Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa filed six senate bills on the first day of the 85th Texas Legislature pre-filing period. Senator Hinojosa's early round of bills focus on veterans, public health and safety, civil liberties, criminal justice, and fiscal accountability. The 85th Texas Legislature will convene January 10, 2017.
Senator Hinojosa issued a statement on each of the six bills pre-filed:
1. Senate Bill 154 - Relating to the establishment by the Texas Workforce Commission of a career and technical education workforce specialist pilot program.
As the demand increases for middle-skilled jobs that require Career Technical Education (CTE), our community colleges and high schools fill a critical role in the effort to prepare students with the work skills they need to compete. SB 154 would establish a CTE workforce specialist pilot program at the Texas Workforce Commission so that workforce development specialists can provide career services to students at public high schools in designated regions, and to direct those students toward high-demand, skilled occupations experiencing existing or projected workforce shortages in Texas.
2. Senate Bill 155 - Relating to cardiac assessments of participants in extracurricular athletic activities sponsored or sanctioned by the University Interscholastic League.
Traditional physical examinations, which students undergo before participating in an athletic activity sponsored or sanctioned by the University Interscholastic League, are not sufficient for detecting underlying cardiac abnormalities that can lead to sudden cardiac death. Studies show that sudden cardiac death is a leading cause of death in athletes and that competitive athletes are at higher risk. SB 155 provides a method for identifying our student athletes who are at risk for sudden cardiac death by requiring a student to receive an electrocardiogram (ECG) before the student's participation in a UIL activity.
3. Senate Bill 156 - Relating to the state's burden of proof in certain criminal asset forfeiture proceedings.
SB 156 raises the burden of proof from a preponderance of evidence to a clear and convincing standard the state must prove in asset forfeiture cases. The heightened legal burden placed on the state will not interfere with our law enforcement agencies' ability to do their jobs, is an important protection for Texans' property rights and civil liberties.
4. Senate Bill 157 - Relating to certain statutory changes to reflect same-sex marriages, including the repeal of the statutory prohibition against the recognition of a civil union or similar relationship entered into in another state between two persons of the same sex.
This legislation will repeal Texas' unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage. While the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision last year is now the law of the land, it is time our state constitution and laws reflect that. All Texas couples must be allowed the freedom to marry, build a family, and be treated with dignity and respect.
5. Senate Bill 158 - Relating to the creation of an open burn pit registry for certain services members and veterans.
Our goal is to create a Texas Open Burn Pit Registry to help service members, veterans, medical providers, and the VA determine the effects of exposure to open air burn pits. Much like the Agent Orange and Gulf War registries, the registry will serve as a critical tool in examining this new type of toxic exposure to help stop medical misdiagnoses that often leads to denials of benefits and financial hardships for so many veterans. This registry will also serve as an outreach tool and critical resource to veterans and their families by providing information to available programs while collecting valuable data to help understand the effects of exposure to chemicals while serving in foreign lands.
6. Senate Bill 159 - relating to excepting certain appropriations from computations regarding the constitutional limitation on the rate of growth of appropriations.
As responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars we need to rein in our dependence on debt by paying off our current outstanding obligations. Texas' Constitutional Spending Limit ties our hands on our ability to pay-down our debt when we have healthy General Revenue balances and a strong Rainy Day Fund because appropriations for debt service is counted towards the constitutional spending cap. SB 159 offers a common sense approach to paying off current obligations so that we can have the flexibility to pay-down our state debt without going against the spending limit.