Legislative session will shake things up


Rep. Mike Schoefield, R-Katy, packs up his desk on the final day of the legislative session in 2015.
Rep. Mike Schoefield, R-Katy, packs up his desk on the final day of the legislative session in 2015. AP

Bill filing for the coming legislative session has begun, and lawmakers are putting in their wish lists. Almost 500 substantive bills had been filed by late afternoon Monday, and that’s only Day One.

Some of the bills might be more destructive than productive, while others have a lot of potential. This session should be interesting, to say the least.

Don’t panic yet, though — most won't pass.

In the 2015 legislative session, lawmakers introduced 6,276 substantive bills. Only 1,373 of those bills eventually passed during the 140-day session, and Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed 41 of them.

Here are a few topics to watch:

Texting and driving (SB 67, HB 62, HB 160)

Some lawmakers want to take another shot at making texting and driving illegal statewide. A similar bill passed in the 2013 session, but Gov. Rick Perry vetoed it.

Marijuana reform (SB 170, HB 58, HB 81, HB 82)

Some bills would legalize marijuana, but stoners shouldn’t get their hopes up. Most marijuana reform bills don’t make it far. Only one has passed, allowing a tiny amount of cannabis oil for epilepsy patients. .

Three bills would lessen criminal penalties for possession of small amounts (less than an ounce) of marijuana. Another would create a program for first-time offenders.

Minimum wage (HB 285)

An attempt to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The odds of this one getting passed will be slim.

Tax exemptions on feminine hygiene products (SB 129, SB 162, HB 55, HB 219, HB 232)

The “tampon tax” debate is making its way to Texas. Multiple lawmakers want to make female hygiene products (tampons, sanitary pads) tax exempt. Two House bills would make these items tax exempt only during tax-free weekend.

Fetal remains (HB 201)

Bills on this topic bear watching. They would require healthcare facilities to properly bury or cremate fetal remains, “regardless of gestation.” Opponents see it as another way to hinder women wanting an abortion.

Voter education (HB 266)

State Rep. Ana Hernandez, D-Houston, wants a mandatory voter education class for high school seniors. The class would teach students the steps to voting and learning more about civic duty.