By Jackie Stone

Killeen Daily Herald

As high-profile budget concerns and a likely-to-be contentious redistricting battle monopolize headlines about the 82nd Texas Legislature session that began Tuesday, Central Texas lawmakers had by Wednesday quietly filed a handful of bills reflecting local concerns and pet projects.

Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, has again joined as an author of voter identification legislation, which turned divisive during the last legislative session.

Other measures filed included a bill to limit eminent domain authority from Rep. Ralph Sheffield, R-Temple, and another from Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, that would add guns and ammunition to the annual sales tax-free weekend in August.

But in any legislative session in Texas, a filed bill is a long way from becoming law, first facing committees before it can even be considered for a vote on the floor of the House or Senate. Then, the process repeats in the other chamber.

During the current session, when revenues are projected to be an average estimate of $15 billion short of budget needs, those long odds get longer. Central Texas legislators said Wednesday they believe fewer bills will be filed this year.

"There will be fewer bills because everyone knows, No. 1, if it costs any money, it's dead on arrival," said Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen.

Aycock said beyond the imperatives of passing a balanced budget - which is required by the Texas Constitution - and

redrawing district maps, he is focused this session on education.

Aycock has already filed legislation that could change the first day of school for districts with high military populations and a bill that could allow Texas A&M University-Central Texas to issue up to $70 million in tuition revenue bonds for capital projects at the new Killeen campus.

At the same time, Aycock said there are painful realities about public education funding in Texas that must be faced in the budget discussion.

"We're discussing everything from furloughing teachers without pay to cutting teacher salaries to changing classroom size," he said. "It's not about doing good, at this point; it's about doing the least damage. I know people don't like to hear it, but it's the truth."

Though Miller has filed the legislation that would, if passed, add "handguns, rifles, shotguns and ammunition" to the items that are exempt from the sales tax holiday, he knows it may be a long shot in the current economic climate.

Instead, Miller said Wednesday his priority besides the budget and redistricting is the passage of a "sonogram bill," which failed to gain final passage in the last session. The legislation would require that before an abortion is performed, a sonogram be shown to the expectant mother.

"It's something that saves lives, obviously. You're talking about the sanctity of life and how we can preserve life. I want to make sure those mothers really know what they're doing, to reflect on that," Miller said.

Sheffield said his already filed eminent domain legislation is a major priority, and it falls in line with an opening day speech from Gov. Rick Perry, signaling out eminent domain as an "emergency" issue.

On the Senate side, Fraser and Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, have signed on to the voter identification legislation.

This time around, Fraser said, he doesn't expect the division that followed in the wake of the measure to require photo identification of all voters in 2009.

Birdwell said he thinks there are four issues predominantly facing the Legislature: the budget, redistricting, voter ID and border security.

Still, he echoed a sentiment of many of his colleagues in Central Texas.

"The budget being something constitutionally mandated, it's got to be done that way; it is the center of gravity. That (and redistricting) could very well be the only two things that we do."

Bill filings by Central Texas lawmakers

Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, has nine bills filed in the House:

HB 235 - Relating to the first day of instruction for a school year in school districts in which a certain percentage of the students are military dependents.

HB 338 - Relating to disclaimers by certain entities promulgating lists of noxious or invasive terrestrial plant species.

HB 339 - Relating to the use of certain voting equipment in an election that does not involve a federal office.

HB 358 - Relating to authorizing the issuance of revenue bonds for capital projects at Texas A&M University-Central Texas.

HB 391 - Relating to termination of a public school teacher's term contract and discharge of the teacher at any time on the basis of a school district's financial exigency.

HB 412 - Relating to the requirement that certain impaired veterinarians participate in a peer assistance program.

HB 413 - Relating to the confidentiality of certain information held by a veterinarian.

HB 414 - Relating to the conducting of licensing examinations by the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.

HB 572 - Relating to the power of the Bell County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 to issue bonds.

Rep. Ralph Sheffield, R-Temple, has three bills filed in the House:

HB 188 - Relating to limitations on the use of eminent domain authority.

HB 522 - Relating to an exemption from the motor vehicle use tax for motor vehicles brought into this state by military service members serving on active duty.

HB 559 - Relating to Bronze Star Medal specialty license plates.

Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, has five bills filed in the House:

HB 180 - Relating to the issuance of Texas Masons specialty license plates.

HB 181 - Relating to an exemption from sales tax on handguns, rifles, shotguns, and ammunition during the annual sales tax-free weekend in August.

HB 182 - Relating to the issuance of Bronze Star Medal specialty license plates.

HB 334 - Relating to the establishment of the Texas Livestock Care Standards Advisory Committee.

HB 607 - Relating to eligibility of commercial driver's license holders for dismissal of certain charges on completion of a driving safety course.

Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, has six bills filed in the Senate:

SB 178 - Relating to requirements to vote, including presenting proof of identification; providing criminal penalties.

SB 331 - Relating to adding certain synthetic cannabinoids to Penalty Group 2 of the Texas Controlled Substances Act.

SB 332 - Relating to the vested ownership interest in groundwater beneath the surface and the right to produce that groundwater.

SB 333 - Relating to election procedures and qualifications of members of boards of directors for water supply or sewer service corporations.

SB 334 - Relating to the applicability of the constitutional limit on state debt payable from the general revenues of the state to bonds issued by the Texas Water Development Board.

SB 335 - Relating to an exemption from regulation as health spas for certain governmental hospitals and clinics.

Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, has three bills filed in the Senate:

SB 99 - Relating to persons authorized to control the disposition of the remains of certain members of the U.S. armed forces.

SB 178 - Relating to requirements to vote, including presenting proof of identification; providing criminal penalties.

SB 321 - Relating to an employee's transportation and storage of certain firearms or ammunition while on certain property owned or controlled by the employee's employer.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.