State Politics

Deadline looms for Texas House bills

Fireworks could be sold more in Texas under a bill the House approved Wednesday, that would add time in February, March, April and May for fireworks to be sold.
Fireworks could be sold more in Texas under a bill the House approved Wednesday, that would add time in February, March, April and May for fireworks to be sold. AP

The fate of hot-button proposals ranging from issuing same-sex marriage licenses to raising the minimum wage hangs in the balance as state lawmakers face a crucial deadline tonight.

Advocates fought late into the night Wednesday to keep the measures alive — or find another way to pass them — as a midnight deadline looms for state representatives to consider most House bills and joint resolutions.

Both chambers have shifted into high gear, passing proposals that would let Texans use concealed-handgun licenses as personal ID for everything from writing checks to buying beer and that would allow fireworks to be sold more often. Late Wednesday, as the House passed the 12-hour mark for the day, members appeared ready to give early approval to a bill that would make it harder for underage girls to get abortions.

“We are running out of time on a lot of bills,” said Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake. “Every six minutes that goes by, another bill dies.

“They are just dying and dying and dying,” he said. “Some bills are already dead and nobody knows it yet.”

The Legislature has until June 1 to complete its work.

The only measure that lawmakers must pass is a state budget for the next two years. They haven’t yet.

“Many bills will die,” said Rep. Ramon Romero Jr., D-Fort Worth. “It’s a shame, but that’s the way it works.”

What’s at risk?

In jeopardy are proposals such as a bill to prevent officials — local, county and state — from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples or acknowledging any licenses issued in other states.

Almost every Republican in the GOP-dominated Legislature has signed on to the measure, perhaps to push back against a pending Supreme Court ruling this summer that could make same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

Under the proposal, government employees in Texas couldn’t use taxpayer dollars to “issue, enforce, or recognize” marriage licenses for same-sex couples, setting up a legal challenge to any court ruling that might come.

A half-dozen people stood outside the House chamber Wednesday holding signs urging lawmakers to reject the proposal. And the computer company Dell released a statement saying it has told Gov. Greg Abbott that it considers diversity a “business imperative.”

But even this measure, with so much GOP support in the House, is in danger as the clock ticks.

Another proposal further down the calendar would raise the minimum wage in Texas to $10.10 an hour from $7.25.

The plan by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, is meant “to help working families in Texas by raising the minimum wage.”

Also at risk is the American Laws for American Courts measure, which addresses the use of foreign laws and doctrines in the state’s courts. The measure says courts shouldn’t enforce a foreign law that goes against Texas public policy.

So many bills are on the House calendar that many might not be heard on the floor.

Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, said the measures are in a certain order for a certain reason.

“It’s all political theater,” he said. “All of us are sitting out here with nothing we can do.”

Moving through

Lawmakers did make their way through a number of proposals Wednesday. And they appeared ready late in the night to revamp a longtime Texas practice known as “judicial bypass” that helps girls younger than 18 who face extreme situations get an abortion.

Those youths — perhaps hundreds a year — have to prove to a judge that seeking parental consent would not be in their best interests because it might lead to physical or emotional abuse at home. Girls who are denied parental consent also may turn to the courts for help.

Conservative lawmakers, who have worked for years to make it harder for women to get abortions by increasing restrictions and requirements for clinics, are focused on making the provision first approved by lawmakers in 1999 more stringent.

This year’s proposal, by Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, would no longer allow teens to seek a bypass in any county. The application would have to come from a girl’s home county or a neighboring one if the home county has fewer than 10,000 residents.

“This addresses several issues​,” she said, adding that the girl must “prove by clear and convincing evidence she is mature and well-informed enough” to know that an abortion is in her best interest.

The measure also has a stipulation requiring more proof of a girl’s fear of abuse. She must appear in person for a hearing. And judges have a longer time frame to decide whether to approve applications.

More fireworks

Lawmakers approved a measure Wednesday to let fireworks be sold more often in Texas. Under the proposal, which heads to the Senate, residents could buy fireworks from Feb. 25 to March 2; April 16 to April 21; and the Wednesday before the last Monday in May through midnight on the last Monday in May.

Fireworks may already be sold from June 24 to July 4; Dec. 20 to Jan. 1; and May 1 to May 5 if the sale takes place no more than 100 miles from the Texas-Mexico border and is in a county where county commissioners have approved the sale of fireworks, according to the bill.

Members approved a proposal by Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, to create a seven-member Texas Adult Stem Cell Research Coordinating Board, which will establish a research consortium to study adult stem cell research.

And they signed off on a measure to let Texans use concealed-handgun licenses as valid identification for activities including buying drinks and cashing checks.

They could use the CHL for most matters, except for anything dealing with transportation, law enforcement or the federal government, said Capriglione, who authored the measure along with Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, and others.

Lawmakers aren’t focused on the bills that passed Wednesday, though.

They are looking at the ones that might not survive.

“Absolutely many more bills will die,” Romero said. “Some people will be upset and some will be glad.”

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

Local legislation

Here’s a look at some of the bills by local lawmakers that passed the House on Wednesday. All now head to the Senate.

HB1066 by Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, regarding regulating certain motor vehicle auctions.

HB1532 by Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, requiring that reports of political contributions be submitted quarterly rather than semiannually.

HB1630 by Rep. Ramon Romero Jr., D-Fort Worth, regarding limitations on settlement agreements with a governmental unit.

HB2950 by Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, and more. This measure would make permanent a Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response.

HB3777 by Reps. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, Klick, and Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, about regional transportation authorities.

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