Written by Alice Tripp Wednesday, 08 June 2011 09:14
Sine Die ended the regular session of the Texas Legislature on May 30th and special session began the next day.
A special session is also referred to as a Called Session, called by the Governor for some specific reason; and only issues or bills listed by the Governor can be on the “call”. This special session is tasked with completing parts of the budget dealing with school finance and Medicaid issues. No one takes a Special Session lightly as Legislators want to go home and keeping offices open and staff in place is a huge expense to the state.
TSRA did very well this session. We stopped some bad bills and passed some good legislation and generally worked toward the greatest good for the greatest number of Texas gun owners.
Our #1 issue was passing the employer parking lot bill~SB 321 by Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt (R-Lexington) and Sen. Glenn Hegar, Jr. (R-Katy).
After 7 years and the 4th legislative session, a really good bill has finally passed. The conference report cleared the House on Thursday May 26th and the Senate on May 27th. Yes, SB 321 passed earlier in the month but the House made changes to the Senate’s bill and Governor Perry wanted additional immunity for business and industry. This meant more agonizing and exhausting steps between the two chambers.
SB 321 should protect most Texas employees driving their own vehicles and parking on their employer’s parking lot with legally possessed guns and ammunition. The exceptions in this bill are employees who service gas and oil leases and school district employees. These two groups were specifically excluded.
One more exception to the general rule deals with folks working for the petrochemical industry. Those employees must have a CHL and may be excluded from certain interior parking areas but must be allowed to park in the general employee lot. They cannot be excluded from the entire property. Although required to have a concealed handgun license, petrochemical plant employees are allowed all firearms and ammunition stored out of sight in their personal vehicle. The firearm cannot come out of the vehicle.
Our # 2 issue was concealed carry on campus. Rep. Joe Driver (R-Garland) and Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) worked very hard on HB 750 and SB 354. Tara Mica, our NRA lobbyist, crafted other versions which were filed by Rep. Van Taylor (R-Plano) dealing with state junior and technical colleges (HB 1167) and HB 1356 by Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Terrell) which would provide for licensees who are college employees, faculty, or staff and not students. Thanks to Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) who pre-filed HB 86 but signed onto and supported Rep. Driver’s bill.
The 2/3s rule in the Senate made getting SB 354 to a senate vote impossible. Senator Wentworth managed to add his language to an important higher education finance bill and SB 1581 passed to the House with the campus language, only to be shot down by a point of order on the House side and sent back to the Senate for “correction”. The House left all the Campus bills languishing in House Calendars and none were brought to the floor for a vote.
Number 3 issue Passed!
Maybe the best thing TSRA did for Texans this session is Range Protection, HB 1595 by Rep. Jason Issac (R-Dripping Springs) and SB 766 by Senator Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls). The language was written by long-time friend Charles Cotton in conjunction with John Bennett, Senator Estes’ general counsel. The “as filed” version used a legal standard, “clear and convincing evidence”, to prove that a round had left the property. This is a very difficult standard to meet and the difficulty factor was not missed by anyone. So Charles and John punted to their backup plan which should actually work better.
Anyone wanting to file an injunction or sue a range, alleging the range is unsafe, must first obtain an expert report within a certain time frame to support the allegation. In the event the report is not done in a timely fashion or does not support the allegations, the plaintiff may be required to pay the defendant’s legal fees and court costs.
This should also slow down cronyism between developers buying up rural land and local officials. It should also stop shooting ranges from being blamed for every bullet hole in every stop sign. Safe shooting ranges must be protected. SB 766 is the bill that finally passed.
In the category of Bad Bills, the worst were both filed by State Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth). HB 356 sought to make changes to non-resident concealed handgun licenses from other states occasionally sought and used by Texans for various reasons. The “issue” gained attention when Texas CHL instructors began advertising and offering the Utah CHL course in Texas. Only the state of Utah certifies out-of-state instructors to present their course in other states, a practice not appreciated by the host state.
Late last fall, the Utah Legislature passed state law limiting the availability of the Utah CHL license by requiring any person from a state which issues a concealed carry license to have that state’s license before applying for a Utah license.
The 5,000 or so Texans carrying on the cheaper Utah CHL will have to get a Texas license in order to renew their Utah license. Problem solved!
This out-of-state fix to the nagging Utah License problem took care of the “need” or the excuse for messing with Texas and our current non-resident licenses. A background check is the basic requirement for reciprocity. All CHLs legally carrying in Texas have passed a background check and statistically this process has worked well, no reason to change.
TSRA successfully opposed HB 356 by Rep. Burnam and it was left pending in committee.
The other Bad Bill was HB 2807 also filed by Rep. Burnam and dealt with those pesky assault weapons in the hands of children under the age of 21. HB 2807 resurrected the congressional definition of a semi-automatic assault weapon: pistol grip, flash suppressor, detachable magazine, collapsible butt-stock, and bayonet lug. Your son or daughter in the military could walk around a war-zone carrying an M-16 but couldn’t be in possession of a similar semi-auto version back home, even at the range. How dumb is that! HB 2807 was also left pending in committee.
Then there were the bills that some Texans just didn’t like. Several bills were filed to allow various groups: county commissioners, more judges, and school superintendents to carry in areas currently off limits to the everyday Texas CHL. These bills were filed at the request of someone “back home” and none got very far.
The most controversial was filed by Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston). SB 905 would allow Statewide and elected state officials to carry in all the locations listed in PC 46.035 (no, not the list of prohibited places in PC 46.03, not schools).
When asked about his bill by the press, Senator Patrick explained that he’s well-known and reminded the reporter that a year ago an armed intruder came to his Capitol office with a handgun which the intruder later discharged from the Capitol steps. Hence our new metal detectors! I found Senator Patrick’s reasoning interesting as we all “carry” in the Capitol and the armed intruder was following his staff member, not him. Oh well~
Why didn’t TSRA oppose any of these bills? First of all they were filed by friends and the bills actually sought to open-up CHL law, granted it wasn’t for everyone. If SB 905 had made it to the House floor it would have been amended to include all Texas CHLs, not just those elected few! Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt (R-Lexington) was set to offer the amendment but SB 905 died and never made the House floor.
Another really good bill that did pass is HB 2560 by Senator Estes (R-Wichita Falls) and Rep. Ralph Sheffield (R-Temple). This bill allows foster parents with a concealed handgun license to transport their foster children and have their carry gun with them. It took state law to reverse onerous agency rules. You might remember TSRA worked with foster parents in past sessions. Families that cared for special needs foster children were to be required to remove ALL firearms from their homes. We were able to stop that from happening.
Now, thanks to Sen. Estes and Rep. Sheffield, the law has moved another step in the right direction so good families won’t be forced to chose between taking care of children in need and constitutional rights.
Another really good gun bill that passed is HB 25 by Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City) and Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston). An identical duplicate House bill was filed by Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Van). This legislation adds “watercraft” to PC46.02. This is the section of the law where we finally “fixed” the problem with the old traveler’s law. If you can legally possess a firearm in your home, you can also have that firearm in your travel trailer, stock trailer, RV, and your car. Now you can add watercraft to that list. This is without a concealed carry license. You know you can have a handgun in your car, out of sight, and now you can go directly to and from your boat (watercraft). This means kayak, log raft, barge, etc. I’ve fished many times alone on stumpy lonely Texas lakes and rivers. This is a very good bill.
Honorable mention goes to Open Carry, HB 2756 by Rep. George Lavender (R-Texarkana) which would allow CHLs the option of carrying their handgun in an exposed holster. Texas law does not penalize a CHL for the accidental display of their carry gun when a jacket blows open or a shirt rides up. Display of a handgun by a CHL must be intentional before the law is broken. Also, open carry on a person’s own property or business is not prohibited by law.
Rep. Lavender’s bill would have struck the word “concealed” from CHL law. HB 2756 did not have a senate companion, was filed late, heard in committee late, but was voted out of committee and died in House Calenders Committee.
Other honorable mention bills might be HB 181 by Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) which would exempt firearms from sales tax. This was not the year to suggest a tax cut.
HB 145 by Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Rockwall) and HB 298 by Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler) both bills sought to exempt firearm and ammunition manufacturers from federal control if the firearm and ammunition were made in Texas, of common materials, and sold to be used in Texas. Neither bill was voted on in committee. No usable form of thislaw has been passed by any state so far.
It was a long and crazy session. You’d think with that super-majority in the House, it would have been all huggy-kissy for gun folks but not the case. Factor in budget woes and the differences between the House and the Senate and then consider redistricting. Every line that was drawn moved a line on someone else’s turf so we had turf wars. Our bills had to be worked and woven into and around the business of the State of Texas and every ten years business includes redistricting.
Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst continues to be the most accessible power in leadership but we made headway in the House too, thanks to Speaker Straus. The bills we passed reflect the support of leadership in both Chambers.
Written by Alice Tripp Thursday, 17 February 2011 10:48
SB 321 by Senator Glenn Hegar, Jr. (R-Katy) deals with the legal possession of firearms and ammunition in an employee’s personal, locked vehicle when parked on the employer’s parking lot. SB 321 has a companion in the House, HB 681 by Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt (R-Giddings).
Senator Hegar has passed this issue twice in the Senate during previous sessions only to have the bill stopped in the Texas House in Calendar’s committee, never reaching the House floor.
While it's obviously been blamed on the “clock” or on the time-eating exploits of a group of Democrats out to stop the Voter ID bill, a major power in play has been Texas business; TAB, the Chemical Council, and strangely enough USAA insurance company.
USAA is located in San Antonio and is the insurer for most military and federal employees around the world, a strange source of opposition for legislation dealing with the personal safety of their employees.
Don’t look for logic. This company deals in data and a priority might be a "firewall", not the contents of your vehicle.
In 2005, USAA brought language to our bill author, Rep. Patrick Rose, that would allow the company to offer an “alternate parking lot” outside their high-fenced, gated and restricted area. The language was accepted by the bill’s author to keep the bill moving.
Generally when language is added at someone else’s request, it means that person or group no longer opposes and even supports the legislation. Not so for USAA! Oh, no, not by any means and so ended the 2005 session.
In 2007, Rep. Stephen Frost, vice chairman of House Public Safety Committee, filed the parking lot bill.
Again Senator Hegar’s senate version passed in the Texas Senate and moved on to House Public Safety with the same language as before including that added for USAA. USAA’s lobbyist testified against the bill, saying they had sold the land for the “alternative parking lot" and it would be a financial hardship to ask them to buy more.
Give me a break! Go put metal detectors on your building entrances for security and move on! They didn't...
The 2009 Parking Lot legislation is lean and clean as every group asking for a concession, and receiving a concession, did not support past legislation. All continued to aggressively oppose the issue in every way possible.
Now, USAA is shopping their version of a 2009 “sensible amendment”. I shudder when I hear the words sensible gun legislation. This session USAA will be “fine” if their employees who want a firearm in their vehicle, first notify the employer. The sensible part comes from some notion that if the company decides fire someone, one of their gun-toting employees, they would be warned the person might be extra dangerous, and they could see that disgruntled employee to the security gate.
Their flawed logic continues but I’m certain you can see it clearly for yourself. I hope the Texas Legislature does also.
As for other business and industries, the Texas Association of Business (TAB) represents many and Texas Monthly lists their executive director, Bill Hammond, as high on the list of the most powerful men in Texas.
Why would they oppose this important personal safety option when it’s kept in your car? Mostly because they can. There’s civil immunity to protect the employer who is following state law. Again, don't struggle too long looking for logic.
And if you think this is about private property rights, that’s a bit of a stretch too. The vast majority of the opposition is coming from large, publicly traded employers, not Ma and Pa business owners. This isn't going to cost industry a dime and it's free to the state of Texas.
Bell Helicopter in Roanoke recently went through their parking lot with dogs and brought in two employees, one with a pellet gun and the other with shotgun shells in his trunk. While the employees were not terminated, I cannot imagine why the company put their security or human resources staff through such a fire-drill.
Senator Hegar and Rep. Kleinschmidt’s legislation is about the legal contents of the employee's vehicle. It allows the employer full control over the worksite, anybuildings, as well as the employer's vehicles, such as the UPS truck.
Over 400,000 Concealed Handgun Licensees are disarmed during the day and sometimes during the night on their trip to and from their jobs. This is wrong and many good employees chose between their safety and their jobs every day.