Elected politicians from across Texas are gathering at the capitol building in Austin in preparation for the opening day of the 88th state legislative session.
At noon on January 10, the Texas House and Senate will be called to order to begin 140 days of debate, negotiation, and lawmaking.
Texas’ legislature is one of the few that typically only meets once every two years unless a special session is called, meaning that each session sees a flurry of bills introduced.
In this session, the 150 members of the Texas House of Representatives and 31 state senators will weigh policy decisions on various topics ranging from school vouchers and child safety issues to the state’s electric grid and budgetary matters.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate, recently announced his legislative priorities for the session, as reported by The Dallas Express.
“We have an extraordinary opportunity, unlike what we have ever had before, to chart the future of the state of Texas and to create a vision,” he said.
Patrick indicated he wanted to use the state’s $26.9 billion surplus of taxpayer money to reduce property taxes, support law enforcement, increase the electric grid’s stability, improve mental health facilities, and secure the border.
Others in the Senate, such as Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R), have expressed support for lowering the tax burden for Texas taxpayers.
During his campaign, Gov. Greg Abbott also mentioned the “record budget surplus of $27 billion.” He posted on Twitter, “Because this is your money, I want to return at least HALF of that money to you with the largest property tax cut ever in the history of Texas.”
Some officials, such as Rep. Donna Howard (D), have pushed back against what she claimed are “knee-jerk” tax cuts. She asked instead, “What is going to give us the long-term benefit that we need?”
Legislators from the Dallas area will likely play leading roles in the session as local representatives and senators have filed bills addressing topics such as election processes, the death penalty, abortion, and sex reassignment surgery, as reported by The Dallas Express.
Sen. Bob Hall (R-SD 2), representing parts of Dallas County, filed a bill to prohibit “gender transitioning or gender reassignment procedures” from being performed on children.
On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Nathan Johnson (D) filed bills to permit the dispensing of drugs that induce abortion. He also proposed bills that would remove “gender-specific terminology” from state marriage laws and prohibit criminal penalties for any “pregnant individual” seeking an abortion.
With opening day less than a week away, only 37% of Texas citizens feel that the government in Austin “mostly addresses the needs of Texans,” according to a recent poll by the University of Texas at Austin. Nearly half of respondents (48%) said they believed the state government is “mostly careless with people’s tax dollars.”
Overall, more Texans are coming to believe that the state is heading in the right direction, with nearly 40% holding a favorable view — up from a low of 31% in June last year.
The laws passed or rejected by the legislature in this session will undoubtedly affect whether or not Texans view the government as effective in making the state a better place to live.