Texas Legislature plans to address important issues during 85th session

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Texas legislators have filed more than 1,600 bills since the 85th session of the Texas Legislature began, spanning topics from gun control and ride-hailing regulations to abortion policies. 

Here are some hot-button topics and bills that are likely to take precedence as the session unfolds. 

 

Gun Rights

 The campus carry law pertaining to UT-Austin and other public universities in Texas, which went into effect August 2016, allows licensed gun holders to carry
concealed handguns. 

This law, officially known as Senate Bill 11, restricts any university from creating a rule prohibiting license holders from actually carrying their guns on campus. This legislative session will address the controversial campus carry law with House Bills 282 and 391.

According to the record of filed house bills, Bills 282 and 391 propose to amend Senate Bill 11 to allow institutions of higher education to have the option of “prohibiting license holders from carrying handguns on the campus of the institution, any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by the institution is being conducted, or a passenger transportation vehicle owned by the institution.” 

 

Transportation

 Popular ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft put their services on pause in May after the majority of Austin voters rejected Proposition 1, which would have lifted the city’s requirement for drivers to undergo fingerprint-based background checks. While these companies no longer operate in Austin, they are currently available in other Texas cities.

 However, Senate Bill 113 now aims to create statewide uniformity of transportation network companies, which means individual cities would not have the ability to determine their own requirements for these companies. Senate Bill 176 also outlines driver prerequisites including submission of an application, completion of a background check without requiring fingerprints and assessment of the individual’s driving record. 

 

Social Issues

Multiple bills concerning LGBT rights and abortion were filed this session in response to recent Supreme Court decisions legalizing same-sex marriage and overturning a Texas initiative that shut down the majority of abortion clinics in the state. 

 House Bills 192 and 225 seek to prohibit discrimination in housing and employment situations based on sexual orientation or gender expression. Other bills such as House Bill 428 would exempt certain religious groups from complying with nondiscrimination standards.

 Stricter abortion regulation proposals have been filed by Republican legislators. Some of the proposed changes concerning Texas’s abortion policies include a ban on partial birth abortion, stated in Senate Bill 8, and a ban of third-trimester abortions “if the fetus has a severe and irreversible abnormality,” as stated in House Bill 87. 

 

Bills to Watch

 Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s top 10 legislative priorities are Senate Bills 1–10.

These bills address the 2017 budget proposal, property tax reform, school choice, sanctuary cities, photo voter ID, women’s privacy act, inappropriate teacher-student relationships, fetal tissue/partial birth abortion, spending cap and hailstorm lawsuit reform, according to the website. 

 “Starting in 2017, we will have a friend in the White House who was clearly elected because the people of this country believe in the conservative principles that have guided the way we govern in Texas — life, liberty and lean government that promotes prosperity,” Patrick said in a statement. “I remain committed to those principles and the legislative priorities I am announcing today all reflect that commitment.”