Jeff Leach (LRM associate and Texas House Representative), helped us recap 5 bills of critical interest to you and your business passed in the last Session.
DRUG TESTING FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS (SB 21)
Drug testing required to receive unemployment benefits IF employer required pre-employment drug screening.
The legislation, effective September 1, mandates if someone submits an initial claim for unemployment benefits, they must submit to a drug-screening assessment, consisting of a written questionnaire, by the TWC if their occupation required pre-employment drug testing. If a reasonable likelihood of drug use is found, the applicant will have to pass a drug test to be eligible for unemployment benefits. Seven other states have passed similar measures.
BUSINESS TAX CUTS (HB 500)
Improving Texas’ positive business climate.
House Bill 500 offers over $700 million in business tax relief and makes the $1 million small business tax exemption permanent. HB 500 also provides for a franchise tax deduction for businesses that are relocating to Texas.
SCHOOL DRIVING LAWS STRENGTHENED (HB 347)
Statewide ban on handheld cell phone use on school property.
Unless the vehicle is stopped or the driver is using a hands-free device, House Bill 347 prohibits someone from using a wireless communication device while on public or private elementary or middle school property.
EDUCATION (HB 5)
Reforms: A new accountability system, new end of semester exams, and academic planning flexibility.
We must not only teach our students how to pass tests and graduate high school, but we must also train them and prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow. With House Bill 5, the Legislature instituted sweeping reforms to Texas public education. HB 5 institutes a new standard course of study for high school students and substantially reduces the number of end-of-course exams public high school students must pass to graduate, from 15 to 5. HB 5 also establishes a new accountability ratings system evaluating schools on academic performance, financial performance, and community and student engagement. Finally, HB 5 changes how students who do not wish to attend college can enroll in vocational, career and technology-related courses.
WATER (HB 5, HB 1025 & SJR 1)
Water: Long-term, affordable and sustainable water supply projects.
Water, not oil, is the foundation upon which the Texas economy is built. The 2012 State Water Plan says the total needs are projected to increase by an astounding 130% over the next 50 years. A series of bills (H.B. 4, H.B. 1025 and S.J.R. 1), creates long-term financing assistance for water supply projects. Two billion dollars from the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” will pay for the water plan via a new State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT), a special fund outside of the state treasury to implement the new plan. Texas voters must approve the funding structure via a constitutional referendum.