Legislative Recap by Senator Carol Alvarado

Dear Friends,

The 86th Session of the Texas Legislature concluded last month and I am happy to report that I had a very productive first session in the senate.

I want to share some of the bills that I passed this session including Harvey recovery, health related issues, workforce expansion and appropriations in response to the ITC incident. I passed a total of 32 bills, 29 of which were signed into law by Governor Abbott and will take effect on September 1, 2019.

Harvey Recovery & Disaster Preparedness

S.B. 799 will create the Natural Disaster Business Advisory Council, a disaster recovery task force, wet debris clean-up programs and provide for the expansion of the Texas Department of Emergency Management under the Texas A&M Systems.

S.B. 493 aims to speed up disaster recovery by allowing for the allocation of housing tax credits to more than one development in a single community within the City of Houston. This will create more housing opportunities after a disaster.

S.R. 816 urges Congress to enact legislation to consolidate disaster recovery housing funding into a single Disaster Housing Response and Recovery Block Grant.

H.B. 41 will allow state employees who volunteer in search and rescue teams during a disaster to take leave time without a deduction in salary. This will make it easier for employees of state agencies to take leave time in order to help their fellow Texans as search and rescue volunteers.

H.B. 2310 creates a coordinated effort between TX DMV, Texas Department of Emergency Management and FEMA to provide vehicle tracking information after a disaster.

H.B. 2835 will establish protections for the offense of operating a vehicle with an expired registration if the office of the county assessor-collector was closed for an extended period of time during the offense, such as after a disaster.

H.B. 3365 will extend the Good Samaritan Law to reduce liability for individuals responding to a disaster as declared by the President of the United States or by the Governor of Texas. This allows more flexibility for everyday Texans who want to volunteer during a disaster.

H.B. 3913 protects certain private information obtained by a flood control district after a disaster, such as names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, social media information and social security numbers from predatory contractors

Health Issues and Human Services

S.B. 1834 will expand access to affordable healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, for low-income Texans through a pilot Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) incentive program.

H.B. 76 requires public schools to provide certain information regarding cardiac assessments and optional electrocardiograms to student athletes participating in UIL sports.

H.B. 170 will require health insurance companies to provide coverage for diagnostic mammograms as part of an annual well-woman examination.

H.B. 1651 limits the use of restraints, such as shackling, on pregnant women in county jails.

H.B. 1884 will provide information to kinship caregivers on the option to become verified by a licensed child-placing agency and the Permanency Care Assistance Program to ease financial burdens.

Transportation Issues

H.B. 2188 will regulate the use of e-bikes to create a predictable regulatory environment for manufacturers, retailers and consumers.

H.B. 1130 creates specialty “Register to Vote” license plates to increase awareness of voter participation.

Human Trafficking

S.B. 1219 requires transportation hubs across Texas to display information on the indicators of human trafficking as well as the National Human Trafficking Hotline number in publicly conspicuous zones.

H.B. 1113 creates a comprehensive state plan to prevent and treat victims of child sex trafficking. This includes a treatment program for survivors and a matching grant program for municipalities and law enforcement agencies for prevention programs (amended onto S.B. 20).

Workforce Expansion

I was the senate sponsor for H.B. 2784 which requires the Texas Workforce Commission to ate and administer the Texas Industrial Workforce Apprenticeship Grant Program to encourage the private sector to develop specialized workforce training programs.

Local Issues

S.B. 1835 creates the Channelview Improvement District which can issue bonds, impose fees and taxes in order to rehabilitate outdated infrastructure.

Houston Ship Channel

This session, I had the privilege of serving as the Vice-Chair on the Senate Select Committee on Ports. I valued this role greatly as the Port of Houston is one of the busiest ports in the country and is an integral part of Senate District 6. Our work on this committee will ensure that the port continues to thrive economically.

I passed S.B. 1915 which will separate the governance of the Board of Pilot Commissioners for Harris County Ports from that of the Port Commissioners of the Houston Port Authority.

ITC Incident

In March, the initial fire and following environmental damage at the Intercontinental Terminals Co. facility in Deer Park drew my attention to the lack of regulatory measures surrounding similar facilities. Through town halls, various meetings and a special Ports Committee hearing in the Capitol, my office worked with TCEQ and other agencies to discuss needed changes.

I advocated for additional funding for three mobile monitoring units and pushed for the TCEQ to take a harder look at the safety standards being upheld. From this funding, the agency received funds needed to obtain all three mobile units as well as a Scanning Electron Microscope for more accurate air readings. I will continue to work with various agencies and review the regulatory standards at chemical facilities similar to ITC during the interim.

Celebrating the home team – Houston Astros!

I was honored to present our H-Town team with Senate Resolution 463 for their historical World Series Championship win. It was exciting to welcome our players and recognize their display of Houston Strong determination in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Missed opportunities that I will continue to work on this interim and in the 87th session

S.B. 798, giving Texas Health and Human Services discretion in denying applications for a family residential center license (detention centers).

S.B. 967, requiring Texas Health and Human Services to regulate detention facilities and deny any waiver requests for childcare detention facilities in Texas.

S.B. 327, allowing counties to opt-in to Medicaid expansion in order to cover their uninsured residents.

S.B. 686, creating a personal financial literacy course for high school students.

S.B. 757, allowing for online voter registration in Texas.

S.B. 1832, creating a music incubator rebate program to relieve financial burdens on small music venues.

S.B. 1577, banning the use of taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment allegations.

S.B. 1573, creating a public awareness campaign around safe storage, suicide prevention and the prevention of firearm accidents involving children.

S.J.R. 42, a constitutional amendment authorizing the operation of casino gaming in Texas.

S.B. 1837, expanding medical marijuana for treatment of certain illnesses.

H.B. 3511, creating The Commission on the Texas Workforce of the Future to address workforce needs.

My first session was result-oriented and I am happy to be back in Houston, engaging with the community. Over the interim, I will tour throughout Senate District 6 to discuss the 86th session so I may continue to hear and represent your interests again next session.