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May 29, 2011 - Session Watch

Legislative success in a partisan session shows the power of common ground

By Sen. Carlos Uresti

Kristy Appleby never intended to become a cause célèbre, but her senseless death at the hands of a jealous woman exposed a flaw in our state's protective order statute that has now been mended.

It took more than two years of dogged persistence by Kristy's family and my staff, but we finally made it through the often treacherous legislative process and steered the Kristy Appleby Act to the governor's desk.

The passage of Kristy's bill was one of several accomplishments that stood out for me when the 82nd Legislature gaveled to a close on Memorial Day. Despite the challenges of redistricting and other partisan distractions, Republicans and Democrats came together on many issues of common interest.

To the great benefit of homeowners all across Texas, such bipartisan cooperation was achieved for Senate Bill 1505, which establishes a new method for the valuation of oil and gas properties in Texas.

That may sound boring, but it's a pocketbook issue that particularly affects property owners in West Texas counties that rely on oil and gas tax revenues.

The Comptroller's Office's current calculation method undervalues minerals for property tax appraisals, costing public schools about $1 billion over the last three years. The new method will ensure that oil and gas properties are valued more accurately, restoring certainty and stability to the valuation process.

That means your county won't have to cut essential services or raise your property taxes to make up for lost minerals taxes. Under this bill, which the governor has signed into law, everyone pays their fair share.

Both of these bills were at the top of the legislative agenda that I began assembling long before the session opened back in January. But they weren't the only ones I targeted for special attention. A number of my bills made it to the governor's desk, including...

Senate Bill 1154 — Continues the existence of the Statewide Blue Ribbon Task Force that was created in 2009 to develop innovative new approaches in preventing child abuse and neglect. The new law will allow the task force, set to expire in August, to continue its work until September 2013 and provide some state resources to task force members who have been paying their own transportations costs and other expenses.

Senate Bill 341 — Provides for a dissolution election for the Bexar Metropolitan Water District. Ratepayers who have suffered years of water quality problems, poor customer service and mismanagement will get to vote on whether to abolish the troubled utility and obtain service from the San Antonio Water System.

Senate Bill 1490 — Makes it a felony to provide a Texas court with false statements regarding a child custody determination made in a foreign country. It was prompted by the case of an 11-year-old San Antonio boy who was taken from a school bus and turned over to his father, based on false custody information provided to a state judge.

Senate Bill 115 — Provides the burgeoning private space flight industry with important liability protections. The measure, designed for the Blue Origin facility in Culberson County, would strengthen the waivers of liability signed by passengers who were made aware of the risks involved with sub-orbital flight.

Senate Bill 201 — Fixes a loophole in the law granting a full property tax exemption to veterans who are 100 percent disabled from their military service. Some appraisal districts have ruled that the exemption should stay with the homestead when the home is sold. The bill ensures that the exemption follows the veteran, as the Legislature intended.

All of these bills will make a difference in the lives of Texans, but Kristy's bill stands out because of its potential to save lives.

Before she was killed by the ex-wife of a man she had dated, Kristy sought a protective order against the women. But it was denied because the language in the statute did not account for her particular circumstance.

By allowing third-party protective orders for people who are not directly involved in an intimate relationship with each other, everyone at risk for domestic-related violence will be covered by the law.

Despite the partisan battles of this session, and my great disappointment with a budget that shortchanges education, lawmakers found common ground on issues whenever we could, ensuring that sacrifices like Kristy's were not made in vain. That's the way it's supposed to work.

Visit Senator Uresti's News page and Calendar
to keep up to date with Senate District 19.

©2011 Carlos Uresti Campaign  •  A.M. Hernandez, Treasurer  •  P.O. Box 240431  •  San Antonio, Texas  •  78224