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88th Session of Texas Legislature Begins Today, Central Texas Professors Discuss Key Issues

WACO, Texas (KWTX) – The 88th session of the Texas Legislature begins at noon, and there is already a lot of debate on the issues and topics that will be discussed in the next session.

According to Dr. Robert Tennant, Texas A&M, Central Texas, assistant professor of accounting, the focus will be on how to spend the over $27 billion surplus.

“We did have a record surplus, which means that the business has generally performed quite well in the past year,” Tennant said. “Even with a projected potential recession coming into 2023 and inflation persisting, Texans may not be as much at risk from job cuts and the like. However, with the influx of technical jobs, this can be offset.”

He said the issue was what lawmakers might agree to spend the surplus on.

“There are definitely issues because even though it’s a record surplus, it’s a limited amount and everyone will have ideas as to where they should go and how much should go for each piece of the pie,” Tennant said.

Dr. Pat Flavin, professor of political science at Baylor, said Gov. Greg Abbott is pushing for the money to go towards property tax breaks. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick would like the funding to go to infrastructure.

“There will be a lot of debate about how to spend this money in Austin,” he said.

In addition to spending, Flavin expects immigration to become a widely discussed issue.

“It’s kind of a tricky issue because immigration is generally in the hands of the federal government, but since Texas is certainly experiencing the effects of immigration, it’s now become a major state issue as well,” he said.

He expects lawmakers to discuss how much resources to allocate to the border crisis.

Flavin also said that the electricity grid debate will return in this session. While some officials say the network is robust and resilient, others believe legislators can find ways to improve the network.

Abortion is also expected to play a role in legislation following the dismissal of Roe v. Wade. Flavin said the possibility of skipping exceptions or reducing some of the restrictions is under discussion.

As in the last session, Flavin expects transgender rights to be discussed in legislation as well.

“…transgender rights issues, what parents can and cannot do when it comes to transgender issues with their children, and things like books that are in school libraries,” he said.

These issues can be carefully discussed by lawmakers, but Flavin is not sure if this will lead to special sessions like 2021.

“We’ll have to see if the 2021 session doesn’t repeat itself when the Democrats left the state, basically leaving House representatives unable to do anything,” he said. “If that is the case, we will probably see a special session. I think it’s unlikely that this tactic will be used again … I think legislators are hoping they get all the business they plan to do in the next session.”

Flavin said today that they will likely focus on organizing committees and committee chairs. After they are adopted, the legislative process will begin.

If you want to talk to your legislators, you can find your representatives here.

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