There might still be two months before the 84th legislative session starts, but eager lawmakers aren't waiting to get their legislation on the table.
On Monday, the first day that legislation can be submitted, Texas lawmakers filed more than 350 bills, addressing topics including guns, texting while driving, health, transportation and much more.
Monday’s filings do not guarantee that the Legislature would consider the bills, and the assigned bill numbers have no impact on how legislation is taken up in committees. But the early attention can be a benefit ahead of the session, which starts Jan. 13.
"I think getting a low number, getting an early scheduled hearing, I think that helps you," said state Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland. "When you get a bill filed early, it gives you a chance and it gives people a chance to kind of view it and know its there."
Craddick, a former speaker of the House, filed a bill that would ban texting while driving, legislation he has filed in previous sessions. Similar legislation was filed by state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Harlingen; Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo; and Rep. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio.
A team of Democrats has filed legislation to repeal Texas' ban on same-sex marriage — a fight they are unlikely to win in the Republican-controlled House and Senate. One lawmaker, state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, filed a constitutional amendment to overturn the ban,House Joint Resolution 34, but acknowledged Monday that a court ruling is more likely to bring same-sex marriage to Texas than legislation. But he said bills can give advocates something to organize around.
"In talking with my colleagues, what we wanted to do was show people that this is important and show people that this deserves a spotlight that is bigger than one member filing a bill,” Coleman said.
As of Monday afternoon, a bill repealing the Texas Dream Act, which allows undocumented immigrant students to pay in-state college tuition rates, had yet to emerge. Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick promised while campaigning that he would work to repeal the act. The bill could part of legislation that is reserved for priorities set by the lieutenant governor.
All bills can be seen on the Texas Legislature site. Here’s a list of other noteworthy legislation filed Monday:
House Bill 176, filed by Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, R-Lexington, would create the "Second Amendment Preservation Act," which would say a federal law "that infringes on a law-abiding citizen's right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution or Section 23, Article I, Texas Constitution, is invalid and not enforceable in this state."
Senate Joint Resolution 12 and Senate Bill 139, filed by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would eliminate diversions from the state highway fund to the Department of Public Safety to ensure those funds are only used on road construction. Currently, part of the state highway fund is paying for state highway police.
Senate Bill 66, filed by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, would require schools to stock EpiPens, and that employees are trained in how to use the medical devices that combat serious allergic reactions.
Senate Bill 96 and Senate Bill 97, also filed by Hinojosa, would introduce regulations of vapor products, or e-cigarettes, in Texas. SB 96 prohibits the use of vapor products on school property, while SB 97 would apply many of the regulations on cigarettes to vapor products.
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, filed several higher education related bills. Senate Bill 24would increase the orientation training for university system regents, while Senate Bill 42would prevent the governor from appointing a student regent if that person did not submit an application to the university or its student government. Senate Bill 23, also filed by Zaffirini, would make pre-kindergarten available to all 4-year-olds in Texas and make half-day pre-K available to 3-year olds who meet certain at-risk measures.
Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, filed three bills in an attempt to increase civic engagement in Texas. Senate Bill 141 would create a voter education program in Texas high schools, Senate Bill 142 would allow deputy registrars to receive their training online, and Senate Bill 143would notify voters who were rejected while registering of what mistakes they made on their registration forms.
Energy and Environment
Senate Bill 109, filed by Sen.-elect Van Taylor, R-Plano, establishes new deadlines for processing water rights permits in Texas. In a statement on Monday, Taylor said the bill was aimed at bureaucracy that is preventing parts of North Texas from accessing water.
House Bill 224, filed by Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, would change the name of the Railroad Commission of Texas to the “Texas Energy Resources Commission.” Similar legislation has failed in the past.
House Bill 55, filed by Rep. Armando "Mando" Martinez, D-Weslaco, would allow money from the Texas Enterprise Fund to go to veterans hospitals in the state. The Texas Enterprise Fund became embroiled in controversy this past election season, when it was revealed that several recipients of the fund never formally submitted applications.
-- by Bobby Blanchard, The Texas Tribune