Bill filing begins for upcoming session of the Texas Legislature

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In what marks the unofficial start of the legislative session, state lawmakers on Monday began filing hundreds of bills to consider in the 88th session of the Texas Legislature, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 10.

By 4 p.m. Monday, state senators and representatives had filed more than 850 potential laws, constitutional amendments and resolutions addressing myriad subjects, including property taxes, border security, gun access, abortion, health care, education and gender issues.

The governor, House speaker and lieutenant governor have not yet announced what their priorities for the upcoming session will be, but House Speaker Dade Phelan appears to have reserved House Bill Nos. 1 through 20 for those priorities, while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick seems to have reserved Senate Bill Nos. 1 through 30.

Far more bills are sure to be drafted before the March 10 filing deadline, but the wave of proposed legislation filed Monday provides a peek into which issues lawmakers of both parties are hoping to tackle in the 140-day session next year.

Property taxes

Republican lawmakers signaled that property tax relief, which Gov. Greg Abbott has said is a priority of his, will be at the top of the GOP’s list to accomplish during the upcoming session.

Several Republicans in both the House and Senate introduced legislation to limit or reduce property taxes, and at least two bills would use a large portion of the state’s budget surplus to do so.

Texas is projected to have at least $27 billion in surplus funds.

Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, filed House Bill 174, which would direct the state’s comptroller to appropriate 90% of the surplus to the Texas Education Agency to help reduce property taxes. House Bill 379, filed by Rep. Cecil Bell Jr., R-Magnolia, similarly directs the comptroller to designate half of the surplus toward property tax relief.

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In the aftermath of the mass shooting at Uvalde’s Robb Elementary on May 24, Democratic lawmakers pledged to take action on gun control, and on Monday they filed a double-digit slate of bills to increase gun safety and limit access to certain firearms.

Among them was House Bill 22, filed by Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, which would require gun retailers to report when a person purchases more than one firearm, or more than three detachable magazines, in five consecutive days. In the months after the Uvalde shooting, Moody was part of a three-member House investigative committee that released a comprehensive report on the events leading up to and during the massacre, which is the deadliest school shooting in Texas history.

Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, who represents Uvalde and has been a vocal advocate for several of the victims’ families, filed legislation that would raise the minimum age to purchase an AR-15-style rifle from 18 to 21, as many of the families have demanded. Gutierrez also filed legislation to create a $300 million victim compensation fund for those affected by the Robb Elementary shooting.

Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, filed House Bill 533, which would allow law enforcement officers who are taking a person into custody who might have a mental illness to immediately seize any guns found in the person’s possession.

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Border security

Republicans also had their eye on border security, which has been a key focus for Abbott through his Operation Lone Star initiative.

House Bill 82, filed by Rep. David Spiller, R-Jacksboro, would give the governor the authority — upon the approval of the U.S. Congress — to coordinate and execute an interstate compact to address border security by detecting and apprehending migrants crossing the border without documentation.

Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Royse City, filed House Bill 91 to make it a felony for a person who is a citizen of any country other than the United States to enter or remain on public or private property in Texas. Slaton also filed a bill to create a fund to pay for border security enhancement projects. Abbott has also already spent more than $4 billion of state money on Operation Lone Star.


Though Republicans in the last legislative session passed a landmark six-week abortion ban and a trigger ban that entirely outlawed abortion in the state with very few exceptions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion remains a key topic for lawmakers of both parties.

Eight Democratic state senators filed Senate Bill 122, creating exceptions to the state’s abortion ban in the case of rape or incest, and Senate Bill 123, which would allow for additional medical exceptions. Several Republican lawmakers have indicated they would consider voting for such measures, but whether there is enough support for the policies to pass in the GOP-dominated chambers of the Legislature is still unclear.

Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, introduced several bills that aim to crack down on physicians from outside the state who provide abortion-inducing medications to Texans via telemedicine and mail service. Shaheen’s House Bill 592 would require physicians outside Texas who are providing telemedicine services to Texans to register with the state and comply with all Texas laws.


Many of the bills filed in the House and Senate propose changes to the school finance system.

Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, filed a bill that would eliminate daily attendance to determine school funding and instead rely on average attendance. School officials have complained that an attendance-based funding system harms districts when students are absent.

Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, filed House Bill 117, which would give a break on school district taxes to people who have lived in their homesteaded property for 15 years or more.

Rep. Lacey Hull, R-Houston; Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels; and Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, introduced legislation in the House and Senate that would prolong a law requiring parental consent to teach a student about human sexuality. That section of state law is set to expire Aug. 1, 2024.

Two representatives have introduced bills that would include instruction that human life begins at conception.

Rep. Cody Vasut, R-Angleton, and Terri Leo-Wilson, R-Galveston, who will be sworn in in January, both introduced similar bills.

Campbell also introduced a bill that would provide parents comprehensive rights to prevent their child from participating in certain curricula.

The bill requires schools to obtain parental consent before conducting “a social or psychological experiment including the child” or any visual or written material including violence, profanity, illegal substance use, nudity or sexual conduct, according to the bill.

The bill also requires curriculum audits by the Texas Education Agency.

State Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, filed House Bill 23, which would prohibit public universities from allowing transgender students to join campus-sponsored sports that align with their gender identity. It would also prohibit private universities in the state from doing so in any sports in which they are competing against public schools.

During a special legislative session in October, Abbott signed a law that would require transgender students to play sports in public K-12 schools based on the "biological sex" listed on their birth certificate. The new bill would expand that to include the state’s colleges and universities.

Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, filed Senate Bill 118, which would require county commissioners courts to designate one polling place at higher education institutions with at least 5,000 people. It would require two polling places for institutions with at least 10,000 students and an additional place for every additional 10,000 students.

On-campus polling places at Texas universities have come under threat in the state, causing barriers for young voters, who typically have the lowest turnout. Half of the state's 36 public universities had an on-campus early voting location this year, according to a tally by The Texas Tribune.

Additional topics

  • Elections: Several Republicans introduced legislation to increase the penalties for illegally voting, while Democrats filed bills that would allow for electronic voter registration.

  • Health care: Democrats filed legislation that would expand Medicaid, especially for women during and after pregnancy.

  • Gender: House Bill 42, filed by Slaton, would define providing gender affirming health care as child abuse. Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, filed House Bill 122, which would criminalize the provision of gender affirming health care.

  • Gambling: A proposed constitutional amendment would legalize gambling in the Lone Star State through the creation of the Texas Gaming Commission, allowing both casino gambling and sports wagering. The Senate Joint Resolution from Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, would give regulatory authority over a “limited number of destination resorts and facilities” to the newly formed commission as proceeds are meant to further education and public safety funding.

American-Statesman higher education reporter Megan Menchaca, public education reporter Keri Heath and trending reporter Hogan Gore contributed to this article.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Bill filing begins for upcoming session of the Texas Legislature