Even before the bang of a gavel opens Texas’ 83rd legislative session around noon, lawmakers will have filed nearly 600 bills that would create or change state law.
The measures would make it a crime to text while driving and require welfare recipients to pass drug tests.
Some lawmakers are again trying to bring casino gambling to Texas. Others have proposed more closely regulating the sale of cemetery plots or raw milk.
There’s at least one bill calling for a review of the 2003 decision that gave universities the right to raise tuition rates.
Numerous lawmakers, including Republican Representative Diane Patrick of Arlington, want to reform the new statewide testing requirements for high school graduation, what’s known as STAAR. Under STAAR students must pass 12 end-of-course exams, a total of 15 tests, to get their diplomas.
“We have created a system that may cause us to have more drop outs. I am very concerned about that,” said Patrick.
“I think the assessments are good in and of themselves but how they are used is the problem. So we are taking a look at some various ways that could be changed to make it a better system,” she added.
Democratic senator Royce West of Dallas says he’s going to “make a lot of noise” about health care.
West is calling on Governor Perry to reverse course and accept the billions of federal Medicaid dollars Texas would receive if the state contributes a smaller portion and allows more citizens to qualify for the Medicaid program.
“What it means if we do that is that 88 percent of the people of Texas will have insurance,” said West noting that currently one quarter of Texans are not insured.
“What it means is that instead of going to Parkland when they’re at wits’ end and need attention, we’ll be able to be proactive as it relates to treating those individuals,” said West.
Rep. Rafael Anchia, another Dallas Democrat, is promoting incentives to urge the production of solar and other renewable energies.
“We are blessed as a state to be a top energy producer in fossil fuels. I want us to be not only number one in wind, but number one in solar, hydroelectric power and geothermal,” Anchia said.
Texans touring the ornate, pink granite capitol have their own ideas of what elected officials should be doing.
Studying the portraits of governors Ann Richards and George Bush in the rotunda, Bob Friese from San Antonio said he wants a reduction in the property taxes that are killing homeowners.
“I would love to see the taxes for schools go into sales tax instead of property because it seems to me that people who have a nice homes are penalized because they have to pay property taxes for the schools and somebody who chooses not to have a nice home but maybe travels or goes out to dinner doesn’t pay the school taxes,” said Friese.
Tessa Stewart of Houston says she’d be happy if lawmakers just took care of her biggest daily hassle.
She wants “better roads because they suck and they pop my tires every time I go anywhere,” Stewart explained.
Only one in five bills is likely to make it to Governor Perry’s desk, and the Governor will veto some of them or allow them to die.
But on day one of the session many elected officials feel optimistic about sponsoring or supporting legislation that will put their stamp on government in Texas.