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Texas State Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) presented several house bills for the 87th Texas Legislative Session in committees this week. Daily Record file photo

Nature-based infrastructure bill headed to house floor as legislative session continues

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Texas State Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) presented several house bills for the 87th Texas Legislative Session in committees this week, one of which is heading to the house floor.

Zwiener presented House Bill 48 to the House International Relations and Economic Development Committee and House Bills 2344 and 2350 to the House Public Education Committee and House Natural Resources Committee, respectively. 

All bills were received favorably, according to Zwiener’s Chief of Staff Victoria Godinez, and HB 2350, which would incentivize nature-based infrastructure projects through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, was voted out of committee and on to the house floor for debate. 

“Nature-based infrastructure is a powerful tool for mitigating flooding and also provides additional benefits such as aquifer recharge, outdoor space, and reducing heat islands,” Zwiener said. “HB 2350 will let municipalities use a bottom-up approach to develop locally directed projects to fit their community’s needs.”

Should the bill become law, communities seeking loans for wastewater system upgrades could access extra funds for projects such as rain gardens, wetlands and other projects that create permeable surfaces, allowing rainwater to percolate into aquifers rather than running off surfaces. The nature-based infrastructure project would be funded through a decrease in the interest rate on the overall project. Although nature-based infrastructure can help reduce the impact of flooding and increase groundwater supply, it has not been widely adopted throughout the state.

The bill was also supported by the Hays County Commissioners Court in their regular meeting Tuesday.

House Bill 2344 would allow school districts to implement a writing portfolio to fulfill the writing component of required state reading assessments. 

“Portfolio-based writing assessments can provide a better and more thorough assessment of students’ progress in writing without the negative impacts of standardized writing testing,” Zwiener said. “Standardized writing tests increase student hesitancy to write, can often derail a student’s progress, and don’t provide a reliable assessment of a student’s skills. It’s time to use a better tool.”

Standardized writing assessments grade students based on a formula, and teaching this formula to students often leads them to become less creative and more uncertain in their writing abilities. Writing portfolios grade students on their body of work and provide a more thorough reflection of their skills.

House Bill 48 seeks to expand sexual harassment protections to not just employees of large companies, but also small businesses in Texas. Under current law, employees at workplaces with fewer than 15 employees have effectively no access to due process when experiencing workplace sexual harassment. They cannot file a case in district court. This bill would put all Texas employees under the same rules.

“Every single Texas worker deserves a workplace free of sexual harassment, and when they do experience sexual harassment, they deserve due process,” Zwiener said. “HB 48 is a step in the right direction to ensure all Texas employees are guaranteed workplace protections against sexual harassment.”

Under current law, Texans can only file a workplace sexual harassment complaint with Texas Workforce Commission if their employer has 15 or more employees. HB 48 will expand this to employees at workplaces of all sizes, providing a single baseline of protections and access to due process for every Texas employee.

The Senate Companion, carried by Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), has already passed unanimously out of the Texas Senate. 

San Marcos Record

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