Texas Senate moving fast on special session

The big push Wednesday under the capitol dome happened in the Senate.  Essentially it was moving day on several issues overshadowed by controversial things like the bathroom bill.

Much of the morning was spent on debating SB8.

Senators approved a new rule that prevents state tax dollars from being spent on insurance policies that pay for elective abortions. To protest that kind of legislation members of Planned Parenthood wore hospital gowns and sat in the senate gallery.

After the abortion insurance vote, senators reigned in annexation powers by cities.

SB6, sponsored by Senator Donna Campbell ( R ) New Braunfels, requires voter approval before an area can be annexed. Counties with less than 125-thousand people were exempted from the Bill.

Senators who represent San Antonio a well as Senator Kirk Watson, who was once the mayor of Austin, voiced opposition to the Bill. Watson was worried about investments in infrastructure to lure major employers.

"Should they have to reimburse the taxpayers of the cities of the money that the cities have spent in anticipation of the annexation that was agreed to if in fact the people vote not to be annexed,” asked Senator Watson.

Senator Campbell said voters, under her Bill, would not be made to reimburse cities.

Senators also modified the state wide driving and texting ban which was approved during the regular session. SB15 keeps the texting ban - but abolishes local hands free cellphone ordinances.

Lawmakers were told that between 40 and 45 cities currently have in place the tougher law.

The legislative hammer against cities continued with SB 14. The Bill prohibits cities and HOA's from enacting rules that prevent a home owner from removing trees and vegetation from their own property. Legislation was also passed to force cities to move quicker on approving building permits

Another spirited debate took place involving SB 5.

The legislation was drafted to crack down on voter fraud involving mail in ballots. The bill passed- despite concerns that a conversation between family members could be viewed as a violation.

"If a voter with a ballot at home, ask their child who they should vote with, would that be a violation of this statue also,” asked Dallas Democrat Royce West.

The sponsor of SB5, Senator Kelly Hancock said there would be no violation as long as opinions were offered before the Ballot was opened and votes were about to be made.