every session stands on its own).
The next two to three weeks will bring a lull to most members, as the Speaker is now tasked with the incredibly important job of quickly and intelligently organizing the House into committees that will hear and act on the bills that will define the session over the coming months.

My staff and I have been working during the interim on our legislative agenda and have already filed 5 bills that we hope to see passed in the coming session.  Below, you will find a brief explainer for each of these bills.  If you want to see more details of the bills, you can click on the link to read the text of the bill or you are welcome to reach out to my office with any questions you may have.

Next week, we will provide a preview of the issues that we believe will gain the most attention over the next 137 days (but who's counting?).

On a personal note, session always provides special challenges for my family and for the other men and women that serve in the Legislature.  I would sincerely appreciate prayers for elected officials, our families, and the deliberations and decisions that will be made over the coming months. 

May God bless you and your family,
James B. Frank Signature
James B. Frank
My Filed Legislation

HB 892/HJR 46 "Essential Caregivers Act"

When COVID-19 struck, nursing home and assisted living residents across the state found themselves unable to visit face-to-face with their loved ones for months.  The resulting isolation has had serious consequences on the physical and mental health of an already vulnerable population, and in many cases, it left residents without an advocate for their care and safety.

This legislation would guarantee that those in long-term care facilities have unabridged access to a designated essential caregiver. 

HB 567 "Child Trauma Reduction Act"

The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is tasked with removing children from dangerous home situations.  Approximately 25% of these removals are classified as "abuse," while approximately 75% of removals are for "neglect."  The standards used for neglect removals vary wildly across the state.  While removals are often necessary, there are too many instances where children are removed from their homes for unsubstantiated reasons, causing unnecessary trauma to those kids.

HB 567 would provide greater clarity and consistency to the procedures and grounds for placing children in foster homes and terminating parental rights. 

HB 397 "Apples to Apples" 

The state budget is big, complex, and chock-full of various graphs, charts, and tables.  Adding to this complexity is the fact that the budget is often presented differently over time, making historical comparisons impossible.

HB 397 would require the Legislative Budget Board to present current and previous budgets using the same accounting methods in order to ensure accurate comparisons.  This would simply require the state to follow rules consistent with the rules that the government requires of publicly-traded companies.

HB 547 "Equal UIL Access" 

Currently, homeschool students are prohibited from participating in public school extracurricular activities, even though their tax-dollars help fund the programs.

HB 547 would end this discrimination by granting homeschool students full access to the extracurricular activities at their local public schools, provided they meet grade-level scores on standardized tests. 

HB 548 "Veteran Medical Licensing Act"

Federal law currently exempts active duty medical personnel from state occupational licensing requirements.  However, those exemptions lapse once a provider leaves active duty military service.  Many veteran doctors and nurses who have served in Texas would like to remain once their active service ends but are forced to relocate due to the burdens of obtaining a Texas license.

HB 548 would create a faster pathway for veteran physicians and nurses to receive an occupational license in underserved areas in Texas once they retire from active duty.

COVID-19 Protocols at the Capitol

If you are planning to visit the Capitol during the next few months, I encourage you to contact my Austin office (512-463-0534) to get the latest updates on health and safety protocols before making the trip down.  The rules are constantly changing. 

You may find the following information useful as your plan your visit:
  • My office is always open to constituents. 
  • The Capitol is open from 9am - 6 pm, Monday - Friday.
  • The House Gallery will be open to the public at reduced capacity.
  • Committee hearings will be open to the public both in-person and virtually. 
  • A mask must be worn over the mouth and nose while in the building.
  • There are no public tours, groups, or sponsored event spaces.
  • All visitors must enter the Capitol through the north door.
  • COVID-19 rapid testing is available prior to entering the Capitol (located outside, north of the building).
Photos from Week 1

Speaking on child welfare issues at the Texas Public Policy Foundation 2021 Policy Orientation.

Welcoming freshman Rep. Shelby Slawson. 
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