Gov. Rick Perry gave his seal of disapproval to 24 bills today, two days before the veto deadline for all legislation passed during the regular session. Back on May 31, he vetoed one other bill that would have collected online sales taxes. In all, he has vetoed 25 measures.
Notable among the vetoed bills is HB 242, a measure that would have banned texting while driving.
"I support measures that make our roads safer for everyone, but House Bill 242 is a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults. Current law already prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from texting or using a cell phone while driving. I believe there is a distinction between the overreach of House Bill 242 and the government's legitimate role in establishing laws for teenage drivers who are more easily distracted and laws providing further protection to children in school zones," Perry said in his veto statement.
State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, who wrote the texting while driving ban, said she was dismayed and disappointed that Perry vetoed the measure. Legislators' decisions can save lives, and she said the texting ban would have done just that.
"From my perspective there will be blood on his hands," Zaffirini said. "Every time that we hear about a tragedy related to distracted driving ... I hope that is forwarded to the Governor."
Perry's vetoes will also mean a couple more agenda items for lawmakers to accomplish during the special session. He nixed sunset bills that are necessary to keep the Departments of Information Resources and Housing and Community Affairs going.
HB 2608, the sunset bill for TDHCA would continue operations of the agency until 2023, but Perry argued "prescriptive language was added to House Bill 2608 that would impose a new layer of bureaucracy that makes unrealistic demands of the state, delay assistance to communities hit by disasters and duplicate disaster planning conducted by the Texas Division of Emergency Management."
Perry also took issue with the bill's reliance on federal disaster recovery funds and a requirement the state issue plans for how it would use those funds.
"I do not take lightly the impact this veto may have in potentially shutting down TDHCA over the next year. That is why I have asked the legislature during this special session to amend language in pending legislation to continue the operation of TDHCA," Perry stated.
DIR was slated to undergo some major changes, including the hiring of an internal auditor.
In his veto statement, Perry explained he vetoed HB 2499 because it "seems to ignore the progress DIR’s new leadership has made in improving agency operations and efficiencies. The bill also undermines executive branch authority by removing a single state agency from data center consolidation, removing qualified and hardworking board members from their positions without cause, and removing DIR’s important procurement function during the ongoing re-procurement of data services."
Perry said he will ask lawmakers to pass legislation during the special session to extend DIR through 2017.
Perry also weighed in on health care, vetoing HB 335, a bill that would have required state agencies to submit reports detailing the implementation and requirements of federal reform laws. The governor said the "mandate" is not necessary, "as this information would be available upon request of state leadership. As such, I will be working with state leaders to direct state agencies to provide information necessary to assess the impact of overreaching federal health care legislation on Texas."
On campaign finance, Perry vetoed HB 1616 because it included an amendment that allowed filers to change their reports up to 14 days after a complaint is filed without penalty. The governor argued that "would inadvertently cripple the Texas Ethics Commission's authority to enforce compliance with state campaign finance laws."
The sponsors of the vetoed bills appeared to be split along party lines, including 11 Republicans and 14 Democrats.
In a press release, Perry said he vetoed "certain" bills to "protect ethics and public safety, and to limit government intrusion into Texans’ lives." He also praised lawmakers for passing a balanced budget for the next two years without using the state's Rainy Day Fund or raising taxes. Perry signed the biggest bill of the session, House Bill 1, which sets the state's budget for the next two years, with mostly minor line-item vetoes.
“After thoroughly reviewing all legislation that reached my desk, there were some bills that would have done more harm than good to Texans, and I have used my authority to veto them," Perry said.
We will update our 2011 Veto Watch in a few moments, to include all of Perry's veto statements.
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