The bill filing period of the 88th Texas legislative session began last Monday. The official session won’t start until January, but state lawmakers have already filed over 850 bills. Most of these bills won’t make it into law, but seeing what issues lawmakers target early sheds some light onto their priorities for next year.
Border security, property taxes and LGBTQ issues dominate the first crop of bills filed by Texas representatives. Niki Griswold, state politics reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, joined the Texas Standard to unpack these bills and what they mean for next year’s session.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity:
Texas Standard: What are the key issues lawmakers seem to want to tackle this session? What are some notable early bills?
Niki Griswold: Republicans seem to be pretty focused on lowering property taxes. That’s something that Governor Abbott has made clear, it’s a priority of his for this session. But it also is clear that they are not ready to stop focusing on LGBTQ issues. There are a number of bills filed that target transgender Texans that are sure to be controversial this upcoming session.
Could you tell us more about one or two of them?
Absolutely. There is a bill filed similar to a bill that was pursued last legislative session that would define providing gender-affirming care to trans Texan children as a child abuse. There are a number of cases in the court system at this moment focusing on that issue. But legislators seem to be focusing on it this upcoming session as well.
There have also been several bills concerning the Texas capital city, Austin, and its local government. Could you say more about what those proposals suggest?
This is an ongoing fight between state and local government when it comes to slightly more Democratic cities like Austin pushing up against the Republican state government. One such proposal is to turn Austin into a district similar to our nation’s capital and Washington, D.C. That is not likely to get anywhere near the governor’s desk and actually become law, but it is a continuation of that power struggle in the state Capitol.
The governor, House speaker and lieutenant governor have not announced their priorities for the upcoming session yet. Any indications of what bills and issues they’re going to prioritize, since that could largely steer what makes it through eventually?
That’s absolutely correct. The governor so far has indicated that lowering property taxes for homeowners in Texas will be a priority of his. I also wouldn’t be surprised if one of the measures on the governor’s priority list is addressing school safety given what happened in Uvalde back in May. However, the governor is likely to focus more on school security, such as hardening school access points, providing more security for schools and more resources for mental health issues. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s on his list as well.
When do they make those announcements? Do those come out in December or in January, once the gavels fall?
I wouldn’t be surprised if the governor lays out his priority list during his State of the State address that is likely to be in February. And the House speaker and lieutenant governor’s priority lists are sure to follow quickly after the governor’s.
The legislative session won’t start until January, but now we have these early bills. What else can we expect to see between now and the official gaveling in of the session? What do you look for as a reporter?
Now that the election season is over, I expect lawmakers to take a little bit of time to themselves to be with their families and constituents. I don’t think that there is any expectation that there will be a lot of political news between now and the holiday season. But things are sure to ramp up once the legislative session starts and really get into the swing of things by the end of February and March.