Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

March 10, 2013

Cook files legislative line-up

PUC Sunset bill and texting ban included in legislator’s goals for session

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — The deadline to file bills for the 83rd Texas Legislative session was Friday, and Texas Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, filed 16 potential laws this session, which he either authored or on which he is listed as a co-author.

Most of the bills filed by Cook are administrative-type bills, dealing with the smoother operations of state government. The two most likely to make a big splash in Austin are the reathorization of the Public Utility Commission for another 12 years, and the texting-while-driving ban bill.

State law requires that ever state agency undergo a Sunset Advisory Commission examination every 12 years to determine if it’s needed or doing its job. Cook is one of five House members on the Sunset Advisory Commission. The PUC not only got a passing grade, but some of the functions of the TCEQ will be handed over to the PUC in the future, if the bill is approved. The bill successfully came out of committee Thursday.

“That agency is extremely important to the state,” Cook said. “The PUC bill is an important piece of legislation.”

House Bill 63 is the driving while texting ban that Cook introduced last session.

“I’ve spent a lot of time working on that issue,” Cook said. “I understand how dangerous it is. We need to legislate this so people understand this is something they’re not supposed to do in a car. We’re seeing too much loss of life and people getting hurt.”

 The ban was passed by both houses in 2011 but vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry.

“What I’m hoping is that there’s such a public awareness and resolve to address this issue that the governor this year will sign it into law because it’s the right thing to do for the citizens of Texas,” Cook said.

Cook has also filed two local bills, one to enhance the County Court at Law in Navarro County by allowing higher limits on certain civil cases, and a second to allow small cities to get more of their income from traffic fines, a bill that was requested by the City of Rice.

The rest of the bills relate to Cook’s responsibilities as chairman of the state affairs committee, and .

Other bills authored by, or co-authored by Cook include:

• House Bill 812, reauthorizing the Employees Retirement System of Texas for another 12 years, another Sunset Commission review;

• HB 2472, reauthorizing the Department of Information Services and requiring the agency to make some buying changes;

• HB 3116 would allow the Texas Comptroller’s office to collect financial fees from various vendors, as well as other state agencies;

• HB 3355 sets up rules that would allow cable companies to use power poles owned by electric cooperatives;

• HB 3436 would allow the Facilities Commission to make deals for public-private partnerships after September 1;

• HB 13 would open up the State Pension Review Board, set up new rules for the board members to follow, and creates a fee, co-authored by four other members;

• HB 14 would require more fiscal transparency in public schools and colleges, co-authored by five others;

• HB 86 deals with what the Sunset Advisory Commission should look for in licensing programs;

• HB 317 would classify rent-buy businesses as retailers for the purpose of taxing them, co-authored with John Otto;

• HB 407 adds Hood County to the Weatherford College District;

• HB 866 would make it possible for students in fourth and seventh grade to skip standardized tests if they passed in the previous year’s testing;

• HB 1358 changes the way pharmacists and pharmacies get audited.

The regular session will end on May 27. The Texas Legislature only meets  in regular session for 140 days in odd-numbered years. Before the end of the regular session, the legislature will have heard thousands of potential bills and constitutional amendments.



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Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com