Today, pre-filing of bills has begun for the 2019 Texas Legislative session. With that, comes bills being filed the Republican Liberty Caucus of Texas has its sights on. The three legislative priorities put forth by the body this year consist of the following three items:
- Work on moving the M&O portion of School Taxes from Property Tax to a consumption form. RPT Legislative Priority – “Abolish the Maintenance and Operation School property tax and replace it with a consumption tax or other mechanism other than income tax while broadening the tax base, eliminating the appraisal board and taxing the property at the purchased value or the free market value upon change of hands for local government funding and special district funding. School Maintenance and Operation funds shall be allocated from the state’s general fund to Texas’ Independent School Districts via an inflation-adjusted, per-student-allocation. ”
- Abolishing or reforming Civil Asset Forfeiture .RPT Plank 94 – Civil Asset Forfeiture: “We call upon the Texas Legislature to abolish civil asset forfeiture and to ensure private property only be forfeited upon a criminal conviction. We also request the State Party Chair and the SREC consider the abolishment of civil asset forfeiture as a legislative priority for the Republican Party of Texas for the 2019 legislative session and to utilize reasonable Party resources necessary to promote and support its passage.”
- Expansion of the compassionate use program of medical marijuana in Texas. Either expand covered conditions or ask the Legislature to clarify a doctor and their patient are to make such decisions. RPT Plank 246 – Compassionate Use Act: “We call upon the Texas Legislature to improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to certified patients.” Civil Penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana. RPT Plank 107- Civil Penalty: We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time. Any legislation proposed to reflect Governor Greg Abbott’s recent stated stance on moving possession of small amounts of marijuana from a Class B to a Class C misdemeanor.
Today, Representative James Moody (D) El Paso filed HB 63, relating to civil penalties of small amounts of marijuana. “Civil penalty legislation is the first thing I’ve filed on the first day of filing for the 86th Session. There’s been an incredible swell of bipartisan support since last session, and the official Texas Republican and Democratic platforms both approve of this kind of reform now,” says Rep. Joe Moody. “I’m optimistic that this will be the session we finally see smarter, fairer marijuana laws in Texas.”
In 2016, Texas arrested more than 66,000 people for simple marijuana possession. Of those arrested, 67% were under the age of 30.
According to the Department of Public Safety, between August 2017-August 2018, more than 41,000 people were convicted of a marijuana possession charge. Each of these individuals will now carry a life-long criminal record that hinders their access to education, employment, and housing. Additionally, each of these people had their Driver’s License suspended for six months and their License to Carry suspended for seven years.
The RLCTX would like to thank Representative Moody for taking on this issue that is mentioned in both the Democrat and Republican platforms in Texas. Recently, Governor Greg Abbott gave his support to moving simple possession from a Class B to a Class C misdemeanor. While that idea will certainly go a long way, civil penalty offers us the best option to protect one from a ‘drug offense’ on their record, which it still would be even under a Class C, though it would likely eliminate jail time for the offense.
RLCTX Chairman, Jeff Leblanc, commented “Today is a good day for those of our members who support marijuana reform in Texas. We urge all of our members to use the TLO (Texas Legislature Online https://capitol.texas.gov/Home.aspx) to follow HB 63 and stay up to date with action items we will be issuing on this priority, as well as other bills filed related to all of our priorities. We have tasked our Legislative Directors to offer Representative Moody any resources he many need. At this point, what we’d like to see members doing is contacting their local Representatives to sign on as a sponsor to Rep. Moody’s bill. This year the RLCTX plans to be very active in our goals from testifying on bills, and speaking to our legislators on our issues we see as important this session.”
The Republican Liberty Caucus expects to see legislation filled by a Republican member soon in the future that will go along the lines of Governor Abbott’s recent statements. We remain dedicated to supporting marijuana reform in any form this session and will be adding that bill to our list when it materializes.
Stay in contact with the RLCTX for action items on all three of our priorities this session and how you can help advance Liberty with you legislators.
Feel free to use this link to Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, which the RLCTX is a coalition partner of, to get in touch with your legislators, or the location link mentioned earlier in this article.