Texas Legislature

With Weeks Left in Session, Fentanyl Bills Moving Ahead in Austin

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It has been a busy week in Austin as lawmakers try to find ways to stem the fentanyl crisis.

Families believe changes in the law can save lives, but there's only a month left to get it done. The Legislative session ends on Memorial Day.

Many North Texans have been involved in the progress some bills are making in the Capitol, including Carrollton Police Chief Roberto Arredondo.

"I have never come to the Capitol, to testify on anything,” he said in front of lawmakers during a House committee hearing on Tuesday.

But Arredondo says he’s doing it for the future of his city.

"We're fighting the good fight,” he told NBC 5 on Friday.

He spoke this week in support of House Bill 1581, which would increase felony offenses for drug dealers tied to overdoses or deaths. The bill’s next step is to move off to the House floor.

"I know they get it and they understand the struggles and our plight. I felt very good coming away from that committee meeting that they were going to act in our favor,” said Arredondo.

Carrollton has seen nearly a dozen overdoses and three deaths among school children in a matter of months earlier this year.

“What's frustrating about it is people know what it does. But the addiction to the opioid is so strong that they can't fight it, as they should,” he said.

Arredondo says this bill and ones like it can’t pass soon enough.

“We're depending on them to give us the resources we need so that we can rid our great communities of this poison,” he said. "We need to have stronger laws that will help us prosecute these manufacturers and dealers that are supplying our kids with this.”

Debbie Petersen of Carrollton also testified with the chief this week, sharing the loss of her adult son Matt last year.

"He stopped breathing within one minute and all of his dreams were crushed,” she said. "I am hoping that Austin will step up and be the voice of my child, Matt Harvey, as well as the hundreds and thousands that have died due to fentanyl."

With just weeks to go before the session ends, time is running out to address numerous fentanyl bills in Austin.

"We're in crunch time right now. We're needing bills to get through the House as well as the Senate on harm reduction and as well as prevention and education,” said Stefanie Turner, founder of Texas Against Fentanyl.

Turner lost her 19-year-old son, Tucker Roe, to an illicit Percocet pill that was bought from a peer on social media. After his passing, she immediately began sharing Tucker’s story to help prevent others from suffering the deadly effects of this dangerous drug that is devastating our communities.

She has also been busy this session connecting with other mothers and lawmakers, following the progress of the bills that can alter the fentanyl crisis. She’s pushing for a bill that would require fentanyl education in schools.

“My son, the first time that he used, he did not know what fentanyl was and neither did I,” said Turner.

Another bill, House Bill 6, calls for prosecuting fentanyl deaths as murder. Both the education bills and HB6 are making progress in the House and Senate.

But a key senate bill calling to legalize fentanyl detecting test strips is stalling. It led to protesters taking over parts of the Capitol on Thursday, demanding more action before the session ends in a month.

"I don't feel that it's happening fast enough,” said Turner. "We know fentanyl was a priority item and we're still not making much headway through the Senate yet. So we need those bills to get on through."

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