State Rep. Matt Schaefer said he is working on bills related to passenger vehicle inspections, changing how plumbers get their licenses and civil asset forfeiture.
Schaefer, R-Tyler, represents most of Tyler, Whitehouse and the part of Bullard within Smith County. He also serves as chairman of the Texas Freedom Caucus, a coalition of conservative Republicans in the Texas Legislature.
Schaefer said he is working on a bill that would end the current system of passenger vehicle inspections that tests functions of a car such as horns and blinkers on an annual basis.
He said Texas remains one of a decreasing number of states that require these inspections, and a lot of time is being wasted on the program. The bill would not eliminate emissions tests that drivers in large cities are required to get, he said.
Schaefer said he would like to reallocate money spent on administering the vehicle inspection program to help eliminate the state’s Driver Responsibility Program, which charges fees to people based on certain traffic offenses.
The program was intended to fund certain medical centers for trauma care but has led to many Texans going into levels of debt they can’t afford, being unable to register their cars, and losing their driver's licenses, thereby making it harder to go to work to pay off the debt, according to The Texas Tribune.
Schaefer said the medical centers need the money, and while there is not enough money from eliminating the vehicle inspection program administration to pay for the $144 million the medical centers need, reallocating that money could help reduce some of the fees that are being charged to people through the program.
“That program was started where they take that surcharge money and they put it toward the trauma centers,” Schaefer said. “It’s good for them to receive it, but it’s being paid for on the backs of the poorest people in Texas. It’s a vicious cycle.”
Additionally, Schaefer said he is working with Rep. Stan Lambert, R-Abilene, on a bill to rewrite licensing for plumbers. He said he wants to make it easier for young people to become plumbers by getting them credit through programs at their public schools.
“Right now they could take a plumbing course, but unless they’re working under a certain plumber with a certain license, they get no credit,” Schaefer said. “The red tape for teaching plumbing in public schools is so thick.”
Schaefer’s first policy bill in the session, H.B. 480, affects which questions a district attorney can ask potential members of a grand jury. He described it as a cleanup bill meant to allow prosecutors to ask questions on whether people can sit on a grand jury.
H.B. 1615, which Schaefer introduced Tuesday, would make it harder for the state to seize property from private citizens accused of crimes. The process, known as civil asset forfeiture, led to Texas law enforcement agencies making $50 million in 2017, including from people not convicted of a crime, according to The Texas Tribune.
Under current law, the property owner has a burden of proof to stop the property from being seized, such as by proving that the property was stolen before being used to commit a crime. Schaefer’s bill would shift the burden of proof to the state.
Schaefer sits on the House Higher Education Committee and the House Appropriations Committee, and has been appointed to a subcommittee that considers public education spending.
TWITTER and INSTAGRAM: @_erinmansfield