83rd Texas Legislature: Session Wrap-Up
  Vol. 4   May 30, 2013
Governor Signs Landmark Water Legislation
Joint-Authored by Representative Johnson

On Tuesday, May 28th, Representative Eric Johnson was invited to participate in a signing ceremony with Governor Rick Perry for House Bill 4. Rep. Johnson joint-authored this landmark piece of legislation, which creates the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas (SWIRFT).  Together, these accounts will provide financial assistance to local water providers across the state as detailed in the Texas Water Development Board's 2012 State Water Plan. This plan will address water needs for the next 50 years and facilitate the continued growth of our state. 

  

With Texas still suffering from the

severe drought that began in 2011, it is important that plans be put in place to ensure our state's long-term water needs will be met. The State Water Plan calls for increased conservation efforts, drought management, desalination projects, and groundwater resource developments, as well as various other new water-related infrastructure.  

 

 

While the signing of House Bill 4 into law brings us one step closer to funding Texas' long-term water plan, its effectiveness is contingent upon voters consenting to Senate Joint Resolution 1 in the fall. These two new funds, SWIFT and SWIRFT, require voter approval before $2 billion can be transferred to them from the Economic Stabilization Fund, commonly referred to as the Rainy Day Fund. If voters fail to approve this transfer, there will be no money to improve the State of Texas's water infrastructure until the next biennium.

 

Legislature Begins Special Session
Shortly after the regular session of the 83rd Legislature ended on Monday evening, lawmakers were called back into a special session by Governor Perry to handle the issue of redistricting. Texas is one of nine states that, under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), must receive preclearance from the U.S. Department of Justice to alter voting 
maps.
Redistricting
Maps passed by the Legislature in 2011 were found to be in violation of the VRA by a federal court in San Antonio, which then drew a new set of temporary maps to be used in the interim for the 2012 election. This special session has been called to debate the permanent use of those maps. State officials are eager to adopt them to ensure that any legal battles over new maps won't affect upcoming elections; however, civil rights groups and Democrats believe that these maps do not adequately reflect the changes in demographics revealed by the 2010 census.

For those who would like to share their opinions, public hearings will take place in Austin:
  • Friday, May 31 and Saturday, June 1 at 9am
  • Located in the Capitol Extension Auditorium, E1.004 
The Legislature is expected to move quickly on this issue and conclude the special session shortly. The Governor has not yet announced plans to add any other issues to this special session. 

Final Budget Deal Includes Funds for Public Education and State Water Plan
This weekend the Texas Legislature worked hard to pass the 2014-2015 budget. Senate Bill 1, which is the core portion of the new budget deal, passed the Texas House of Representatives with a vote of 118-29. The bill appropriates $94.6 billion in General Revenue for the coming biennium, which is an increase of $7 billion over the last 2-year budget. House Bill 1025, a supplemental appropriations bill, added additional funds for education, water, and transportation. Both bills received approval from the Senate and are headed to the desk of Governor Perry.

 

 

After a long battle, public education will receive increased funding. The Foundation School Program,which is the primary funding mechanism for public schools, will receive $3.4 billion through SB1 and another $201 million through House Bill 1025. Together, these numbers represent an 8.5% increase from the 2012-2013 budget and restore much of  the $5.4 billion that was cut in 2011. The Teacher Retirement System also saw a 5% increase from the previous budget.


 

Senate Bill 1 provides a 7.1% increase to Health and Human Services, including funds for caseload growth, cost growth, and rate increases within Medicaid. It fails, however, to provide for the much needed expansion of the Medicaid program called for in the Affordable Care Act.  

 


While the Legislature failed to make significant investments in transportation infrastructure, House Bill 1025 did allocate $450 million to TxDOT to allow for road repairs in areas experiencing an increase in oil-drilling. $185 million will be allocated to the Forest  Service, Department of Public Safety, and other agencies for wildfire related costs.

 

 

Session Successes

At the beginning of the 83rd Texas Legislature, Representative Johnson filed several bills designed to serve the interests of constituents in District 100 and citizens across the state, including:

 

  • A bill to expand Medicaid under the parameters of the Affordable Care Act,
  • Several bills designed to protect consumers from unfair insurance practices,
  • A bill to make employment discrimination targeted at LGBT individuals illegal,
  • A bill to provide a protection for people calling 911 in response to a drug overdose,
  • A bill to address racially motivated death sentences,
     and
  • A bill to repeal the terribly restrictive Voter ID law passed in the 82nd session, which is currently blocked by the federal courts, but could be reversed depending on the outcome of a pending Supreme Court decision.

 

However, the legislative session is only 140 days long, which means that the vast majority of bills that get filed don't make it out of the Legislature. Given the nature of the majority in the Texas Legislature, some of our ideas could not move forward. Despite this, Representative Johnson was able to pass some good legislation spanning a wide range of issues this session.

   

House Bill 1122 gives the Dallas Independent School District the opportunity to implement a pilot program that allows eligible students to graduate early and begin certification programs aimed at giving them a jump start on their careers. The resulting savings the school district would have spent on those students' final year of high school will be allocated to Dallas ISD's pre-K program to ensure that as many children as possible get the early start they need. 

 

House Bill 1284 is designed to stem the recent increase in bomb threats on college campuses by adding public and private institutions of higher education to the list of places where reporting a false bomb threat is a state jail felony. Already included on this list are public schools, public communication facilities, public transportation areas, and public gas, water, or power supply services. The bill also includes a provision that requires all institutions of higher education to notify students of the new penalty. By reducing the number of false bomb threats, schools can potentially save millions of dollars. 

 

  

House Bill 2615 increases the cap on penalties water rights holders can face for not reporting water usage information to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). This new measure will increase compliance with water usage reporting requirements, ensuring that the TCEQ will be able to make the right decisions in order to best allocate water for the people of Texas in times of drought.

  

In addition to these House Bills, Representative Johnson also sponsored five Senate Bills that have been sent to the Governor. Two of them were Senate versions of House bills filed by Representative Johnson:

 

vote button Senate Bill 722 clarifies existing election law to make sure that anyone who is chosen by a voter may act as an interpreter in a polling place.

 

Senate Bill 553 expands the program allowing high school students to serve as voting clerks by enabling them to participate as clerks during early voting. This further expands the opportunity for young people to engage directly in the democratic process.

 

 

Representative Johnson also sponsored Senate Bill 107, which closes a loophole in the law regarding orders of nondisclosure in criminal proceedings, Senate Bill 817, which reforms election statute relating to political parties that don't hold primaries, and Senate Bill 1916, which clarifies the law to ensure that Parkland Hospital in District 100 retains the rights to intellectual property developed by the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation.

 

Four more measures that Representative Johnson filed made it to the Governor through other means of legislative maneuvering:

 

House Bills 1638, 1639, and 1640, which amend statutes governing political parties to give them more control over their own governance and allow for the implementation of new technology in  the political process, were all incorporated into House Bill 3102

.
 

House Bill 1637, which eases the burden of reporting requirements on county parties with little to no money in their accounts passed as an amendment to Senate Bill 219, a bill improving the operations of the Texas Ethics Commission.

 

  HD 100 Is The Place To Be This Summer 

Summer Adventures in Fair Park is Dallas' newest destination for summer fun. Approximately 2,000 guests and officials were invited to the Grand Opening on May 3rd, which included an impressive fireworks display from the park's signature Top o' Texas Tower Ride. 

 

Permanent attractions within the park include rides, amusement games, and museums. The pay-one-price admission gives visitors access to fifty rides, shows, and attractions, including the Children's Aquarium, the Texas Discovery Gardens, and Swan Boats on the Lagoon.

 

Summer Adventures is a great opportunity for the South Dallas community. While the Texas State Fair only runs for three weeks out of the year, this new park will attract visitors for an extra three months during summer, providing the area with an economic boost. It also provides new and much needed job opportunities for the area. The park employs close to 600 people, with 400 needed to ensure smooth day-to-day operations.

 

The Top O' Texas Tower Ride, Summer Adventures' signature ride, stands over 500 feet tall. The total project cost for the ride was $12 million. Gondolas take passengers to the top in 4 minutes, 30 seconds and can accommodate up to 100 passengers per trip. The gondola travels vertically at 6.5 feet per second and rotates one foot per second. The ride also has 1.4 million programmable LED lights that can be synchronized with the Midway light show.

Congrats Grads!
  
Representative Eric Johnson would like to extend a big congratulations to all high school and college seniors from District 100 who are graduating this year.  We are proud of you! 
Thanks for Visiting Us In Austin
  
  We'd like to extend a big thank you to everyone who came down to Austin to visit us at the Capitol this session!

 83rd Legislative Pics Collage 
      83rd Legislative Pics Collage #2 



Capitol Office 

Phone: (512) 463-0586

Room: E1.204

Address: P.O. Box 2910
       Austin, TX 
       78768

District Office

Phone: (214) 565-5663

Address: 1409 S. Lamar 
Suite 9
Dallas, TX
75215
Online

Like me on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter