Texas Legislation on the Electronic Frontier

The 87th Texas legislature is in Session! Below are a list of bills that fall under EFF-Austin’s radar of topics that reside among or impact the electronic frontier. Using a simple rating system of GOOD or BAD, you’ll see where we stand on these bills. You’ll also find more literarily digestible descriptions in contrast to their typical legalese form.

HB 759

This bill requires that school Threat Assessment Teams complete their threat assessments of an students within 30 day of beginning the assessment. The assessment will: 

  1. Assess and report on individuals who make threats of violence or exhibit harmful, threatening, or violent behavior in accordance with policies and procedures, 
  2. Gather and analyze data to determine the level of risk and appropriate intervention including:
    • Referring a student for mental health assessment
    • Implementing an escalation procedure, if appropriate based on the team’s assessment, in accordance with district policy
  3. Provide guidance to students and school employees on recognizing harmful, threatening, or violent behavior that may pose a threat to the community, school, or individual
  4. Support the district in implementing the district’s multi-hazard emergency operations plan

No later than 10 days after the team makes a determination that a student poses a serious risk of violence to self or others, the team shall:

  • Enter the student’s threat assessment into the threat assessment database
  • Make a notation in the student’s cumulative record that the student is included in the threat assessment database

The agency shall establish a database of conducted student threat assessments in which there was a determination that the student poses a serious risk of violence to self or other. The agency must allow access to the database reporting a student’s threat assessment to:

  • A peace officer or school resource officer assigned to a public or private primary or secondary school or open-enrollment charter school that the student has attended or currently attends
  • The principal of or the principal’s designee and the superintendent or superintendent’s designee at each public or private primary or secondary school or open-enrollment charter school that the student has attended or currently attends

Anyone with authorization may access information in the database solely for the purpose of ensuring school safety and security. Upon access, said person(s) shall keep any information  from the database confidential, and may not use the information for purposes not directly related to the purpose for which it was obtained. Information regarding a student’s threat assessment reported in the threat assessment database must be permanently erased from the database on the date that the student reaches 21 years of age

Anyone with access to, or somehow obtains confidential information from this database knowingly commits an offense if they:

  • Uses the information for a purpose other than ensuring school safety security
  • Permit inspection of the confidential information by a person who is not authorized to inspect the information
  • Releases or discloses the confidential information to a person who is not entitled to the information

Any offense under this section is a Class B Misdemeanor.
Author Sam Harless

Rating: BAD


SB 223

This bill amends the ‘Public Officers and Employees’ section of the Local Government Code as well as the ‘Law Enforcement and Public Protection’ section of the Executive Branch section of the government code to prevents law enforcement departments that employ peace officers from authorizing television crews to film peace officers, for the purpose of creating a reality television show, while said officers are in the line of duty.

Author John Whitmire

Rating: BAD


HB 226

Requires Educators to receive instruction in digital learning, virtual learning, virtual instruction and a digital literacy evaluation.  It further states that the received instruction must be aligned with standards set by the International Society for Technology in Education’s standards for Teachers.

The instruction that’s provided must:

  • Provide evidence-based strategies to determine a person’s degree of digital literacy
  • Cover grading students that receive virtual instruction based on academic process
  • Provide guidance on developing a virtual learning curriculum that includes involved and non-involved virtual instruction
  • Include resources to address issues that are found by the digital literacy evaluation

The following terms are formally defined:

  •  “Virtual Instruction” – Instructional activities delivered to students primarily over the internet
  • “Virtual Learning” – Digital learning facilitated by virtual instruction

Author: Angela Paxton

Rating: GOOD


HB 658

Amends the Code of Criminal Procedure so that the law enforcement personnel that is listed below shall submit a written list of all peace officers in the designated law enforcement office or agency who are authorized to possess, install, or operate, or monitor pen registers, Electronic Serial Number Readers or similar equipment to their director:

  • The Inspector general of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or the inspector general ’s designee
  • The Sheriff, chief or prosecutor (or any of the three’s designees) of a designated law enforcement office or agency

The bill also allows the following law enforcement personnel to issue administrative subpoenas to a communication common carrier or a provider of an electronic communications service  to compel the production of any acquirer’s/service provider’s business records that disclose information about the carrier’s or service provider’s customers; or users of the services offered by the carrier or service provider; and are material to a criminal investigation:

  • The Director of the Department or the Director’s designee
  • The Inspector General of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (or their designee)
  • The Sheriff, Chief, or Prosecutor of a designated law enforcement office (or any of their designees)

Within 30 days of the administrative subpoena being issued, the Inspector General of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or the sheriff, chief or prosecutor of a designated law enforcement office or agency, as applicable, shall report to the department the issuance of the subpoena.

The term “Designated Law Enforcement Office or Agency” is defined as:

  • The sheriff’s department of a county with a population of 3.3 million or more
  • A police department in a municipality with a population of 200,000 or more
  • The office of inspector general of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
  • The Office of a prosecutor in a county with a population of more than 1.8 million

Author Jessica Gonzalez

Rating: GOOD


HB 661

Requires that the Secretary of State conducts audits for voting system equipment used before,after and during an election, insofar as possible, by counties that participate in  the Countywide Polling place Program.

The Secretary of State will choose participants based on the following requirements:

  • The county has held a public hearing on the county’s participation, whereas the commissioners court of said county has submitted a transcript or electronic recording of the public comments made at the hearing of the Secretary of state. This stipulation excludes counties that have previously participated in similar programs and held public hearings on the county’s participation in those previous programs
  • Has submitted documentation listing the required steps to solicit input on participating in the program by organizations and/or persons who represent the interest of voters
  • Has implemented a computerized voter registration list allowing an election officer at a polling place to verify that a voter has not previously voted in the election
  • Uses direct recording electronic voting machines, ballot marking devices, or hand-marked scannable paper ballots that are printed and scanned at the polling palace or any other type of voting system equipment that the secretary of state determines is capable of processing votes for each type of ballot to be voted in the county
  • Is determined by the Secretary of State to have the appropriate technological capabilities 

HB 622

Establishes that anyone seeking a certification to teach courses in marketing or a certification to teach courses in health science technology shall be required to complete at least 200 hours an educator preparation program

The State Board for Educator Certification shall propose rules establishing standards to govern the approval and renewal of educator preparation programs for certification in marketing education and health science technology education.

Author Barbara Gervin-Hawkins

Rating: GOOD


HB 597

This bill establishes that third-party delivery services are prohibited from using a merchant’s mark and/or other intellectual property on its website or web application without prior written consent from the merchant. The bill further states that a third-party’s authorization to conduct business in the state is a necessary requirement in order to receive valid consent from a merchant to use their intellectual property on its website or web application. 

A third-party delivery service found in violation of these proposed laws is liable for a civil penalty in an amount no greater than $1,000 for each violation, each day  of a continuing violation being a separate violation. The bill also permits the Attorney General to act in the name of the State of Texas against third-party delivery services for injunctive relief and/or recovery of a civil penalty regarding this proposed legislation. Civil penalties collected under these terms shall be deposited in the State treasurer to the credit of the general revenue fund.

A merchant aggrieved of the same violations by a third-party may also bring action for injunctive relief and damages equal to or greater than the merchant’s actual damages arising from the violation or $5,000 as exemplary damages, irrespective of whether the merchant has actual damages, or both injunctive and relief damages. A merchant that’s awarded actual damages may also be awarded exemplary damage.

The following terms are defined:

  • Mark:  A trademark or service mark that is registrable, regardless of whether the trademark service is actually registered
  • Merchant: A restaurant or other business entity that sells food or other goods directly to consumers
  • Third-party delivery service: A business entity that allows consumers to purchase goods from a merchant through the entity’s proprietary internet website, mobile application, or other Internet-based platforms; delivers the purchased goods to the consumer for an additional fee to the one being charged by the merchant for the goods; operates outside of the merchant’s business

Author Carl Sherman

Rating: NEUTRAL


SB 200

The Texas Tax Code is amended so that “Internet Access Service” does not include any taxable service listed in the Code. In order for an internet access service to be taxable, it would have to be provided with or incidental to the provision of internet access service

The bill also removes “Internet Access Services” from the list of Taxable Services detailed in the Texas Tax Code. It’s Replaced with the instance of any sales by a transmission and distribution utility entity that directly relates to an electricity end-use customer whose consumption of electricity is subject to taxation.

The “Basic Fee For Internet Access Service” section of the Texas Tax Code is Repealed. Currently, this section:

  • Exempts the sale, use or any other consumption of Internet Access in the State of Texas from the imposition of taxes in any amount not exceeding the first $25 of a monthly charge. This applies without regard to if the internet access service is bundled with another service, and without regard to the billing period used by the service provider.
  • This exemption applies to the total sales price the service provider charges for Internet access to a purchaser, without regard to whether the service provider charges one lump-sum amount or separately bills the purchaser for each user

Author Jane Nelson

Rating: GOOD


HB 579

Requires that law enforcement agencies to develop a limitation policy on the deployment of its SWAT team(s) only to situations involving imminent threats of serious bodily injury to law enforcement officers or the public and that the decision to deploy SWAT Teams to be based on the consideration of available evidence indicating imminent threat to a person or officer, whether the conditions  convey that a suspect cannot reasonably be apprehended using routine methods, the existence of a legally own firearm in the home of an individual does not in itself constitute evidence of an imminent threat. It also prevents law enforcement agencies from administering SWAT teams unless: 

  • Each member of the team is equipped with a body worn camera
  • The agency established policies and procedures to ensure that body worn cameras are active and recording during all team action and continues recording until all suspects at the scene have been arrested or released from custody or all law enforcement personnel have left the premises
  • Body worn camera video is subject to “Body Worn Camera Policy” described in the “Law Enforcement and Security” section of the Texas Occupations Code.

When a SWAT team is deployed for a planned warrant service or for an incident not involving ongoing violence, the basis for believing an imminent threat exists must first be  reviewed and approved by a supervisor at the level of captain or higher rank that also provides  a written justification for any execution of a warrant after sunset and before sunrise.

The bill also requires that law enforcement agencies must also develop training curriculum, certification standards, continuing education requirements and in-service training requirements for SWAT team members, and provide annual reports about SWAT team deployments and training to the agency’s local governing body. These reports must include:

  • Each Date that the SWAT team was deployed
  • Location for each incident involving the deployment of the SWAT team
  • The specific reason for the deployment, including a short description of the evidence of an imminent threat or the existence of a tip bty an undercover or anonymous informant
  • A list of military/forcible entry equipment used
  • If known, the age, gender and race or ethnicity of each injured or deceased person involved in the incident
  • A list of any controlled substances, weapons, contraband, or other evidence of crime seized from the premises or any persons
  • Whether any person used, exhibited or carried a deadly weapon during the incident
  • Weather the incident occurred as a result of an investigation of offense involving a controlled substance
  • The training and education completed by the SWAT team collectively and for the SWAt team certified officers individually

Any person who or any immediate family member of a person who suffers serious bodily injury as a result of a SWAT team action, or died as a result of a SWAT team action is entitled to receive a copy of any video or audio recording made by the team and containing footage of the action. The person or family member must submit a request for the recording to the law enforcement agency administering the applicable SWAT team

A “Body Worn Camera” is defined as: A Recording device that is capable of recording or transmitting to be recorded remotely video or audio and is worn by  a peace officer. Wearing includes attachment to clothing and/or being worn as  glasses.

Special Weapons and Tactics team, SWAT team is defined as: a designated team or law enforcement officers specifically trained and equipped to work incoordination to respond to critical incidents, including:

  • Barricaded Suspects
  • Snipers
  • Terrorist Acts
  • The Taking of Hostages
  • Other High-risk incidents

This term applies regardless of what name a law enforcement agency may title any team 


Author Harold Dutton

Rating: GOOD


SB 154

This bill establishes a Broadband Office within the Public Utility Commission of Texas, as well as a Broadband Service Investment Grant Program. Regarding both rule and regulation by the Broadband office and eligibility to receive the grant, the information in this bill only applies to private sector broadband service providers.

Broadband Office

The Broadband Office will be an office within the commission that may employ additional employees as necessary for the duties of the office. The Office shall:

  • Facilitate and coordinate the efforts of state agencies, hospitals, schools, and local units of government, including regional planning commissions, in connection with broadband service projects
  • Develop proposals for broadband service investment and deployment strategies for unserved areas in rural communities and other areas of the state
  • Promote and coordinate public sector and private sector broadband service solutions in support of statewide broadband service development goals
  • Assist and promote local and regional broadband service planning
  • Pursue  and obtain federal sources of broadband service funding
  • Develop a framework to measure broadband service access in this state and designate unserved areas in the State of Texas
  • Develop Statewide Goals for broadband service deployment in userved areas in rural communities and other userved areas
  • Manage and award funds allocated to the broadband office for broadband service projects
  • Serve as an information clearinghouse in relation to federal programs providing assistance to local entities with respect to broadband service

The bill does not grant the commission authority to:

  • Regulate broadband services or broadband service providers or, except as required of a grant applicant or recipient, require broadband service providers to submit information to the commission
  • Require or authorize the commission to require a broadband service provider or telecommunications provider to participate in any broadband service planning, activities or initiatives conducted by the broadband office or the commission

Grant Program

The Broadband office shall establish a grant program to provide grants to applicants for the expansion of access to broadband service in areas that are unserved in relation to broadband services. The broadband office may provide a grant under this section only for a project to provide broadband service in an unserved area. The following eligibility criteria would be published by the office and require that a Grant applicants are limited to the following:

  • An organization operated for profit or not for profit, including a cooperative
  • A telecommunications provider
  • A facilities-based broadband service provider, including a wireless provider

The application must include:

  • A description of the type of broadband service infrastructure to be deployed
  • A description of the proposed project territory and the number of homes, farms, schools, public facilities, hospitals, and businesses that would be served by the project
  • Evidence that the proposed project territory includes only unserved areas
  • Evidence that the applicant provided a required notice
  • The total cost of the proposed project and an estimated time frame for completion and any sources of money that would supplement the grant for that project, such as a federal grant

Before submitting a grant application, an entity must provide notice of the entity’s intent to submit an application to all political subdivisions and hospitals that provide services in or adjacent to the proposed project territory, and .ny Broadband service providers that provide broadband services adjacent to the proposed project territory. The Broadband office may not:

  • Deny an application solely because the deployment project has additional sources of funding or other grants that can be used for the project
  • Favor a particular technology in awarding grants
  • Except as otherwise provided, evaluate applications based on information about the applicant that is not included in the application 

The Broadband Office shall:

  • Divide the state into at least five different regions
  • Award grants as equitably across regions as possible
  • Prioritize applications for projects for unserved areas in counties with a population of less than 10,000 when practical

The broadband office shall award grants on a competitive basis and only after considering:

  • The relative need for broadband service infrastructure and existing internet service speeds in the proposed project territory
  • The percentage of the homes, farms, schools, public facilities, hospitals, and businesses in the proposed project territory that will be provided access to broadband services by the project
  • The geographical diversity of the proposed projects of all applications under consideration
  • The potential economic effects of granting an application for the territory of a proposed project
  • The applicant’s total proposed budget for the proposed project, including the amount or percentage of matching money if any
  • Local support for the proposed project, including any documentation or evidence that the applicant has coordinated with the local community to be served or notified the local community to be served of the applicant’s proposed project
  • The ability of the proposed broadband service provider to maintain broadband service quality while increasing parameters relating to the size of the provider’s network, such as the number of users, the number of network nodes, the number of services provided, or the network’s geographic spread
  • Whether the proposed project will delay the provision of broadband service to any neighboring areas
  • Any other factors the broadband office determines are relevant to the proposed project

In lieu of the considerations detailed above the office shall:

  • Post on the commission’s Internet Website information about the application process and the receipt of funding and shall update that information as necessary
  • Make each application available to the commission’s internet website for a period of at least 30 days before the office makes a decision on the application

During the 30 period for an application described above, the broadband office shall accept any interested party a written protest of the application relating to whether the applicant or project is eligible for a grant or should not receive a grant baked on the criteria prescribed by the office. The broadband office shall:

  • Provided a copy of the protest to the applicant
  • Have the option to request additional information from the applicant relating to the protest
  • Have the option, if the office intend to, deny any part of the application based on a protest regarding the proposed project territory or budget:
    • Notify the applicant
    • Allow the applicant at  most seven days to amend the territory or budge in response to the protest
    • Shall, if the office intends to grant the application, issue a written notice of that intent to the protester not later than the 15th day before the date of the office grants the application

A single grant may not exceed $250,000 and may not fund more than 30% of the total cost of the proposed project. The Office may also require an applicant to consolidate multiple projects in a single census block into one grant application. It may also provide a grant in conditional installments to ensure that a grant recipient complies with grant program requirements.

The commission by rule shall adopt minimum service standards for broadband service provided by a grant recipient in the project territory. The commission shall consider standards used by the Federal Communications Commission for recipients of money from the Connect America Fund. The standards must require that during the three-year period following the completion of a project, the grant recipient:

  • Must provide broadband service in the project territory at rates reasonably comparable to rates for comparable service in urban areas
  • May not establish a cap on data usage in the project territory

Before rewarding a grant, the broadband office shall enter into a written agreement with the entity to be awarded the grant money specifying the following:

  • If the commission finds that the grant recipient has not complied with minimum service standards adopted above, or any other applicable rules or standards of the commission adopted:
    • The recipient Shall repay the grant or a prorated portion of the grant to the state at an agreed rate and on agreed terms
    • The broadband office will not distribute to the recipient any grant money that remains to be distributed to the recipient
  • If, as of the date provided in the agreement, the grant recipient has not used grant money awarded under this section for the purposes for which the grant was intended, the recipient shall repay the amount to the state at an agreed rate and on agreed terms

Grant recipients are required to notify the Broadband Office when the project is complete and provide annual reports to the office, during the three-year period following the completion of the project. The office may request information from the recipient to verify the completion of a project, and make recipient reports other such information publicly available.

The Broadband office shall provide a report to the legislature by December 1st of each even-numbered year that includes the  amount of money granted during the reporting period, any amount approved but not yet disbursed, the name, location and project description for each grantee, a progress report on ongoing projects and a report on all projects to be completed during the reporting period.

The broadband investment account is an account in the general revenue fund. The account consists of:

  • Appropriations of money to the account by the legislature
  • Gifts, Grats, including grants, and other donations received
  • Interest earned on the investment of money in the account

Money in the Account may be appropriated only to the broadband office for purposes of the grant program and is exempt from the “Dispositions of Interest on Investments” sub-section of the State Treasury  Operations of Comptroller section of the Texas Government Code. The office may accept gifts, grants and donations from any source that are made for the purposes of the grant program and shall deposit to the credit of the account money received under this section.

This Commission would implement and administer the grant program and would take effect on 09/01/2021.

The Bill also established the following definitions:

  • Account: The Broadband investment account
  • Broadband service: Internet service with the capability of providing
    • A download speed of 25 megabits per second or faster
    • An upload speed of three megabits per second or faster
  • Grant Program: The program established by the broadband officer*
  • Rural Community: A municipality with a population of less than 50,000 or a county with a population of less than 200,000
  • Unserved Area:A census block that is not served by wireless broadband service, according to publicly available maps and data sets

Author  Chalres Perry

Rating: GOOD


HB 425

There are several parts to this bill, all relating to the establishment, execution and administration of the Rural Broadband Service Program. This bill does not grant the Texas Utilities Commission authority to regulate broadband services or broadband service providers.

Subchapter I. Rural Broadband Service Program

Under this new subchapter, the commission would provide funding to offer retail broadband service in underserved rural areas in the state of Texas at rates comparable to the benchmark rates established by the Federal Communications commission. Support received by means of this new subchapter would not be used for any other such purposes.

The commission would adopt a criteria for areas of Texas to qualify as ‘underserved rural areas’, in order to participate in the program. A broadband service provider would be required to notify the commission of their election to participate in the program and pay the uniform charge before receiving support under the ‘Uniform Charge’ section of the Telecommunications Utilities sub-section of the Public Utility Regulatory act section of the Texas Utilities Code.

Jurisdiction Over Broadband Service Providers

This bill amends the Texas utilities code so that the Texas Utilities Commission has jurisdiction over broadband service providers, solely in relation to their [provider’s] elected participation in a Universal Service Fund program that would be used to fund the following items:

  • Assist telecommunications providers in providing basic local telecommunications service at reasonable rates in high cost rural areas under two plans
  • Reimburse the telecommunications carrier that provides the statewide Telecommunications Relay Access Service 
  • Finance the Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Programs 
  • Reimburse the department and the commission for costs incurred in implementing all parts of the ‘Telecommunications Assistance and Universal Fund and Distance Learning And Other Advanced Services’ chapters of the Telecommunications Utilities Subsections of the Texas Utilities Code
  • Reimburse a telecommunications carrier providing Lifeline Service 
  • Finance the implementation and administration of the identification process under the Identification Process for Customer Service Benefits subsection of the Texas Utilities Code, for telecommunications services
  • Reimburse  Designated Providers 
  • Reimburse a Sucesor utilities
  • Finance the Audio Newspaper Program
  • Provide support for the established Rural Broadband Service Program under Subchapter ‘I’ which is added and described by this bill

Universal Service Fund

The bill establishes that the Universal Service Fund is funded by a statewide uniform charge payable by:

  • Telecommunications providers that have access to the customer base and Broadband service providers, only to the extent the provider elects to participate in The Rural Broadband Service Program
  • Each telecommunications provider and broadband service provider that elects to participate in The Rural Broadband Service Program shall pay the charge in accordance with procedures approved by the commission. The uniform charge is on services and at rates determined by the commission. In establishing the charge and the services to which the charge will apply, the commission may not:
    • Grant an unreasonable preference or advantage to a telecommunications provider or a broadband service provider that elects to participate in the program
    • Assess the charge on pay telephone service
    • Subject a telecommunications provider or electing broadband service provider to unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage

The Commission may establish separate uniform charges for the telecommunications providers and broadband service providers, and money from the uniform charge on telecommunications providers may only be used to fund the programs specifically listed under the ‘Universal Service Fund Established’ section of the Telecommunications Assistance And Universal Service Fund  sub-section of the Texas Utilities Code. Money from the uniform charge on broadband service providers that elect to participate in the program under subchapter I may only be used to fund that program.

The commission may assess a uniform charge on a broadband service provider only if the provider notifies the commission of the provider’s election to participate in the newly established program. Service providers are allowed at any time to notify the commission of their intention to discontinue participation in the program. Discontinuation would be effective 60 days after notification.

Electing Broadband Service Providers

The Commission will adopt eligibility criteria for broadband service providers that elect to participate in the new program and review procedures, including a method for administrative review to fund the universal service fund purposes of subchapter I and to make distributions from that fund to electing broadband service providers. It will also determine which electing broadband service providers meet the eligibility criteria and approve procedures for the collection and disbursal, to electing broadband service providers of the revenue of the universal service fund received from electing broadband service providers.

Reporting

The Commission would be able to require telecommunications providers participating in the Rural Broadband Service Program to provide reports and necessary information to assess contributions, broadband charges and disbursements to the universal service fund. Such reports would be confidential and not subject to disclosure.

Network Standards

The commission would establish a set of standards for networks that are built or maintained using support from the Rural Broadband Service Program. They would require a network to provide broadband service and to be consistent with standards established by the Federal Government.

The Commission would adopt rules to ensure that support provided by this program is calculated in accordance and consistency with standard accounting principles and would take place 09/01/2021.

Definitions

The following definitions are established by this bill:

  • Broadband Service : A mass-market retail service by wire or radio that provides the capability to transmit data to and receive data from all or substantially all internet endpoints. The term includes any capabilities that are incidental to and enable the operation of the communications service but does not include dial-up Internet access service
  • Broadband Service Provider: A provider of Broadband Service
  • Department: The Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services
  • Designated Provider: A telecommunications provider designated by the commission to provide services to an uncertificated area
  • Executive Commissioner: The Executive Commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission 

Author Ken King

Rating: GOOD


HB 280

This bill amends the Health and Human Services Government code so that the Health and Human Services Commission will develop and implement an action plan to expand the use of telemedicine/telehealth services so that  such services are accessible by Texas residents, while making them more available to residents in areas determined to be medically underserved, such as rural areas and areas adjacent to the international border.

In developing and implementing the plan, the commission shall seek the assistance of:

  • The Texas Hospital Association
  • The Texas medical Association
  • Teaching Hospitals
  • The Statewide health coordinating council

The commission would also consult with Health care providers, advocacy groups, relevant federal agencies and any other interested persons that the commission considers necessary to the development of this plan. The plan would have to include:

  • Short-term and long-term plan recommendations, including policy initiatives and reforms necessary to implement the plan
  • Statutory and administrative reforms necessary to implement the plan
  • Options for the funding necessary to implement the plan

No later than 09/01/2023, with all set to expire on 09/01/2032, the commission shall:

  • Submit  the short-term and long-term plan recommendations, statutory and administrative reforms, the funding options and the steps for implementing those recommendations, reforms and options to the governor and the legislature
  • Begin implementing the short-term plan, having fully implemented it by 09/01/2025
  • Have fully implemented the long-term plan by 09/01/2031
  • INclude ther short and long term plans in the update of the strategic plan for health and human services per the Health and Human Services code.

Author Phillip Cortez

Rating: GOOD


HB 244

Amends the Texas Education Code so that the Commissioner of Higher Education shall establish a competitive professional grant program to encourage teachers to obtain a computer science certification and continue professional development in coding, computational thinking, and computer science education. 

Using funds allocated specifically for this purpose, the Commissioner shale make grants eligible to providers that offer:

  • Professional development for elementary school and middle and junior high school teachers to ensure teachers maintain a working knowledge of current computer industry standard tools and resources
  • Training for computer science certification for teachers in accordance with certification requirements adopted by the State Board for Educator Certification

To be eligible to receive a grant, a provider must:

  • Be an institution of higher education, regional education service center, or school district or partnership of multiple school districts or a nonprofit entity approved by the commissioner that has demonstrated experience in providing professional development through a statewide network
  • Meet eligibility standards established by commissioner rule

Eligible providers that ultimately receive a grant must:

  • Provide the described training or professional development and establish professional development hubs in each education service center region
  • Serve high-need campuses
  • Have established partnerships with the institution of higher education faculty with expertise in computing and computer science and education
  • Develop partnerships with computer industry professionals

An ‘Institution of Higher Education’ is defined as Any public technical institute, public junior college, public senior college or university, medical or dental unit, public state college, or other agency of higher education as defined in the “Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board” chapter of the Education code.

The total amount in grants awarded is not to exceed $4 million each state biennium, and the commissioner may adopt necessary rules to implement the changes described in this bill. The Commissioner shall establish the grant program by 12/31/2021.

Author Mary Gonzalez

Rating: GOOD


SB 58

Amends the Local Government Code so that the definition of “Personal Property” in relation to furnishing governmental agencies with a feasible means to purchase, acquire, use and finance public property, includes electricity and cloud computing services. 


Author Judith Zaffirini

Rating: GOOD


HB 327

Requires the Executive and Legislative branches of the state government to broadcast video and audio of open meetings over the internet and make them available on their websites no later than a week after the meetings take place. The governmental entities would also be required to archive those broadcasts on their websites for two years.

These governmental bodies would be exempt from broadcasting these videos in the event of catastrophe and technical breakdowns. Following these setbacks, they would be required to make the video and audio of the meeting available in a timely manner.

Applicable government bodies would contract broadcasting services through competitive bidding with private individuals and/or entities.

Only government entities with 250+ employees, or entities that receive $40 million or more in general revenue are designated by the stipulations of this bill.

Author Donna Howard

Rating: GOOD


HB 350

Amends the election code to require the secretary of state to establish a place on its website where potential voters can complete and submit a voter registration application. The website would be required to have a visible and noticeable description of the offense of making false statements on a registration application. The description would need to be in a location near the beginning or submission areas of the application. The state electronic Internet portal project would be used to authenticate the identity of electronic applicants

Applicants with unexpired driver’s licenses or personal identification cards issued in the state would be required to attest to affirmatively accept the information on the identification document as true, and consent to the use of the signature on the license or identification card for voter registration purposes. The Department of Public Safety would be required to obtain a digital copy of applicants’ signatures as well.

Applicants without an unexpired driver’s license would be required to affirmatively accept the information on the identification document as true, and print a registration application from the website that the applicant is using to register, sign the application and mail it to the registrar. These applicants would also be provided with information on how to obtain a driver’s license or personal identification card from the Department of Public Safety. 

The secretary of state would be required to adopt the necessary rules for implementing this website, including how to provide additional security measures to ensure the accuracy and integrity of applications submitted electronically. Any applications submitted in this manner would be categorized as applications submitted via mail.

Author Celia Israel

Rating: GOOD


HB 226

Requires Educators to receive instruction in digital learning, virtual learning, virtual instruction and a digital literacy evaluation.  It further states that the received instruction must be aligned with standards set by the International Society for Technology in Education’s standards for Teachers.

The instruction that’s provided must:

  • Provide evidence-based strategies to determine a person’s degree of digital literacy
  • Cover grading students that receive virtual instruction based on academic process
  • Provide guidance on developing a virtual learning curriculum that includes involved and non-involved virtual instruction
  • Include resources to address issues that are found by the digital literacy evaluation

The following terms are formally defined:

  •  “Virtual Instruction” – Instructional activities delivered to students primarily over the internet
  • “Virtual Learning” – Digital learning facilitated by virtual instruction

Author: Angela Paxton

Rating: GOOD


HB 557

This bill would establish that a STEM Program is defined as a science, technology, engineering or mathematics program, as well as a STEM Program scholarship. 

The scholarship would be awarded to eligible students and would be funded by the State of Texas general revenue funds.

STEM Program scholarships would be awarded before the 2023 – 2024 Academic year.


Author James White

Rating: Good


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