At 8 a.m Monday, Texas state legislators officially began pre-filing new legislation to be considered in the fast-approaching 2017 session. By noon, state lawmakers had already submitted more than 400 bills.
While the official January 10 start date is still a couple months off, Monday marks the unofficial kickoff to the 85th legislative session with a fresh laundry list of proposed laws.
Many of them are expected. One bill, filed by Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R- Austin), simply asks that Congress repeal the Affordable Care Act. At least a couple ask for state sovereignty from the federal government. Another bill would require all health clinics that provide abortions to bury or cremate the aborted remains—a rule already under consideration by the Department of
State Health Services. This “fetal burial” bill join a handful of others attempting to restrict abortion access and care: One would block women from getting an abortion if their fetus has a “severe and irreversibility abnormality,” another would grant unborn fetuses the same constitutional rights as a human being in hopes of banning abortion altogether in Texas.
Sen. Bob Hall filed the first anti-LGBT measure of the session with a bill that would ban cities from enforcing nondiscrimination laws that protect LGBT people—giving businesses a free pass to block transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity. Hundreds of state business owners have already spoken out in opposition to this proposed bill, despite Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s attempt to disguise it as a “women’s privacy” law.
In fact, Patrick himself on Monday delivered a laundry list of priorities for the upcoming session. They include vague promises to pass tax reform, bolster charter-school funding, end so-called "sanctuary cities" where police tell their cops not to act like immigration agents, pass another version of a voter ID law (since the courts blocked the last one the Texas Legislature passed), crack down on the creeping rise of improper student-teacher relationships in
Texas – and, of course, further restrict abortion in the state.
Hall also submitted a bill mimicking a Florida law that bans doctors from asking their patients if they had a firearm in their house. Physicians have
adamantly argued against this type of legislation on the grounds that guns could pose a serious risk to a patient’s health—especially if they are mentally unstable.
And, perhaps in an attempt to preempt future battles over city rideshare regulations, Sen. Don Huffines (R-Dallas) filed a bill that extends state taxi and limousine regulations to rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft. Austin and Houston have already imposed similar rules on rideshare companies citywide, and San Antonio is slated to make a decision this month.
A few bills hope to scratch outdated laws in the state constitution, including the definition of marriage being between one man and one woman, and the criminalization of homosexuality. Both of these, of course, have been overruled by U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
A handful of other filed bills address vaccine exemptions, something Bexar County Attorney General Nico LaHood has been openly in favor of. One, introduced by Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) would require parents meet with a physician to understand the benefits of vaccination before signing an exemption slip for their child.
Other proposed bills would legalize the sale of marijuana, ban the state from contracting with companies that boycott Israel, introduce automatic voter registration, do away with corporal punishment in public schools, and abolish the death penalty.
If you were at all worried that November 8 marked the end of a political season, don't fret — you've got a wild seven months to look forward to now that the Texas Legislature has unofficially kicked it into high gear.