Final Legislative Status Report (for the Regular Session)
May 30, 2023 (Day After Sine Die of the 88th Texas Legislature)
All of the pomp and posturing and motions and points of order and hearings and votes are over for the 88th Texas Legislature. Here is my report on the thrill of victory and agony of defeat for the Texas Constitutional Enforcement Legislative Agenda.
We started the session with a meeting in Austin to discuss our Legislative Agenda. How did we do?
If you have not seen the news, we are already in a special session with two issues called so far – property tax and a very narrow border security bill increasing penalties for smuggling and use of stash houses. The Governor has also said he plans to call multiple special sessions. I make reference below to a few items we need to address in those sessions, but hope to do a separate piece on what we need to push being added to 2023 special sessions.
Resist the Great Reset and ESG Scoring Destruction of Texas Business
Monetary Stability and Freedom - Right to Use Cash and Cash Substitutes Amendment
I said at the meeting before the session began that since a financial storm seemed imminent that I considered getting constitutional protection to allow Texans to prepare for that in a way that suited them best was one of my personal top priorities.
As the session progressed, four other bills popped up in the monetary stability/freedom space that either needed to be supported, killed, or modified to stop Central Bank Digital Currency Authorization.
Here is a report on all five bills and concepts:
HJR 146 Capriglione / SJR 67 Parker – Addition to Texas Bill of Rights to recognize natural right to use currency of choice. Resolution: Close, but no cigar. Glorious victory in the House with 139 – 2 vote, only to be ultimately thwarted by behind the scenes opposition by the Lt. Governor.
SB 2334 Hughes / HB 4903 Dorazio – Digital warehouse receipts/currency backed by gold and silver in Texas Bullion Depository. Resolution: Thwarted in both chambers for different reasons. In Senate, SB 2334 was assigned by the Lt. Governor by design to hostile Senate Finance Chair Joan Huffman, who killed it without a committee vote. HB 4903 was slow walked in the jam-packed House State Affairs, and placed on last day Calendar, meaning it never got a vote on the House floor.
SCR 25 Parker -- Texas resolution against Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). Resolution: Passed Senate, but never heard in House State Affairs.
SB 895 Johnson / HB 3573 Lambert – Bill to wholesale replace the Texas statute regulating money transmitters like Paypal that was pushed by a consortium of state banking regulators to standardize and “modernize” money transmitter regulation. A word search on bills led me to the bill and I was initially concerned that the bill was paving the way for Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) because it included the term “stablecoin,” which I assumed could include CBDC. Along the way, Chair Capriglione of the House committee told me that he did not think that was the case, but to be certain, Lois Kolkhorst and Nathan Johnson added a section that explicitly excluded authorization or creation of CBDC in the bill. I thanked everyone for addressing my biggest concern, but still did not favor the bill because it enabled too much interference in Texas by other state banking supervisors. Resolution: Sent to governor with anti-CBDC verbiage.
HB 5011 Capriglione / SB 2075 Paxton – This was the infamous “UCC Update” that looked like it put the CBDC nose under the tent via the capture of a national process designed to make state law as uniform as possible to make it less burdensome and costly for companies to do business in all states. It was this bill that Kristi Noem of South Dakota vetoed with a branding iron after Glenn Beck raised the alarm on his show. This is the bill that Ron DeSantis worked with the Florida legislature to modify and condemn CBDC. As soon as I saw that friends who do not support CBDC had introduced the bill, I gave heads up about the issue and political firestorm they were walking into. Capriglione immediately tweeted language that he planned to amend the bill to insure no support for CBDC could be construed from the updated law. Resolution: The bill died quietly without a hearing in either chamber.
I plan to write up resolution language to urge the governor to add monetary stability and freedom bills that protect Texans from inflation and CBDC to the call of the special session.
No plan of battle survives first contact with the enemy and every legislative agenda morphs as different bills get filed and discussions with legislators sharpen the focus.
Here is the way the rest of the Great Reset agenda got rearranged and categorized as things progressed.
Prohibition from Doing Business with Texas or its Subdivisions
SB 2530 Hughes – Prohibits financial companies that boycott energy companies from doing business with Texas or its subdivisions. Extends SB 19 from last session that applied same to discrimination against firearms and ammunition manufacturers. Resolution: Passed Senate but died due to lack of hearing in House State Affairs.
Texas Fund Divestment
SB 1446 Hughes -- Stops Texas public employee pensions from investing in companies “furthering social, political, or ideological interests.” Interesting, wide ranging, robust, testimony, the morning after most legislators had gotten to sleep at 3 am. See video of some of the hearing. Resolution: Passed the Senate, but died due to errors in paperwork that caused placement on the House Calendar on last day, then recessing over the weekend and chubbing by Democrats.
SB 1489 Creighton / HB 3619 Burrows – Stops Texas university funds from investing in companies that boycott oil & gas companies. Extends SB 13 from last session that required same of Texas pension systems. Resolution: SB 1489 passed Senate. Both bills dead due lack of action by House Higher Ed Republican Chair John Kuempel.
Prohibiting ESG Discrimination
HB 2837 Schaefer -- Prohibits credit card companies from “surveilling, reporting, or tracking” purchases of firearms or ammunition. Enforced via Attorney General civil suits. Resolution: VICTORY! Sent to governor.
HB 1239 Oliverson / SB 833 King -- Prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage, discriminating on rates using ESG factors, or targeting disfavored industries. Resolution: VICTORY! SB 822 has been sent to governor. HB 1239 stopped on House floor with point of order, but Senate action led by King saved the day.
SB 1060 Hughes -- Prohibits ESG related shareholder proposals from being adopted for Texas insurers and insurer holding companies. Resolution: Passed Senate, but died by being placed on House Calendar too late.
SB 1607 Kolkhorst -- Prohibits money transmitters like Paypal from fining their customers for their speech. Passed Senate, but died by being placed on House Calendar too late.
Pre-emption of Municipality ESG Implementation
SB 1860 Hughes / HB 4930 Craddick – Prohibits cities from passing charter amendments that create climate change policies. Resolution: VICTORY! Sent to governor.
SB 1017 Birdwell – Bill preempting political subdivisions from prohibiting gasoline engines. Resolution: VICTORY! Sent to and signed by governor.
Stopping Social Media Suppression
- HB 3751 Cain / SB 1602 Hughes – Keeps trials against social media under Texas law in Texas, in other words the venue will be in Texas. Resolution: VICTORY! SB 1602 sent to governor.
HB 3752 Cain / SB 2510 King – Adds statutory damages from social media companies to Texans who have been suppressed. Resolution: Author of HB 3752 postponed on House floor, killing own bill. SB 2510 not heard in Senate State Affairs.
HB 4397 Cain / SB 2509 King – includes suppression of Texans speech on social media in definition of deceptive trade practice, enabling penalties of Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). Resolution: Both bills died due to lack of hearing in Dem chaired House Business & Industry.
Slipping in the Great Reset via Transportation Policy
We had two wins on defense, led by the able and ever vigilant Terri Hall, who spoke at our Legislative Workshop.
HB 3418 Canales – proposed using borrowed federal tax dollars to pilot a program to start a mileage tax in Texas. Along with a good number of activists, I testified against, urging the Senate Transportation Committee Chair Robert Nichols and the committee to quoting Barney Fife, “Nip it. Nip it in the bud!” Resolution: VICTORY! Thanks to Chair Nichols, the bill was indeed nipped.
HB 71 Canales – proposed adding digital driver’s license capability so that people could have their driver’s license on their phone instead of a card. I and a few other privacy advocates testified against in the House. Resolution: VICTORY! But Senate Transportation Chair Nichols saved us again by refusing to hear the bill.
Call our batting average in Texas Resistance to the Great Reset .412.
Ultimately, we had only one victory on border security this session. We worked with the RPT Legislative Priority Committee head, Kelly Perry to try to implement the three provisions of the priority, and we worked with a good number of other groups and activists, too.
The one victory was the passage of one third of the RPT priority that called for interstate compact authorization on the border. The bill was SB 1403 by Senator Tan Parker with the assistance of David Spiller in the House. It has already been signed by the governor.
A few minor bills made it through, but all of the big items on border security, the backing of the governor’s invocation of the self-defense reservation of power provision of Article I, Sec. 10 of the U.S. Constitution, the statutory authorization for Texas law enforcement to engage in tide-turning, game-changing repel at the border, and a new force or unit to deploy in that effort all fell short. We have a virtual guarantee of a border security call in a special session. Buckle up!
We accomplished something that has been talked about for over a decade, but never done. We actually got a comprehensive bill to drafted stop funding taxpayer services for illegal aliens. That was another third of the RPT Border Security Legislative Priority. We did not find anyone to sponsor it. But now we have a draft that can be shopped.
Call our batting average on border security .250.
Medical Freedom and Executive Overreach
Broad prohibitions on mandating vaccinations:
HB 44 Swanson / SB 303 Hall – Health care providers who participate in Medicaid and the child health plan program “may not refuse to provide health care service” to enrollees based on “refusal or failure to obtain a vaccine or immunization for a particular infectious or communicable disease.” Penalty to a violating provider is disenrollment from the program. Resolution: VICTORY! HB 44 signed in both chambers.
SB 265 Perry – Requires reporting by physicians about experimental, investigational, and emergency use vaccine or drug-related injuries and adverse events to the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Noncompliance subject to disciplinary action by Texas Medical Board. Resolution: Passed Senate. Dead in House Public Health due to lack of hearing.
SB 1024 Kolkhorst – Hodgepodge bill that tweaks various vaccination matters. Prohibits private and government K-12 and higher ed COVID-19 vax mandates. Prohibits government mask mandates and lockdowns. Prohibits health care facilities and employers (with exceptions) from discriminating against COVID-19 unvaxxed. Resolution: Passed Senate. Dead in House State Affairs due to lack of hearing.
SJR 66 Hall – Addition to Texas Bill of Rights of right to decline medical treatment, including vaccination. Resolution: Dead due to no vote in Senate HHS.
Narrowly focused on COVID-19 vaccination:
HB 81 Harrison (Pub Health) / SB 177 (HHS) Middleton – The good part of this bill is that it casts the unalienable right to refuse using the language of informed consent, which has good legal precedent to back it up. The legislative finding section of the bill is very good. The bill stops anyone from taking an adverse action or imposing a penalty of any kind for refusing a COVID-19 vaccination and imposes $5,000 or more damages against health care providers who administer such. The only problem is the sole application to COVID-19. Resolution: SB 177 died in House because placed on Calendar the last day.
SB 29 Birdwell – Prohibits governmental vaccine mandates, lockdowns, or mask mandates for COVID-19. Resolution: Minor VICTORY! Watered down bill with exceptions sent to governor.
SB 426 Paxton – Prohibits Texas bureaucracies from interfering with doctors prescribing off-label medicines to address COVID-19. Resolution: Dead due to no hearing in House Public Health after passing Senate.
SB 403 Springer / HB 1313 Burrows – Texas study on adverse reactions of COVID-19 vax. Resolution: SB 403 died after getting to Calendars too late after passing Senate.
Bills Relating to Practice of Medicine and Patient Rights:
SB 301 Hall – Texas Medical Board prohibited from disciplinary action against physicians who prescribe ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine and pharmacists are prohibited from disputing or otherwise providing medical advice on the safety of those drugs. Pharmacists are shielded from liability for dispensing the drugs. Resolution: Deade to no hearing in House Public Health after passing Senate.
SB 1583 Hall – Prohibits higher ed that receive public funds from doing “gain-of-function” research and requires all organizations doing “gain-of-function” research in Texas to report it. Resolution: Dead due to not enough votes to make it to Senate floor.
SB 666 Hall – Requires standing and prohibits anonymous complaints in the Texas Medical Board disciplinary process and beefs up due process in the disciplinary process. Resolution: Dead due to no hearing in House Public Health after passing Senate.
SB 299 Hall – Hospitals must allow care by physician of choice even if physician is not a member of the hospital’s staff, but hospital not liable for damages resulting from treatment provided by the visiting physician. Resolution: Dead due to no vote in Senate HHS.
Stopping Future Executive Overreach:
SJR 58 / HB 1104 Birdwell w House lead Slawson – Constitutional amendment requiring legislative involvement after 30 days for large-scale disasters. Implementing HB 1104 statute stops future lockdowns and limits scope of what laws can be suspended. Note that this is the bill that implements what the governor said early in session he wants to see before he finally declares the COVID-19 emergency over. Resolution: Dead due to being added to Calendar on last day after passing Senate.
HB 107 Schaefer – Removes separation-of-power-violating open-ended penalties provision in Texas Disaster Act. Resolution: Dead due to never getting a hearing in House State Affairs.
Call our batting average on medical freedom and executive overreach .142.
But I am a count-your-blessings kind of guy. The anti-vax discrimination for Medicare and CHIP (HB 44) victory was HUGE! The bulk of the credit for that victory in the activist community goes to the indefatigable Jackie Schlegel of Texans for Medical Freedom and Michelle Evans and the army she represented at Texans for Vaccine Choice.
Neither our Texas Sovereignty Act (HB 384 Cecil Bell / SB 313 Hall) nor a pushback against unconstitutional federal executive orders (HB 262 Swanson / SB 242 Middleton) made it this session. Only one of those bills even got a hearing, SB 242. Middleton was able to get it out of committee 7 to 3, but he had enough behind the scenes Republican opposition to stop it from making it to the Senate floor.
The only victory in this space this session was the bill that stops Texas state agencies from enforcing federal regulations on oil and gas that do not exist in Texas law, HB 33 by Landgraf with Springer sponsorship in the Senate.
Election Integrity Enforcement
I worked hard on solving the State v Stephenson Court of Criminal Appeals opinion that stopped the Attorney General from having independent, state-level prosecutorial authority in this state. I argued that the only way we would get effective election integrity enforcement in the big counties of Texas in 2024 was to create a new state-level prosecution office under the judiciary to comply with the CCA opinion. The bill doing so was SB 1927 by Hughes.
I include SB 1927 in my federal pushback category because while we were re-establishing state level election integrity enforcement, I was working to add state level public integrity enforcement which includes the Texas official enforcement act, which was an integral part of the Texas Sovereignty Act’s teeth. SB 1927 was also adding state level prosecution of abortion and human smuggling. I was pushing to add sedition and riot, too.
Mike Schofield has been a player in this effort, too. He introduced a Texas Rule of Law bill last session to expand the scope of AG state-level prosecutorial authority, and this session, he introduced HB 4026 with an approach similar to Hughes SB 1927.
We definitely need a special session on this one. I don’t think either Greg Abbott or Dan Patrick want to tell Donald Trump that they had a chance to get effective election law enforcement in the big counties of Texas in 2024, but failed to do so.
Resolution of SB 1927: Dead due to opposition by Senator Joan Huffman.
Call the batting average in federal pushback this session .200.
A Band of Brothers and Sisters
One of the most wonderful things about going to the Capitol to advocate for liberty issues is getting to meet and hang out with the wonderful brothers and sisters in arms working on conservative issues at the Capitol, too.
The amount of grassroots participation in this session’s legislative process has been greater than any I have ever seen. I can list groups I have seen this session, but know I will leave some out because of the sheer volume. Here are some I can remember of the volunteer, citizen advocates: the members of the RPT Legislative Priorities Committees, North Texas Conservatives, Fredericksburg Tea Party, True Texas Project, Texans for Vaccine Choice, Texans for Medical Freedom, Texas for Liberty, Texas Freedom Coalition, Citizens Defending Freedom Texas, Convention of States, Texas Eagle Forum, and others I know I am forgetting. And don’t forget the paid staff of the RPT, Texas Values, GOA, NRA, etc.
There is a perpetual war between the swamp in Austin and the grassroots for influence over our legislature. The grassroots played the game better this session than ever before. And the impeachment of Paxton has given the low-information GOP primary voter a way to choose between the establishment and the grassroots in the next primary. To adapt the old joke, we have gone through lots of manure, but we have gotten to ride a few ponies this session and know there are even more if we just keep looking.
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