Bills Good for Working People Outnumber Bad and Ugly on First Day of Pre-Filing

Pre-filing for the 86th regular session of the Texas Legislature began yesterday with a new, improved mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. 

 A very strong group of bills raising wages, strengthening pensions and other workplace benefits, expanding health care and improving access to higher education were filed. Add to that several measures addressing the problem of sexual harassment.

Some bad bills weren't filed - at least as of yesterday - because the lawmakers who planned to run with them aren't coming back. As we knew going in, we will have to contend with an attack on paid sick leave ordinances approved in Austin and San Antonio in the form of HB 222 (see below), but the author is not the one who previously announced plans to file the measure today. That candidate lost on Nov. 6.

Ugly seems to be on the losing side, too, on Day 1 of pre-filing. Attacks on immigrants and bathroom bills were notably absent. 

As always, the Texas AFL-CIO will focus on measures that affect working families, looking through a broad prism. Here's a sampling of what made it to the Legislature's earliest in-box today from among the more than 400 pieces of legislation filed by 5 p.m.:

HB 28 by Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth, would attack misclassification of construction workers as "independent contractors" on public contracts. The bill sets up an audit process and raises penalties when employers deny misclassified workers employment benefits;

HB 37 by Rep. Ina Minjarez, D-San Antonio, would create a state offense for mail theft, with escalating maximum penalties depending on how much mail is stolen. As our Brothers and Sisters in the National Association of Letter Carriers and American Postal Workers Union know, the Texas Legislature occasionally considers legislation that holds implications for the U.S. Postal Service;

HB 40 by Rep. Romero, would set up a study on migrant labor housing facilities. Recent news reports have shown such living quarters to be dangerous in some case; HB 50 by Romero would set up a system of licensing for migrant labor housing; HB 206 by Bernal would regulate migrant worker housing;

HB 41 by Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, would authorize paid leave for state employees who volunteer for search and rescue training and missions;

HB 48 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, would create a publicly available database of employers who have been found to have committed wage theft; HB 83 by Rep. Romero raises penalties for repeated failure to pay wages; HB 169 by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, verifying compliance with wage payment laws in government contracts; SB 162 by Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, is also a wage theft database bill;

HB 56 by Rep. Armando Martinez, D-Weslaco, would provide for cost-of-living adjustments on pensions for retired teachers; SBs 92, 93 and 94 by Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, would add a supplemental "13thpayment" for retirees and otherwise shore up the Teacher Retirement System;

HB 106 by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, would step up protections against employer retaliation when an employee files a claim for unpaid wages; SB 91 by Sen. Jose Menendez, attacks employer retaliation and non-disclosure agreements;

HB 133 by Rep. Terry Canales, which would provide that tips are solely the property of tipped employees;

HB 149 by Rep. Canales, would make laid-off bus drivers eligible for Unemployment Insurance payments;

HB 194 by Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, would raise the state minimum wage to $15 an hour; HB 290 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, would raise the minimum to $10.10 an hour; SB 113 by Sen. Jose Menendez would set the wage at $10.10 an hour, as would SJR 5, his constitutional amendment proposal; in the past, the United Labor Legislative Committee has supported all bills aimed at raising the minimum wage;

HB 222 by Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, would cancel the ability of cities to enact earned paid sick leave ordinances. The ordinances, which could provide hundreds of thousands of Texans the freedom to stay home when they are ill, are under challenge in court as well.

HB 287 by Rep. Thompson, would set equal pay standards; SB 160 by Sen. Jose Rodriguez also addresses equal pay;

SB 32 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would establish the Texas Promise Grant Program to pay tuition and fees for Texas students whose annual household incomes are less than $150,000; SB 33 by Zaffirini specifically addresses two-year colleges;

SB 46 by Sen. Zaffirini, would expand the definition of "unlawful employment practice" as it applies to sexual harassment on the job;

SB 161 by Sen. Rodriguez would allow cities and counties to set local minimum wages; and

SB 163 by Sen. Rodriguez, would require workers' compensation coverage in building and construction firms.