“Monica's Law,” filed as House Bill 2315, is awaiting a vote after being presented in a Texas House committee. State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) filed the legislation to prevent domestic violence by increasing accessibility to information about individuals with a history of domestic violence. The bill aims to create a publicly searchable database listing protective orders issued by Texas courts.
Late on the evening of Monday, April 24th, Rep. Landgraf presented Monica's Law, to the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Monica's father, along with her sister and brother, traveled to Austin to share their personal stories of loss and testify in favor of the bill.
“I filed this legislation after working closely with Monica’s family and I'm proud of them for coming to the Texas Capitol to share their story,” Landgraf said. “By providing gripping testimony, they are helping turn tragedy into triumph by helping prevent others from becoming victims of domestic violence.”
"There is nothing we can do to bring Monica back, but maybe this could save somebody else," Jon Nielsen, Monica’s father and a retired Odessa police officer, stated in front of the committee.
Monica Deming, the namesake behind the proposed law, was murdered by an abusive ex-boyfriend. He shot and killed the 32 year-old mother in her Odessa home on November 29, 2015, several weeks after she broke off the relationship. At least two protective orders for domestic violence had previously been issued against him, but he was easily able to keep them secret by gaming the current system.
“Monica had no clue of his violent and abusive past; he was a seasoned predator and he knew exactly how to hide it from her and her family," explained Jenny Dorsey, Monica's sister.
Monica’s Law would establish a statewide registry of protective orders, where certain redacted information could be publicly accessed, and where law enforcement and the courts have access to all of the information provided by approved protective orders. The information would only be available after due process has been given to the abuser in a judicial proceeding.
"It's too late to do anything for my sister now, but it's not too late for my daughter, my other sister, my mother, your daughters, your sisters, or your mother," Paul Nielsen, Monica's brother, implored the committee.
Monica’s Law could be approved by the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee as early as next week, and then it could be scheduled for debate in the Texas House floor.
On Thursday, State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) won passage of House Bill 1483, which would name Highway 191 in Ector County as the "Chris Kyle Memorial Highway." The stretch of highway in Odessa runs directly adjacent to the new Chris Kyle Memorial Plaza.
The bill to honor the life and service of the former Navy SEAL was passed by a vote of 142 to 0 in the Texas House of Representatives.
“I am honored that my colleagues in the Texas House unanimously supported this bill to memorialize a native Odessan and American hero, Chris Kyle," Landgraf said.
Kyle is considered one of the most lethal snipers in U.S. history, with 160 confirmed enemy kills. Chris Kyle spent countless hours as a leader helping his fellow veterans with their transition back into civilian life. His life story was portrayed in the film “American Sniper.”
The bill will now be considered in the Texas Senate, where Senator Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) will take the lead on the legislation.
State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) on Thursday filed House Bill 3539, which would make it a third-degree felony to assault a pregnant woman in Texas. Current state law only classifies that crime as a Class A misdemeanor.
Landgraf filed the bill after a local prosecutor, Kortney Williams, asked for the law to be changed to provide a tool against someone who assaults a pregnant woman.
"This bill is a clear statement that when a pregnant woman is assaulted, both the mother and the unborn child are victims, and a more severe punishment for the attacker is justified,” Landgraf said.
Landgraf’s bill seeks to protect both the pregnant mother and her child, but also create a greater deterrent for assaults of this kind.
If Landgraf’s bill is passed by the Texas Legislature, the new law would take effect on September 1, 2017.
Thursday, State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) filed legislation aimed at preventing domestic violence. “Monica's Law,” as Landgraf has dubbed it, would create an online, searchable and public database listing protective orders issued by Texas courts as a result of domestic violence.
Monica Deming, the inspiration behind the legislation, was murdered in an act of domestic violence. Monica, a 32 year-oldmother, was shot and killed in her Odessa home by an abusive ex-boyfriend on November 29, 2015. Two protective orders for domestic violence had previously been issued against him, but he was easily able to keep them secret.
Landgraf began crafting this legislation after being approached by Monica’s father, Jon Nielsen, a former Odessa police officer. Nielsen pleaded that, had a database been available, he and Monica would have been able to know that her abuser had a history of domestic violence.
Monica’s Law, filed as House Bill 2315, establishes a statewide registry where certain redacted information can be accessed by the public, but also one where law enforcement and the courts have access to all of the information provided by protective-order applicants. Information is only available after due process has been given to the abuser in a judicial proceeding.
“Monica’s Law cannot go back and save her life, or take away her family’s grief, but it can help prevent others from entering into tragically abusive relationships that can lead to physical violence, and worse, death,” Landgraf said. “While we should fight to end domestic and family violence, we should also provide the public the tools to protect themselves and the criminal justice system the ability to protect others.”
On Thursday, State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa), filed House Bill 1979, the “Texas Fuels” bill, to harness funds restricted exclusively for emissions reduction purposes to promote the use of natural gas-based fuels in state fleet vehicles.
"The Texas Fuels bill is good for Texas,” Landgraf said. “It will help create jobs in places like the Permian Basin that are blessed with an abundance of natural gas, but it will also provide a path for economic growth and cost-savings for Texas taxpayers.”
Among other provisions, the bill would authorize portions of the Texas Emissions Reduction Program (“TERP”) fund to convert state fleets to include vehicles with engines that run on natural gas-based fuels. The program envisioned in the Texas Fuels bill should lead to an increase in natural gas production across Texas.
"Texas is the largest natural gas producer in the nation, and the Permian Basin is the largest natural gas producer in the state,” Landgraf said. “These co-products come from natural resources should be used to their fullest extent.”
The current 85th Texas legislative session will run through May 29, 2017.
On Thursday, State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) was appointed to serve on the three House committees: Energy Resources, Environmental Regulation, and Local & Consent Calendars.
"I am honored to serve District 81 in the Texas House of Representatives and strongly believe my appointment to these three committees will benefit West Texas. I will be working hard to make the most of these opportunities for the communities and constituents I serve," Landgraf said.
The Energy Resources and Environmental Regulation committees in particular are important to the Permian Basin economy and the oil and gas industry.
The Energy Resources Committee has jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to the production, regulation, transportation, and development of oil, gas, and other energy resources.
The jurisdiction of the Environmental Regulation Committee includes matters related to downstream oil and gas products as well as water.
The Local & Consent Calendars Committee controls the flow of most legislation that is debated and voted on the floor of the House of Representatives, making the committee a key safeguard.
"Now that committees have been assigned, we will begin to hold hearings on bills and determine how best to solve the issues facing our great state and I'm looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work," Landgraf said.
The current 85th Texas legislative session will run through May 29, 2017.
On Thursday, State Representative Brooks Landgraf filed House Bill 1483 to name State Highway 191 in Ector County as the “Chris Kyle Memorial Highway.” February 2, 2017, the day Landgraf filed the legislation, marks the fourth anniversary of Kyle’s tragic death.
The stretch of highway to be named in memory of Kyle passes directly by the Chris Kyle Memorial Plaza, which prominently features a 15-foot statue of Kyle, the U.S. Navy SEAL sniper who was born in Odessa in 1974.
“I hope that by naming this highway in Chris Kyle’s memory, even more West Texans can learn of the impact and sacrifice he made in service to our country and to his fellow veterans,” Landgraf said.
The Chris Kyle statue, which is a source of pride for Odessa, was unveiled and dedicated in July 2016. Kyle’s widow, Taya, was involved with the plaza’s design and attended the dedication ceremony.
“At the Chris Kyle Memorial Plaza dedication ceremony last summer, I asked Taya if she'd like the highway named in memory of Chris, and she was excited about the idea, so I'm very proud to file this bill,” Landgraf said. “While speaking to the thousands in attendance at the ceremony, I pitched the idea to name 191 in memory of Chris Kyle, and the crowd roared with approval.”
Chris Kyle’s life story was portrayed in the film “American Sniper.” Kyle is considered one of the most lethal snipers in U.S. history, with 160 confirmed enemy kills during several tours of duty in the Iraq War. After retiring as a Navy SEAL marksman, Kyle dedicated his efforts to helping his fellow veterans transition back into civilian life.
State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) filed three key pieces of legislation aimed at improving public education in West Texas. Two of the bills focus on reforming public school finance for Permian Basin schools, while the third repeals the current standardized testing system.
House Bill 1319 offers a full repeal of recapture provisions, otherwise known as "Robin Hood,” which sends a portion of funds from a so-called property wealthy district to so-called poorer districts.
Meanwhile, House Bill 1320 provides greater flexibility for mineral-abundant communities, whose property values can fall unexpectedly during an economic downturn, to fare better under the Robin Hood scheme.
"Robin Hood has been a disaster for students and taxpayers in the Permian Basin,” Landgraf said. “These legislative efforts are aimed at fixing the state’s broken policy by not punishing school districts in the oil patch.”
Additionally, Landgraf filed House Bill 1321, which seeks to eliminate current testing systems, like the STAAR test, from being used as high-stakes, one-sized-fits-all substitutes for real accountability measures.
"In my view, we should value teaching over testing,” Landgraf said. “This bill will allow us to get back to the basics of education so that Texas students are prepared for college, the workforce or the military when they graduate.”
The 85th Texas legislative session is underway and will run through May 29, 2017.