AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - Big votes at the state Capitol took place on a Wednesday moving day. One vote eliminated a problem that could have caused a special session, while another expanded the use of a medical marijuana product.
The vote on Senate Bill 11 of 135-7 was essentially the completion of a touchdown Hail Mary pass.
The school safety bill includes language from SB 10 which had been killed Tuesday night on a technicality by state Rep Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford). He tried again Wednesday but failed. The modified school safety reform bill includes the creation of regional mental health hubs. The idea is to help identify and treat students in crisis, which, in theory, could help prevent mass shooting incidents.
“If we can address that underling foundational issue, that will make our schools safer,” said state Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood).
Concern was raised on how treatment would be done, by state Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress).
“Does this bill lead to the over prescribing of psychotropic medications for all of our children in public schools,” asked Oliverson.
Bonnen said the bill does not push medication as a solution.
“not only will pediatricians be providing care, they will have the ability through telemedicine to consult with pediatric psychiatrist who are very rare and not available as we’d like, and that leads to a reduction in the prescription of medications to manage,” said Bonnen.
Moving the bill forward was critical because it combines two of Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency items for the session and failure to approve them could possibly trigger a special session. The modifications the House had to make on the school safety bills are expected to be accepted in the senate.
On Wednesday lawmakers in the Senate chamber had their own hot topic to deal with. State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) carried House Bill 3703, which expands the use of low THC cannabinoid oil.
“This is not a party thing,” said Campbell.
In the debate Campbell argued scientific studies justify allowing more people to access the product. The list of new conditions in the compassionate use program include MS, ALS, autism and terminal cancer. State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville) asked about a condition that was not included.
“My question is, why aren’t veterans who are suffering for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD included in this bill,” asked Lucio.
In response Campbell acknowledged those in the military and in public service who testified on the bill asking to be included.
“We just don’t have the data, good scientific data, that supports for PTSD that we can put into this bill at this time,” said Campbell.
The senate unanimously passed the bill. After the vote Campbell made it clear the legislation is not a pathway to legalizing marijuana.
“This is not about recreational, this is about medicine limited, prescribed by doctors, board certified in a specialty area. Very different from smoking pot and legalizing pot,” said Campbell.
Several other bills didn’t survive the deadline for House votes, including legislation to override laws passed by cities like Austin’s mandatory sick leave time and an ordinance which prevents private businesses from doing background checks on job applicants until after the position is offered.
A border security bill which cleared the House and a Senate committee apparently will not be brought up on the Senate floor for debate.
A bill that came back into play was legislation drafted in response to the controversial arrest and death of Sandra Bland. A crime bill was amended late Tuesday night with language to prevent people from being taken to jail for an offense that doesn’t have jail time as a punishment.
Bland was pulled over for a traffic offense and later died in a county jail in 2015. Newly released video from her arrest will be the focus of a special hearing Friday.