The Texas Legislature’s newest incoming members were elected less than a week ago, and the two chambers won’t gavel in until Jan 8. But the law-writing bonanza of the 2019 legislative session kicked off Monday, the first day to pre-file bills for the 86th Legislature. By noon, more than 400 bills had been filed.
In the State Senate, the first bill, as usual, came from State Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), who is known to have her staff line up outside the clerk’s office hours before prefiling starts. Senate Bill 31 is a bipartisan effort – eight senators signed on as authors, with Zaffirini at the top – to create a guardianship, abuse, fraud, and exploitation deterrence program within the state Office of Court Administration.
Meanwhile, the first bill filed in the lower chamber, House Bill 21, is related to higher education. Authored by State Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), the bill would exempt college textbooks from sales taxes during one week in August and one week in January.
(Filing early gets a bill a low number. But the lowest numbers are reserved by the House speaker and lieutenant governor, who assign those numbers to their top-priority legislation.)
Here’s a list, which will be updated regularly, of notable bills from the first day:
- House Bill 49, by State Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) would get rid of daylight saving time in Texas. Some lawmakers have tried to do this in past sessions.
- House Bill 63, by State Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) would make it a civil offense – not a crime – to be caught with less than one ounce of marijuana. Moody’s bill was one of several filed Monday aiming to loosen marijuana laws in Texas.
- Senate Bill 90, by State Sen. José Menendez (D-San Antonio), would offer medical cannabis for qualifying patients and increase the number of debilitating medical conditions that qualify for the Texas Compassionate Use Program.
- House Bill 84, also by Moody, would repeal the section of the Texas penal code that lists “homosexual conduct” as a crime. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that the section is unenforceable, but it remains on the books.
- House Bill 222, by Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) would prohibit Texas cities from adopting or enforcing ordinances that would require employers to offer their employees paid sick leave. San Antonio and Austin have passed paid sick leave ordinances this year. Soon after Austin passed its ordinance, state Rep. Paul Workman( R-Austin) announced that he would file legislation banning the ordinances, but Workman was defeated in Tuesday’s election.
- Senate Bill 66, by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, would reduce and eventually eliminate the state’s franchise tax.