Hello Collin County,
Unfortunately, I don’t have many reports this week to include. So, we will cover the latest from Richardson and focus on legislation. We’ll focus on legislation introduced by one of our own, Representative Mihaela Plesa, as well as legislation that covers gun regulations, the LGBTQIA+ community, disabled rights, and school choice. If you’d like to help with covering meetings in your area, please reach out and we will get you on a team.
Richardson City Council
At their March 27th meeting, the city announced two new voting centers for the upcoming May 6th election. While city hall is usually a voting center, a fire last year has rendered the building unusable for this election. This prompted the announcement for the new voting center. The city council also confirmed two new members to the City Plan Commission.
Texas House District 70
Representative Mihaela Plesa represents Texas House District 70 at the capitol. She has been very busy this session having authored over 65 bills and resolutions, and co-authoring, sponsoring, and co-sponsoring many more. I’ll highlight a few of the bills she has introduced below.
HB 446, co-authored by Representative Plesa, relates to the terminology used to refer to intellectual disabilities. Importantly, this bill removes the use of the “r-word” in reference to individuals with disabilities. This bill was voted out of the House with a vote of 164 in favor and no votes opposed. The bill has been sent to the Senate committee on Health & Human Services committee and awaits a hearing date.
HB 1250, authored by Representative Plesa, would expand the number of authorized dispensing organizations under the Texas Compassionate Use Program. The Texas Compassionate Use Program, also called TCUP, is the state’s limited medical cannabis program. This allows citizens who have qualifying conditions to have access to state-approved cannabis products that improve their quality of life. The TCUP program is still in its early years and is heavily restricted by limits on dosage and limits on licensed dispensaries. Any incremental changes to this program are massively important as they expand access to the therapeutic benefits of cannabis to patients in need. HB 1250 is currently assigned to the house committee on Public Health where it awaits a hearing date.
HB 1282, authored by Representative Plesa, introduces a requirement for county jailers to be trained on interacting with veterans in the criminal justice system. Collin County is no stranger to issues with our county jail. Many inmates have died in the care of the Collin County jail, from Marvin Scott III in 2021 to Neda Traycoff just last month. It is obvious that county jails have major systemic issues. This is a life or death problem that deserves a lot more attention. We need to encourage our legislators to increase training, staffing, and ethical requirements for our county jails. Thank you to Rep. Plesa for seeing that need and helping to bring much needed change. HB 1282 has received testimony but has currently been left pending in the house committee on County Affairs.
HB 1331, authored by Representative Plesa, would increase restrictions on the transfer of firearms to people under the age of 21. The recent shooting at a private school in Nashville is so heartbreaking. We are tired of having this inconceivable problem to solve. Texans unfortunately know firsthand how it feels to experience such tragedy. In Uvalde, an 18-yr-old committed the same unspeakable act. Section 46.06 of the Texas Penal Code establishes the parameters for the Class A misdemeanor offense of “unlawful transfer of a weapon”. The section currently prevents the transfer of a firearm to a child under the age of 18. This bill adds a section that prevents the transfer of a firearm to individuals under the age of 21. In this Republican-controlled 88th Texas Legislature, I am grateful to Rep. Plesa for authoring this bill. This would have a direct impact statewide. Yes, it’s incremental change, but at this particular place and time, I’ll take it. HB 1331 has been referred to the house committee on Community Safety where it awaits a public hearing date.
HB 1838 would establish a task force to study the causes and effects of gun violence and recommend programs and legislation to alleviate incidents of gun violence. Members of the task force would be appointed by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House. Under the current language, the nine-member task force would need to include: one proponent of private gun ownership, one opponent of private gun ownership, one medical professional, one prosecuting attorney, one university scholar with expertise on gun violence, one community advocate, one member of the House, one member of the Senate, and one final member to be determined by the Speaker of the House. This bill has room for improvement, and I encourage you to give some feedback regarding this bill to your representative and state senator. HB 1838 has been referred to the house committee on Community Safety where it awaits a public hearing date.
SB 574 would tax ammunition and gun sales in order to support a School Violence Victims’ Compensation Fund. Compensation under this section would range from $50,000 for physically injured victims up to $1 million for a deceased victim’s immediate family. This bill has been referred to the senate committee on State Affairs where it awaits a public hearing date.
I think it’s fair to say that none of the legislation introduced goes far enough to solve this completely solvable problem. We need to encourage our legislators to write sensible legislation that saves lives, and we need to elect officials who will listen to us.
HB 1686 is an all-around bad bill. It would ban insurance coverage for children involving transitioning. It would also prevent healthcare providers from providing gender affirming care to children. Furthermore, any doctor providing such care would lose their license. This bill has received public testimony and has been left pending in the house committee on Public Health.
There are many other bills, some good and some bad, that affect the LGBTQIA+ community. I encourage you to check out Equality Texas’ legislative bill tracker at the following link: https://www.equalitytexas.org/legislature/legislative-bill-tracker-2023/
SB 8 is another all-around bad bill. It would establish vouchers for school choice. That means that taxpayer money could be used towards private schools. This bill would also establish restrictions under the guise of “parental rights” for classroom topics around sexual orientation and other subjects. This bill has been voted out of the senate committee on Education and awaits a vote on the senate floor. We must hold our elected officials accountable and encourage them to vote down this bill.
The final bill I will highlight this week is HB 386, the Kate Garrison Act. Kate Garrison was a Collin County precinct chair and a long time advocate for individuals with disabilities. Her work will continue to have an impact on generations to come. HB 386 would require a designated curbside voting spot at every polling place for individuals who cannot enter the polling place. This bill has received public testimony and, according to the Texas Legislature online portal, awaits a vote in the house committee on Elections.
Next week, I hope to cover more news from our city councils and school boards as well as more bills that should concern us. I hope you are able to contact your legislators to give your input on the bills mentioned above. I also encourage you to continue to share bills with me that you think deserve our attention.
See you next week.
Justin Wray Neth