Many Bills Die at Deadline for House Committee Action: On Monday, May 8, the arrival of a crucial deadline in the Texas House meant the death of a host of bills not yet passed and reported out from House committees. Among them was HB 510 by Rep. Sarah Davis (R-Houston), the bill to take away the freedom of school employees and other public-sector workers to have their union or association dues deducted from their payroll check. However, SB 13, the Senate-passed companion to HB 510 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), is still alive, so this particular fight goes on. You can weigh in against SB 13 here.
House Passes Bill to Penalize Improper Relations with Students: SB 7, the bill by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) to enhance and expand penalties for educators who conduct improper relationships with students, won preliminary approval in the Texas House on May 8. The bill makes teachers and other school employees subject to increased sanctions for engaging in such relationships, whether the student involved is enrolled at their school or not. Administrators who intentionally fail to report such misconduct would face felony prosecution.
Removed in House committee but restored on the House floor was a section of the bill revoking the pension benefits of a public employee convicted of certain sexual offenses against a student. A further floor amendment gave judges discretion to award part or all of the offender’s pension to the person’s spouse, but the language of the amended bill still would apparently hit some innocent bystanders such as dependent children.
Governor Signs “Show Me Your Papers” Immigration Bill: Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday evening signed SB 4, the “show me your papers” immigration-enforcement bill by Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), in an unusual solo signing ceremony accessible only by online transmission. Abbott and his supporters call this bill a ban on “sanctuary cities,” but the label obscures more than it reveals about the content of SB 4.
Under current federal law, local police are not required to comply with a request from federal immigration authorities to detain someone for federal immigration agents unless the feds have an arrest warrant for that person. SB 4 would change that; under state law, local police would be required to comply with a detention request and could not have a policy of non-compliance with such requests. Local police would be granted discretion to inquire into the immigration status of anyone they have detained for as little as a traffic violation. Local officials who violate this state law would be subject to criminal and civil penalties and even removal from office. SB 4 applies to college campuses and police but not to school districts or peace officers employed by school districts.
SB 4 is sure to be challenged as a state encroachment on federal authority over immigration-law enforcement. Anticipating that challenge, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton already has filed suit against local officials in Austin, asking a federal court to declare the state legislation compatible with federal law even before its scheduled effective date of September 1. Texas AFT opposed SB 4 throughout the legislative process and will continue to oppose it as bad policy and bad law.
Two Good Bills Pass on House Consent Calendar: HCR 101 by Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Corpus Christi) calls on the U.S. Congress to repeal two unfair Social Security benefit offsets that hurt hundreds of thousands of Texas school employees when they retire. HCR 101 was approved May 9 on a preliminary vote of 143 to one. Also approved on the House consent calendar was HB 3767 by Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston), requiring school districts to certify that they have properly constituted their site-based decision-making committees–including the representatives of professional staff, who per current law are to be elected by their peers.