AUSTIN (KXAN) — A smaller budget means Texas lawmakers will most likely face cuts and less flexibility in how money is spent this year. The top politicians are making their priorities heard on Tuesday at their first day at the Capitol for the 85th Legislative Session.
Analysts say there are some pretty big differences between the two chambers in priorities. The House, led by speaker Joe Straus, is expected to show interest in public education, and looking at school finances.
The Senate, led by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, has been more interested in some of the hot button social issues.
The Lieutenant Governor has unveiled the Texas Privacy Act, which critics have deemed the “bathroom bill.” It would would require transgender Texans to use the restroom that corresponds with their “biological sex,” instead of the gender they identify with.
The legislation faces stiff opposition from the business community, which is warning that Texas could experience economic fallout similar to what North Carolina faced when its legislators pushed a comparable bill.
When it comes to women’s health, Texas legislators have already filed a number of abortion-related bills. One proposal would require the burial or cremation of fetal remains rather than disposing of them in a sanitary landfill.
Funeral homes are questioning who would pay for the burial or cremation expenses if the law is passed. Texas law already allows scattering ashes on any private property, including landfills.
The other bill would end insurance coverage for abortions. The state is in court this month for a final decision on the existing fetal remains burial rule and for a hearing in a lawsuit over whether it can kick Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid.
Senate Bill 2 is a property tax relief bill, which would limit annual increases. Homeowners in urban and suburban areas are likely to cheer on the bill while they save money.
However, cities and school districts say this is just state lawmakers capping the revenues they need to keep up with everything from road maintenance to police officer and firefighter salary increases. Mayor Steve Adler says Austin alone would lose out on $15.4 million if the bill were in effect.
The bill came forth after the Select Committee was charged by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to find ways to improve the property tax process. Over the past year, the group held hearings across the state and 321 witnesses testified, according to the committee’s interim report.
The committee wants the Legislature to consider reducing the 8 percent limit to 4 percent or lower. The average homeowner would save over $2 a month on property taxes.
On Wednesday, advocates for tighter gun control laws are meeting with lawmakers about the bills they are supporting. One of those proposals includes ways to improve background checks.
Some GOP lawmakers are pushing for looser gun laws with Constitutional Carry. This would give all Texans the right to openly carry a firearm without a permit. Last legislative session, lawmakers passed both open and campus carry laws.
Lawmakers have deemed Child Protective Services a major funding priority this session. Right now, there are too many cases of child abuse and neglect in Texas without enough people or the resources to handle it.
More than 200 Texas children died last fiscal year; around half of those had open child protective services case files. Just last week, five year old Giovanna Hernandez was killed in Kyle. Police say she was stabbed to death by her mother and CPS confirmed they had previous involvement with the family.
Lawmakers say the agency needs more money — but the focus now is how the legislature is going to prioritize the dollars that are available.