Monday was the first day for Texas lawmakers to begin filing legislation for the 84th Texas Legislature, which convenes January 15, and the hundreds of proposed bills ranged from the expected—including minimum wage raises and marriage equality efforts from Democrats—to the fringe, including one Republican’s crusade against Daylight Saving Time.
A coalition of Democrats filed marriage equality bills that would repeal wording in the Texas Constitution defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, and require Texas to recognize legal civil unions made in other states. Democrats also proposed pre-kindergarten programs for certain Texas children, expanding Medicaid eligibility, and making it easier for Texans to vote and register to vote.
Republicans filed bills that would loosen restrictions on gun ownership and exempt Texans from obeying any federal restrictions on guns that would violate the Second Amendment, and mandate drug tests for Texans who receive public assistance.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the 84th Texas Legislature’s most notable first proposals. Keep in mind that early filings don’t guarantee any bill will make it into an initial committee hearing, the first step toward becoming law.
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- Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford), who boasts that he has the most conservative record in the Texas legislature and last summer tweeted that he was fantasizing about shooting pro-choice protesters at the state capitol, was just one of several Republicans who filed bills calling for even looser regulations on guns in the state—in some cases, calling for open carry without a license.
- State Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), who has made repeated attempts to champion what she sees as her party’s “advances” in restricting funding for family planning care, filed a bill that would require adults who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to undergo drug testing. Measures similar to Nelson’s bill have been propsed in Texas and passed in other states, though they tend to be costly and mainstream critics have called them punitive and unnecessary.
- Rep. Allen Fletcher (R-Cypress) proposed the only abortion-related bill filed Monday, which would ban “sex-selective” abortions; similar anti-choice legislation has been proposed, and struck down. Critics have categorized bills like Fletcher’s as openly racist attempts to foment fear of Asian immigrants.
- Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) wants the state to be able to house prisoners in tents, while Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Van) wants to eliminate Daylight Saving Time in the state and make sure that public school teachers know they are allowed to post the Ten Commandments in a “prominent” position in their classrooms.
- State Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso) filed legislation that, on the surface, may seem unnecessary, even pedantic: it requires the Texas attorney general to be licensed and eligible to practice law in the state. However, the proposed bill could be a dig at the recent election of Republican Ken Paxton as incoming attorney general. Paxton has been fined for violating a state securities law—and he has openly admitted to committing the violation, though he’s called it an “administrative error”—and could face a felony indictment that would put his license to practice law in jeopardy.
- Gonzalez also proposed lowering the age eligibility level for participation in the Texas Women’s Health Program, called for “medically accurate” sex education in Texas schools, and wants to study whether the Dallas Men Against Abuse initiative in that city might be expanded to other parts of the state.
- A number of Democrats also filed bills that would create pre-kindergarten programs for underprivileged and at-risk children across the state and make it easier for Texans to vote and register to vote, including a proposal from Rep. Trey Martinez-Fisher (D-San Antonio) that would enable same-day voter registration and freshman Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin) that would allow voters to register online. Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) proposed a high school voter education program.
- On the immigration front, Rep. Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas) proposed a measure that would allow unauthorized Texans to obtain driver’s licenses, and Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) would put limitations on law enforcement officers’ ability to ask questions about a crime victim or witness’ immigration status.