After much perseverance, I can finally report that we passed legislation to protect private property across the state. For the past eight years, my staff and I have spent countless hours working to craft this significant piece of legislation. HB 2730 levels the playing field for landowners by making the process more transparent and fairer when they are faced with the extremely trying circumstance of a private entity using eminent domain authority to acquire their property.
One of the items the House Rules gives the Committee on Agriculture and Livestock jurisdiction over are matters primarily impacting Rural Texas. In the aftermath of Winter Storm Uri, we held a hearing to better understand the impact of the storm on agriculture and rural Texas in general.
Through our findings, I filed two bills in order to provide common sense solutions; House Bill 4296 allow for the use of dyed diesel to operate a motor vehicle on public roads following a disaster, and House Bill 4548 allows an oversize or overweight permit for vehicles transporting agricultural commodities during or preceding a disaster. I also authored an amendment to the budget which allows for hog & boll weevil eradication.
Some other major bills that will benefit rural Texas are: House Bill 5 which expands broadband services to rural and underserved areas across Texas, House Bill 3924 which authorizes the Texas Farm Bureau to offer a health benefit plan to its members, and HB 1480 (a.k.a.”Ag Trespass”) which will increases penalties for those who trespass on, and cause damages to ag facilities.
As a former school board member, protecting our neighborhood schools and ensuring that our children have access to a quality education have always been at the top of Rep. Burns’ agenda. During his four sessions in the legislature, he has increased funding for education, while also increasing transparency and public school accountability and improving early childhood development.
This session the Legislature increased our commitment to fully funding education, allocating $46.5 billion to our schools. This includes funding to help students and schools impacted by COVID-19, supplemental services for special education, and allocating the federal CARES Act money that was delivered directly to schools statewide.
I was a Joint-Author of HB 764 which was a STAAR Test reform bill that passed the House, but regrettably it did not advance in the Senate. We were able to get some much needed reforms to the STAAR exam passed though, such as the STAAR no longer affecting advancement for 5th and 8th grade students and requirements for accelerated learning for students who fail an exam.
We also increased the state’s contribution rates to the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) to better take care of our retired educators.
In addition, we improved the state’s ability to address chronically failing schools and provided schools with an additional accountability pause for the 2021-2022 school year.
Finally, I was able to pass House Bill 750 which assists school teachers in understanding the school districts hiring policies.
This session there were numerous bills passed that defend our 2nd Amendment rights, like House Bill 2622 which makes Texas a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary State as a protection against federal overreach.
I authored HB 854 which assures that Texans are not being unfairly punished for carrying a firearm. It decreases the penalty for carrying a handgun by licensed handgun owners in certain places. In the 84th Session, HB 910 reduced the penalty for criminal trespass by a license holder from a Class A to a Class C misdemeanor, along with a fine not to exceed $200. But the penalty remained a Class A misdemeanor for the prohibited locations, including hospitals, amusement parks, nursing homes, and governmental meetings. HB 854 makes the penalty in these sections of the code the same, the penalty will now be a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $200 after personally given notice by oral or written communication.
I also co-authored HB 1927, or “Constitutional Carry”, which allows law-abiding citizens to carry a handgun without a state issued license to carry.