Texas

Property taxes and LGBTQ issues dominate early bills filed by Texas legislators.

The billing period for the 88th Texas Legislative Session began last Monday. The official session won’t begin until January, but state legislators have already filed more than 850 bills. Most of these bills won’t become law, but seeing what problems legislators tackle early on sheds light on their priorities for next year.

Border security, property taxes and LGBTQ issues dominate the first part of the bills filed by Texas officials. Nicky Griswold, public policy reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, joined the Texas Standard to reveal these bills and their implications for next year’s session.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity:

Texas Standard: What are the key issues lawmakers want to address in this session? What are the notable early accounts?

Nicky Griswold: Republicans seem to be pretty focused on lowering property taxes. Governor Abbott has made it clear that this is his priority for this session. But it is also clear that they are not ready to stop focusing on LGBTQ issues. There are a number of bills filed targeting transgender Texans that are sure to generate controversy in the upcoming session.

Could you tell us more about one or two of them?

Absolutely. There is a bill, similar to the one that was considered in the last legislative session, that would define the provision of gender-affirming assistance to trans-Texan children as child abuse. There are currently a number of cases in the judiciary dealing with this issue. But lawmakers seem to be focusing on that in the upcoming session as well.

Several bills have also been introduced relating to the Texas capital of Austin and its local government. Could you tell more about what these offers offer?

It’s an ongoing battle between state and local governments when it comes to slightly more Democratic cities like Austin that oppose the Republican state government. One such proposal is to turn Austin into a county similar to our nation’s capital and Washington, DC. It’s unlikely to ever get close to the governor’s table and actually become law, but it’s a continuation of that power struggle in the state capitol.

The Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Lieutenant Governor have yet to announce their priorities for the upcoming session. Any indication of what bills and issues they’re going to prioritize, as that could have a big impact on what ends up being passed?

This is absolutely correct. The governor has so far indicated that reducing property taxes for homeowners in Texas will be his priority. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the actions on the Governor’s priority list is to keep schools safe, given what happened in Uvalda back in May. However, the Governor is likely to focus more on school safety, such as strengthening access points to schools, providing more security for schools, and more resources to address mental health issues. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s on his list too.

When do they make these announcements? Do they come out in December or January once the hammers are down?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the governor lays out his list of priorities during his State of the Union address, which is likely to take place in February. And the speaker’s and lieutenant governor’s priority lists are sure to follow the governor’s.

The legislative session won’t start until January, but now we have these early bills. What else can we expect between this moment and the official gavel in the session? What are you looking for as a reporter?

Now that the election season is over, I expect lawmakers to take some time for themselves to be with their families and voters. I don’t think there is any expectation that there will be much political news before the holiday season. But with the beginning of the legislative session, things will definitely go uphill and by the end of February and March they will really get back on track.

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