This Week At The Capitol With State Rep. Erin Zwiener

This Week At The Capitol With State Rep. Erin Zwiener

State Representative Erin Zwiener’s Workplace Sexual Harassment Bill Passes Out of Committee Unanimously

Austin, TX — State Representative Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) Monday notched another victory in her work aimed at eliminating sexual misconduct as House Bill 2279 was voted unanimously out of the House International Relations & Economic Development Committee.

HB 2279 would require the Texas Workforce Commission to accept sexual harassment claims from employees of companies of all sizes. Currently, the Texas Workforce Commission is not required to accept sexual harassment claims from companies with 14 or fewer employees.

“It is our duty to make sure protections, especially sexual harassment protections, extend to each and every Texas worker,” said Rep. Zwiener. “We know that sexual harassment can occur in any workplace regardless of the size of the company, yet current law does not properly protect individuals at smaller companies. With this bill, we make sure that every Texan has access to a fair and transparent process, which both protects the rights of individual workers and helps small business work environments across Texas.”

HB 2279 is one of four bills Rep. Zwiener has authored this session concerning sexual harassment and assault. Senator Zaffirini is carrying the senate companion, SB 46, which is also moving forward. Rep. Zwiener will lay out two of these bills, HB 2672 relating to rates of sexual assault prosecution and HB 2678 relating to sexual assault data compilation, in front of the House and Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee this Wednesday, April 17.

Rep. Zwiener’s Sexual Misconduct Bills

  • HB 2278 would increase the window in which a sexual harassment claim can be made from 180 days to a full two years.
  • HB 2279 would allow the Texas Workforce Commission to accept sexual harassment claims from employees of companies of all sizes. (Senator Zaffirini is carrying the companion, SB 46.)
  • HB 2672 would create a study to be conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety to investigate the disparity between sexual assault offenses and actual prosecution.
  • HB 2678 requires the Texas Department of Public Safety to compile and maintain statistics on the number of victims of sexual assault to a law enforcement agency after receiving a forensic medical examination.

Flood Mitigation Proposal Passes House with Support from State Representative Erin Zwiener

Austin, TX — The Texas House of Representatives voted Thursday, April 11, on a proposal to put a constitutional amendment related to flood mitigation funds before Texas voters this November.

House Joint Resolution 4, which would create the Flood Infrastructure Fund to provide dollars for flood mitigation and other drainage flood control projects, passed overwhelmingly out of the house with the support of Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood).

“As our communities in Hays and Blanco Counties continue to grow, we need to invest in smarter, safer ways to manage and mitigate natural disasters such as flooding,” Rep. Zwiener said. “By creating this fund, we are planning ahead and equipping our state with the resources necessary to handle the volume of flooding we’ve seen in recent years.”

Voters would have to approve HJR 4 in the November elections later this year.

HJR 4 was a part of a broader disaster response and recovery package, which passed out of the Texas House Thursday, April 11, that included HB 5, HB 6, and HB 13. Pending voter approval, the Flood Infrastructure Fund would have an initial $3.26 billion deposit from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

“I applaud Representative Zwiener for helping to pass these critical pieces of legislation,” said Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen (R). “It reflects her unwavering commitment to better prepare our state for future disasters, and will undoubtedly save lives. This legislation applies the lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey to improve response and recovery statewide, while also providing support to those affected. Texans have undergone enormous challenges in the months since Hurricane Harvey devastated the Gulf Coast. But even in the face of our state’s greatest disaster, they remained resilient. Thanks to Representative Zwiener we now have the resources to match.”

Representative Erin Zwiener: House Bill 2 ‘Doesn’t Lower Taxes’

Austin, TX — Representative Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) Thursday, April 11, expressed serious concern with House Bill 2, which would establish artificially low revenue caps for cities and counties and prevent them from providing essential services to their communities.

As written, the bill would place a 2.5% cap on revenue (a number that is often lower than inflation) and require cities and counties to hold an extra election whenever they go above that number. Current state law is 8%.

“It’s not fiscally responsible to skip an oil change,” said Rep. Zwiener. “And that’s what this bill will force our cities and counties to do: delay road maintenance and cut corners with public safety. This is an irresponsible bill that’ll force our local elected officials to break their promises to their communities and will punish our cities who’ve been the most successful at keeping taxes low.”

Rep. Zwiener has filed multiple amendments on HB 2, including provisions to exclude flood mitigation, water development, parks, and open space expenditures from the revenue cap calculations. Other representatives have filed exclusions for public safety, transportation, and infrastructure spending.

Although HB 2 is being promoted as a tax relief bill, it will not lower anyone’s taxes. Rep. Zwiener pointed to two other pieces of legislation as better solutions for lowering property taxes: HB 3, the school finance bill, which the Texas House passed last week, and HB 4352 by Representative Romero, which would double the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $50,000.

“Last week, we passed a landmark school finance bill that included $3 billion for property tax relief, and the average House District 45 homeowner can expect to save $100 on next year’s bill.” Rep. Zwiener said. “I also support expanding the homestead exemption to give homeowners another $325 off their property taxes.”

The House Bill 2 debate comes one day after a joint press release from the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the house advocating for a “swap”, raising sales taxes to further lower property taxes. Representative Zwiener expressed concerns about whom such a swap would benefit.

“This proposal would raise taxes on 80% of Texans while giving corporate landowners a windfall,” said Rep. Zwiener. “I promised to always fight for fair taxes, and this proposal is anything but fair. Taken together with HB 2, this proposal will force the average Texan to pay more to the state and receive less back in services. Let’s pursue real property tax relief instead of shifting the burden even further onto everyday Texans.”

Representative Erin Zwiener Introduces Dark Sky Preservation Bill

Austin, TX — Representative Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) laid out House Bill 4158 Wednesday, April 10, in front of the Texas House Ways and Means Committee to protect the dark skies communities in the Texas Hill Country. HB 4158 would allow small cities in Hays and Blanco Counties to use revenue from the municipal hotel occupancy tax to preserve the night sky.

“Tourism is a key industry in the Texas Hill Country,” said Rep. Zwiener. “And a dark night sky is a key driver of that tourism. This bill will give our communities more tools to protect the night sky and bring more visitors to our businesses.”

The International Dark Skies Association currently has certified three communities in Texas as Dark Sky Communities. These include Dripping Springs, Horseshoe Bay, and Wimberley. Blanco and Fredericksburg are currently in the process of applying to receive the designation.


 

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