84th Texas Legislature
During the meeting of the 84th Texas Legislature, collaboration and perseverance paid off in the form of several common sense bills Representative Johnson authored, joint authored or sponsored that were passed into law.
Economic Development Agenda
Representative Johnson fought for and passed multiple pieces of common sense, bipartisan legislation aimed at addressing the lack of economic development and jobs in certain communities across the state.
Banking and Credit Union Development Districts – HB 1626
This bill allows county and municipal governments to apply to the Finance Commission of Texas and the Texas Credit Union Commission to establish Banking or Credit Union Development Districts in communities that have limited access to mainstream banking services. “How can we fault people for getting trapped in a cycle of debt with payday lenders, or expect them to save and build credit if they don’t even have access to banks or credit unions in their neighborhoods?,” said Representative Johnson. “This bill goes a long way in ensuring that banks and credit unions will open and be successful in areas that need it most.”
Crowdfunding for Small Businesses - HB 1629
Crowdfunding is a fundraising method that uses the power of the internet to raise money from a large number of people. By leveraging this tool to boost economic development, crowdfunding has the potential to become a real game-changer for small businesses in Texas.
This piece of legislation assists entities which provide financing to small businesses that have historically had limited access to capital. It would direct the Texas State Securities Board to adopt rules to regulate and facilitate intrastate crowdfunding for these entities, many of which are already providing grants or loans to small businesses.
Criminal Justice and Public Safety Agenda
Representative Johnson's criminal justice and public safety agenda during the 84th Texas Legislature spanned from issues of police transparency, to ensuring just practices in our county jails, to common sense harm reduction legislation.
Uniform Reporting of Officer-Related Shootings - HB 1036
Despite intense media coverage of officer-involved shootings, there is no single source for accurate statistical information on these incidents. Even FBI Director James Comey has said that "because [officer-involved shooting] reporting is voluntary, our data is incomplete and therefore, in the aggregate, unreliable." This information gap prevents policymakers and researchers from adequately studying the issue, allowing the conversation on this topic to be driven more by speculation and personal biases than facts.
This bill requires Texas law enforcement agencies to submit a report containing basic demographic information on shootings involving peace officers to the Office of the Texas Attorney General (OAG) within thirty days of the incident. The OAG would then be required to report this information on their website within five days and to compile an annual report.
Body Cameras for Police - SB 158/HB 455
The use of body-worn camera technology by law enforcement has increased dramatically over the last few years. This is largely due to the potential that this technology has to improve the safety of both citizens and peace officers, and to reduce the rate of false claims made against law enforcement. In Texas, some cities like Fort Worth have already fully implemented body camera programs, while in others, like Dallas, law enforcement agencies have implemented pilot programs.
This bill establishes statewide standards for the use of body cameras by police and helps law enforcement agencies throughout the state procure and operate a body camera program through a grant run by the Governor's office. “After months of research, conversations, and concessions from all stakeholders, we were able to pass legislation that will make it easier to have a clear picture of police interactions with the public,” said Representative Johnson.
Preserving In-Person Jail Visitation - HB 549
Many county jail facilities in Texas have already completely eliminated in-person jail visitation and replaced it with video-only visitation. These counties have contracted with a for-profit company that essentially forces families to pay to "video chat" with their loved ones in jail, and tout this as an efficiency and cost-saving measure for the jail. However, people visiting a family member or friend in jail should not be limited to seeing them on a video screen.
This bill ensures that county jails can no longer continue to eliminate in-person visitation to instead make a profit by implementing vide-only visitation by requiring the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) to adopt rules that establish a minimum of two in-person visitation periods per week in all county jails.
Increasing Awareness of Child Vehicular Heatstroke - HB 2574
This bill increases awareness of the dangers of vehicular heatstroke death by requiring the Department of State Health Services to include information on this issue in their existing materials for parents of newborn children that are delivered in Hospitals and available online. “One out of every seven of these tragic and preventable deaths since occurs in Texas. We must do everything we can to educate parents and protect the lives of our most vulnerable Texans,” said Representative Johnson.
Representative Johnson also spearheaded an anti-fraud agenda to make it easier to prosecute scammers.
Ending "Squatter's Rights" Real Estate Fraud - HB 2590
In a troubling trend, some real estate scam artists have misused our adverse possession laws to claim fraudulent title to seemingly abandoned homes. Without the actual owners’ knowledge or consent, these scam artists then "sell" these homes to "buyers" who are unaware of the fact that the seller doesn’t actually own these properties. Some victims have reported spending over $30,000 on renovations and "mortgage" payments as a result of these scams.
This bill allows municipalities, county governments, district attorneys, and the Office of the Texas Attorney General (OAG) to prosecute this type of real estate fraud under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). It also allows for the distribution of 75% of the monetary penalties to the local jurisdiction prosecuting the case. Additionally, it allows victims of these fraudulent schemes to obtain three times the damages while simultaneously recovering their attorney's fees, regardless of whether the scammer has already been sued by local attorneys or the OAG.
Ending Immigration Consulting Fraud - HB 2573
Some Notaries Public (and other individuals not licensed to practice law) exploit Spanish speakers who conflate the Spanish words for Notary Public ("notario") and attorney. These fraudulent actors take advantage of this misnomer to represent themselves as being licensed to provide legal services. Unfortunately, victims of this kind of fraud are disproportionately immigrants who are striving to be law-abiding citizens.
This bill created the offense of “notario fraud” under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). It allows city and district attorneys to prosecute these types of cases under the DTPA without prior approval from the Office of the Attorney General, while allowing 75% of the monetary penalties to be distributed to the local jurisdiction prosecuting the case.
83rd Texas Legislature
Natural Resource Preservation
Funding the State Water Plan - HB 4
To ensure that every Texan has access to water in the future, Representative Johnson joint-authored House Bill 4 during the meeting of the 83rd Texas Legislature. This bill created the mechanism for funding the State Water Plan by providing low-interest loans for water infrastructure and conservation projects across the state.
House Bill 1025 called for the appropriation of $2 billion from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, to finance these loans, and passed with the passage of the constitutional amendment creating these funds. Because the loans will be paid back in full to the state, the fund is self-sustaining.
Improving Water Usage Information – HB 2615
Representative Johnson also passed House Bill 2615, which raises the cap on penalties for water rights holders who do not report their usage information to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). This will improve the accuracy of water usage data and help the TCEQ determine how to best allocate water in times of severe drought.
Progress in Education
DISD Full Day Pre-K Pilot Program - HB 1122
House Bill 1122 gave the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) the ability to implement a pilot program that enables students to graduate early. The money it would have cost to fund these students’ completion of their senior year was redistributed to DISD’s full day pre-K program.
Penalties for False Bomb Threats - HB 1284
After multiple false bomb threats cost the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University more than $5 million combined in evacuation expenses, something had to be done to address these costly and dangerous bomb hoaxes. In response, the 83rd Texas Legislature passed Representative Johnson’s House Bill 1284, which increased the penalty for reporting false bomb threats on college campuses.
Texas Academic College Scholarship Day - HCR 40
During the 83rd Texas Legislature, Representative Johnson also passed House Concurrent Resolution 40, which designates the first Saturday in May as Texas Academic College Scholarship Day, a celebration of high school students who receive an academic scholarship to attend a university. Not only does this special day promote higher education, but it also highlights the importance of academic achievement.
82nd Texas Legislature
Uncontested Special Elections - HB 184
House Bill 184 provides a process so that when a vacancy occurs in the Legislature and a special election to fill the vacancy is uncontested, the secretary of state can declare that sole contestant the winner. Without this legislation, the seat could, unnecessarily, remain vacant for months, depriving Texans of the representation they deserve. House Bill 184 ensures that citizens go without representation for as short a period as possible.
Rights of Defendants to be Informed - HB 1106
House Bill 1106 ensures that defendants sentenced to deferred adjudication are aware of their rights under Texas law. Many mistakenly believe that completing deferred adjudication will result in a person having a clean criminal record. While a conviction will not appear on such a person’s criminal record, the deferred adjudication still remains. Having this deferred adjudication visible often makes it difficult for people to find employment and housing as they try to get their lives back on the right track. House Bill 1106 requires a court to inform defendants receiving deferred adjudication of their right, if eligible, to seek an order of nondisclosure, both at the time they are placed on deferred adjudication as well as upon their successful completion of deferred adjudication.