Jun 2nd 2017 | Posted in Legislation/Policy by Kristin Gordon

Gov. Greg Abbott continues to sign bills into law and had reached 448 bills by this morning. Some of the bills from the 85th Legislative Session that have been signed by Abbott include several that will reform the Texas foster care system. Senate Bill 11 will  expand “community-based foster care” to two areas in the state over the next two years. The state would have to transfer foster care case management, including caseworker visits, court-related duties and decision-making on where children live, learn and receive services, to a nonprofit agency or a governmental entity such as a county or municipality. House Bill 4 provides financial assistance of 50 percent of the daily foster care payment to a caregiver with a family income at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level. House Bill 5 establishes the Department of Family Protective Services as a standalone agency. House Bill 7 reforms the court processes and procedures for child welfare suits.  Here is a look at other bills that have been signed by Abbott:

House Bill 100 will end a patchwork of local regulations on ride-sharing companies in Texas and expands transportation options. Drivers must undergo annual criminal background checks, they must provide all necessary information to the consumer before each ride, they must provide electronic receipts to passengers and a zero-tolerance intoxication standard for drivers will be strictly enforced.

HB40 Sign 05182015 e1496412114463 Gov. Abbott signs House and Senate bills into Texas lawSenate Bill 42 will increases security for judges by expanding security reporting requirements and creating a judicial security division, among other measures. The bill is named in honor of state District Judge Julie Kocurek, who survived an attempted assassination outside her home in 2015. The bill expands security incident reporting requirements for court buildings, requires the Office of Court Administration to create a judicial security division to serve as a central resource for security best practices, requires presiding municipal and administrative judges to create a court security committee for all courts served by that judge, requires court security officers to receive specialized court security training in their first year, allows the Texas Department of Public Safety, at their discretion, to provide personal security to a state judge who has been threatened or attacked and further restricts the release of personal information of current and former judges, and tasks the Office of Court Administration with ensuring compliance.

Senate Bill 16 will reduce the fee for someone to obtain a license to carry a handgun in Texas. The bill will cut the first-time license to carry a handgun fee from $140 to $40, lowers the renewal fee from $70 to $40 and waives the fee for peace officers and members of the Texas military forces.

House Bill 505 will prevent lawmakers from quitting and coming back as lobbyists until they had sat out at least one two-year legislative cycle.

Senate Bill 7 requires principals and superintendents to report cases of teachers having inappropriate relationships with students or face a state jail felony or a fine of up to $10,000. Last year, the state opened 222 investigations into educators having romantic and sexual relationships with their students, part of an upward trend over the past eight years. The bill also allows automatic termination and revocation of a teaching certificate for teachers that engage in improper relationships with students, allows suspension, revocation, or denial of the certification of educators who assist an unscrupulous teacher in obtaining a job at another school and allows the suspension and annulment of an educator’s retirement annuity for educators convicted of having an improper relationship with a student.

Senate Bill 1430 will provide a water right holder who began using desalinated seawater with expedited consideration of a water right amendment application. This could occur only if the amendment did not authorize the diverted water to be transferred to another river basin but did authorize the applicant to divert water from a new diversion point and from all authorized diversion points at a combined rate that was equal to or less than the rate originally authorized. Desalination is the process of converting seawater to potable water by filtering out solid matter, using reverse osmosis membranes and water treatment to bring the water to the same quality as the rest of the water’s distribution system.

Senate Bill 1524 creates so-called Port Transportation Corridors (PTCs) enabling polyethylene manufacturers to safely transport full intermodal shipping containers to the Port of Houston and other container ports throughout the Gulf Coast. Trucks with the additional weight must be within 30 miles of a container port in a Texas county along the Gulf of Mexico. The bill would permit intermodal shipping containers to be carried by permitted tractor trailers with six axles and a gross vehicle weight of 93,000 pounds, or seven axles and a gross vehicle weight of 100,000 pounds.  The Texas Department of Transportation will coordinate with those counties to determine the safest routes for such loads. The PTC permits will cost $6,000 and be issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Senate Bill 977 will prohibit the Legislature from appropriating money and a state agency from accepting or using state money to pay for a cost of planning, facility construction or maintenance, or security for, promotion of, or operations of high-speed rail operated by a private entity, except as required under federal or other state law. High-speed rail would mean intercity passenger rail service that was reasonably expected to reach speeds of at least 110 mph.

Senate Bill 1107 abolishes the requirement that patient-physician relationships be established with an in-person visit before telemedicine can be used. Texas is the final state of 50 to abolish this requirement, so the bill’s passage will allow national direct-to-consumer telemedicine companies to extend their video-based operations nationwide. Technically, there are still limitations in Arkansas and Idaho, as those states still have restrictions on phone call-only telemedicine. House Bill 1697 will fund a pediatric telecommunications resource program.

Senate Bill 1138 will create a Blue Alert system to alert the public when a person suspected of killing or seriously injuring a police officer is at large. Similar to Amber and Silver Alerts, people will receive notice of the suspect on their phones, and media and other police departments will be similarly warned.

Senate Bill 12 will create and fund a bulletproof vest grant program to outfit approximately 50,000 officers statewide with vests that can withstand rounds from high-caliber firearms. The vests would cost the state about $25 million.

Senate Bill 4 requires local government entities and law enforcement officials to comply with federal immigration laws and detainer requests, and creates criminal penalties for entities that do not enforce the law. As part of the legislation, entities and officials that do not comply with the law could face a civil penalty for entities in violation of the law of up to $25,500 for each day of the violation, a class A misdemeanor for a sheriff, chief of police, or constable who fails to comply with federal immigration detainer requests and removal from office for any elected or appointed official who does not comply with the law.

House Bill 1584 will allow a commissioners court by rule to regulate solid waste collection, handling, storage and disposal in areas of the county not in a municipality or the extraterritorial jurisdiction of a municipality.

House Bill 1449 will ban cities from charging fees on new construction for the purposes of offsetting the cost or rent of any unit of residential housing. No Texas city has enacted such charges, known as linkage fees.

House Bill 101 would authorize certain municipalities to enter into a contract with any person to design, construct or reconstruct a reclaimed water facility with a capacity of at least 10 million gallons per day. The bill would apply to a home-rule municipality meeting certain population requirements. The contract could be payable from a pledge of the revenues of the water, sewer or combined system of the municipality or as an operating expense of that system. It would not be payable from property tax revenues.

Senate Bill 252, the Terror State Contracting Divestiture Act, prohibits a state agency, city, county, school district, public university, special district and the Legislature from contracting with a business for goods or services, including public works projects, if that business is engaged in business operations with the Sudanese or Iranian governments, or a foreign terrorist organization designated by the U.S. State Department.

House Bill 89 will ban state agencies from contracting with or investing in companies that boycott Israel as a political statement.

See more bills that have been signed by Abbott here.

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