Some of the bills up for consideration at the Texas Capitol this session are not new to state lawmakers. Several pieces of legislation are expansions on previously filed bills or existing laws.
Niki Griswold, a state politics reporter at the Austin American-Statesman, said one such bill would ban transgender athletes from participating in university women’s sports. The Texas Senate granted preliminary approval to the bill on Tuesday.
“Back in 2021, the Texas Legislature passed a law banning transgender youth in K-12 schools from participating on sports teams that align with their gender identity, rather than their sex at birth,” Griswold said. “This law that is proposed in this legislative session expands on that and would apply to college athletes.”
Lawmakers are also considering bills that would limit access to gender-affirming care for minors. One of them is House Bill 1686, which came up before committee this week. Griswold said this bill is highly controversial, especially for LGBTQ rights activists.
“This bill would ban access to gender affirming care – including hormone therapy, puberty blockers and certain surgeries – for transgender youth under the age of 18,” she said. “It drew a lot of protesters on Monday, and a similar bill was heard in a Senate committee recently earlier this month as well, and passed out of committee.”
The Senate bill addressing gender-affirming care has the potential to go up for a vote on the full Senate floor sometime this week, Griswold said. Last session, a similar bill was passed in the Senate but failed in the House. Griswold said the difference this year is how many lawmakers have signed on in support.
“House Bill 1686 has 79 Republicans signed on in support, including the bill’s primary author,” she said. “That is above the threshold necessary for the bill to pass in the House, (which) it didn’t have last session. In 2021, the bill had about 52 lawmakers sign on in support – again, which is under that threshold. So we’re dealing with a bit of a different dynamic this year.”
Another measure gaining traction this year after failing to pass in previous sessions would exempt menstrual products and some baby supplies from the sales tax – commonly called the “tampon tax” – to make them more affordable. A similar measure has been filed every session since 2017 but has never made it across the finish line.
“What is different this year is that Speaker Dade Phelan has made this one of his priority bills to pass this session, which puts a lot of pressure on lawmakers to pass and prioritize this bill,” Griswold said. “We saw this bill passed with overwhelming support in the House. And so now it awaits final approval before it heads over to the Senate, where we’ll have to see if the lieutenant governor puts the same priority on this piece of legislation.”