Ed Sterling

AUSTIN - Lawmakers filed more than 500 bills Nov. 10-14 in advance of the 81st session of the Texas Legislature, which convenes Jan. 13. With dynamic national and world economic conditions on the table, lawmakers’ big jobs, to appropriate funding and to pass a state budget, are likely to demand more time and effort than in previous sessions.

Those issues aside, here are examples of a few early bills: HB 60 by Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, would require tax collectors to accept partial payment of ad valorem taxes.

HB 72 by Ryan Guillen, D-San Diego, would repeal the 60-day waiting period for issuing a divorce decree, if one spouse was convicted of assaulting or threatening the other.

HB 220 by Rep. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, would make it illegal to use a cell phone while driving, except if making a call for emergency services.

HB 208 by Rep. Jim Jackson, R-Carrollton, would require local authorities to forward death certificate information to the secretary of state so the names of the deceased may be purged from lists of eligible voters. The bill also adds language to existing law to deny voting privileges to people who cannot prove citizenship. Another bill, HB 47 by Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Houston, would tighten voters’ eligibility by requiring documented proof of home address to be presented at polls.

SB 29 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would redefine bullying to include “expression through electronic means.” Another bill, HB 18 by Rep. David Leibowitz, D-San Antonio, would create an anti-bullying hotline for school children to use.

SB 84 and SB 85, both by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, would require the Texas Education Agency and the Department of State Health Services to create a suicide prevention program for high schools. The program would include training for high school counselors, teachers, nurses, administrators, and other staff, and for law enforcement officers and social workers who regularly interact with high school students.

SB 259 by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, would curb the operation of a concrete crushing plant within 440 yards of a public park, playing field or business where people work outdoors. SB 297 by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, would give in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities for certain veterans, their spouses and children.

Grand jury indicts

YFZ suspects

A Schleicher County grand jury in Eldorado on Nov. 13 issued felony indictments against four defendants associated with the YFZ Ranch, the home of a breakaway sect of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said one defendant was indicted for conducting an unlawful marriage ceremony involving a minor, a third-degree felony. A second defendant was indicted on three counts of third-degree bigamy. A third defendant was indicted on three felony charges of bigamy and a felony charge of tampering with physical evidence.

The fourth defendant, sect leader Warren Jeffs, was indicted on a first-degree felony count of aggravated sexual assault. Jeffs also was indicted in July for sexually assaulting a child.

To date, Abbott said, 12 people associated with the compound have been indicted as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Federal, state and local governmental officers entered the compound last spring and took into custody more than 300 children who resided there. The children were placed in temporary foster care for about two months.

Program for veterans announced

Gov. Rick Perry on Nov. 10 announced the creation of the Texas Veterans Leadership Program to help those returning from Iraq and

Afghanistan to re-enter civilian life.

The program, headed by Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken, will help veterans with job training services, resources and employment referrals.

In August, Perry called on the Texas Legislature to provide in-state tuition to all qualified veterans, their spouses and dependents. The tuition waiver could save veterans and their families up to $8,100 a year if they take 30 semester credit hours at a Texas public university, Perry said.