State lawmakers don’t head back to work for nearly two months, but many are already busy crafting a blueprint for the 84th legislative session.
With the first new governor at the helm in more than a dozen years, proposals are on tap to eliminate red-light cameras, let Texans openly carry handguns, exempt the state from daylight-saving time and prevent abortions motivated by the unborn child’s gender.
Proposals run the gamut from legalizing gambling and eliminating in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants to letting same-sex couples marry and giving businesses the ability to turn away customers based on religious beliefs.
“It has been 14 years since someone other than Rick Perry occupied the office of governor, so it is likely that this will make a difference,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.
“But until we actually see Greg Abbott in action during a legislative session, it is difficult to know exactly the contours and dimensions of this difference.”
About 500 proposals were filed last week, and only a fraction of them are likely to become law during the 140-day session, which begins Jan. 13.
Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, filed House Bill 130 to allow same-sex marriage. Texans amended the state constitution in 2005 to stipulate that marriage is a union of one man and one woman.
“Marriage says ‘we are a family’ in a way that no other word does,” Anchia said. “Marriage strengthens families and gives couples the tools and security they need to build a life together.”
Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, filed House Joint Resolution 34 to repeal the constitutional ban.
“We have come so far on this issue in a short period of time,” he said. “Our momentum is growing, and we all know that we will win at some point, whether it’s through legislation or a Supreme Court ruling.”
Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, filed Senate Bill 148 to repeal the offense of “homosexual conduct.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, filed Senate Joint Resolution 10, which essentially gives Texans the “right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief.”
Her measure has drawn concern from some groups that fear it will create a “license to discriminate” and let businesses deny services based on a person’s sexual orientation.
Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, is among those renewing the call to allow casino gambling.
Her HJR40 would let Texans decide whether the state should create a gambling commission and authorize casino gambling at certain sites — including dog or horse tracks, such as Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie.
The measure would authorize federally recognized Indian tribes to have gambling on certain Indian lands and would require the governor to call a special session to consider gambling legislation.
And Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, filed HB108 to let Texans who win lottery jackpots of $1 million or more remain anonymous if they wish.
Several proposals have been filed to let Texans openly carry handguns.
Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, wants to allow constitutional carry through HB195.
Fashioned after a Vermont law, it would let Texans who are legally allowed to possess firearms carry them in the open or concealed without a license.
Under his proposal, Stickland said, “Anyone legally eligible to possess a firearm is legally allowed to carry without permission from bureaucrats.
“This is about as hard-core as it gets. I think we’ve gotten so far away from the basics of the Constitution. It’s time to restore the Second Amendment to what the Founding Fathers intended it to be.”
Abbott has said he will support an open-carry law.
“This has become about raising revenue,” he said. “It has nothing to do with freedom, liberty or public safety.”
Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas,
filed SB126, which would allow seriously ill inmates who are no longer a threat to be released from prison after a review by the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The goal, he said, is to reduce the state’s medical care costs.
Lawmakers filed a number of bills that would affect the pocketbooks of Texans and the state.
Looking at the state budget, Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, filed SB53 to require agencies to go through a zero-based budgeting review at the same time they undergo sunset review.
“We need to establish a schedule that ensures every state agency’s budget undergoes a deep scrubbing,” Nelson said.
“Taxpayer dollars should not be used to support a person’s drug habit,” Nelson said.
Stickland has filed HB209 to end in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants.
I think it’s time we put Texas kids first and take care of Texans,” he said. “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous we are subsidizing folks who are not following our rules in Texas.”
Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, filed SB149 to create review committees for high school students who pass their classes but won’t graduate because they failed one of the required exams on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.
Without a change, he said, around 48,000 Texas students won’t graduate this year.
“Everyone can agree that students should meet the minimum requirements of the curriculum,” Seliger said. “However, once they have successfully completed all of their courses, should their futures depend on high-stakes tests?”
Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Tomball, wants to make sure that Texas women can’t have an abortion based on the gender of their unborn child. HB113 states that violators could be convicted of a Class B misdemeanor.
Doctors who perform a “sex-selective abortion” could have their licenses suspended or revoked under the bill filed by Fletcher, a former Houston police officer.
Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, proposes that Texans research, collect and study the use of adult stem cells through HB114.
And Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, filed SB66 to make sure schools stock EpiPens and train employees to use them so they can quickly address serious allergic reactions.
His HB135 would require students to take a semester-long course on the U.S. Constitution before graduating from high school.
These bills, he said, “support the free exercise of faith, family and freedom.”
Rep. Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park, filed HB115 to give the Texas Purple Heart Medal to the victims of the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, which killed 13 and wounded nearly three dozen. The shooting has been classified as “workplace violence,” making the victims ineligible for the federal Purple Heart.
“The Obama administration has failed to acknowledge the reality of what happened that day, but hopefully this effort will bring our soldiers some comfort and pride in knowing that the state of Texas and Texans honor their sacrifice,” Dale said.
Dale also filed HB183 to require all state agencies to use the federal E-Verify system to determine that all potential employees have legal work status.