The curtain rises on Tuesday on the Texas Legislative Show, a drama that will likely lead to laws being passed that will change our lives.
During the 140-day session starting Tuesday, lawmakers will approve the budget, the only task they have to complete. But many bills relating to taxation, education, health care, infrastructure and various social issues will be discussed and sent to Gov. Greg Abbott for signing into law.
While most legislation has a purpose, some are more effective than others.
Here are five suggestions that could change the lives of Texans.
Lawmakers will see a $32.7 billion surplus, and the state’s top political leaders want much of that to be used to cut property taxes.
For years, property owners complained about rising taxes, and the Legislature provided only sporadic measures.
The question is not just how much property owners will see property tax breaks, but whether lawmakers can design a permanent or one-time cut.
The 10-member Legislative Budget Council, led by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, voted to increase spending by a maximum of 12.33%, allowing for an additional $12.5 billion in unearmarked tax revenue in 2024-2025. Enough for some tax breaks, but not the amount ($14 billion) demanded by Abbott.
Conservatives have long sought legislation to allow public funds to be used to educate students in private schools.
Laws allowing vouchers or other school choice options have been blocked by rural legislators who don’t want their public school systems to suffer.
But the push to choose a school is bigger than ever, and this could be the session where Abbott and his allies make it.
In 2021, the Legislature approved one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the country. Abortion restrictions have been the topic of many Texas legislative sessions. Legislators may pass bills this year to clarify existing abortion laws and add additional penalties for illegal abortions.
Some legislators will seek exceptions to anti-abortion laws for victims of rape and incest.
Some Republican lawmakers have proposed increasing funding for social services for pregnant women.
The expansion of gambling into sports betting did not start in Texas—until now.
Some big players, including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, are backing proposals to allow mobile sports betting in Texas. Perry is a spokesperson for the Sports Betting Alliance.
If passed, it would mark a monumental shift in attitudes towards gambling in the Lone Star State and would begin the process for other gambling proposals, though this will not happen during this session.
But even with support picking up, the chances of sports betting becoming Texas law are slim, although Abbott may be open to it. Because the Texas Constitution bans most gambling, it would take a two-thirds vote of legislators to pass the law, and then the support of a majority of voters in a public referendum.
And with lawmakers having a surplus to fill holes in the budget, the need for gambling revenue isn’t as urgent.
Last year’s shooting massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde led to pressure on lawmakers to pass legislation to help prevent mass shootings.
Republican lawmakers who approved a law in 2021 allowing Texans to carry guns without a permit are unlikely to support most gun control proposals.
But there could be legislation to protect public schools from mass shootings, fund mental health services, and help law enforcement officers.