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Here’s the status of some of the most important bills in this year’s Texas Legislature

Haya Panjwani

The 88th session of the Texas Legislature ends tomorrow. The whirlwind session has had some unexpected twists and turns — lawmakers expelled a House member, and the Texas House impeached Attorney General Ken Paxton.

But despite Republicans banding together for those big votes, they were split on some of the big priorities for Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan.

Here are the bills that passed and failed as lawmakers head into the last hours of an eventful legislative session.

Bills that passed

The budget 

Texas had an unprecedented surplus to work with this legislative session, and lawmakers negotiated a $321.3 billion budget. The bill will fund the state for the next two years.

The package includes pay raises for many government employees, excluding teachers, whose raises were wrapped up in a bill that did not pass. The bill also funds border security measures, mental health care programs and tax cuts.

After the Texas House and Senate earlier this year proposed about $4.6 billion for border security efforts over the next two spending years, the chambers settled on about $5.1 billion in its final version.

The allotment continues the state’s record spending on border security, which increased significantly when Abbott initiated Operation Lone Star in early 2021 in response to what he called President Biden’s “open border” policies. The mission has sent thousands of Texas DPS and state National Guard troops to the border.

Gender-affirming health care ban for minors

Lawmakers passed a controversial bill that would ban transgender Texans under 18 from receiving gender-affirming medical care. The bill would prohibit doctors from administering hormone therapy or puberty blockers, or performing surgery to treat gender dysphoria.

The bill would take effect Sept. 1. Minors who are already on these medications would go through a “weaning off” period as directed by their doctor. Gender-affirming health care would still be available for adults.

The measure was sent to Abbott’s desk earlier this month and he has said he would sign it into law.

School safety 

This bill contains a number of provisions to increase security in schools. It includes requirements for at least one armed officer to be present at each school.

One of the authors of the bill was Rep. Tracy King, a Democrat from Uvalde. The legislation passed days after the one-year anniversary of The Robb Elementary School shooting, where 19 students and two teachers were killed.

Some schools that lack funding or personnel may be exempt from the armed officer requirement.

The legislation mandates a yearly review process for school safety protocols and a check from the Texas School Safety Center every five years. The Texas Education Agency would also have to create standards for informing parents of violent activity on campus.

The bill provides $15,000 plus $10 for each student for security updates to schools. It also prohibits armed staff members from making arrests unless there is a risk of severe physical harm or death.

This bill will also head to the governor’s desk. He is expected to sign it into law.

Transgender college athletes

This bill requires that all college athletes in Texas play on the sports team that aligns with their sex assigned at birth. The bill allows for female students to play on men’s teams if there is no corresponding sports team for women.

Co-ed intramural sports are also permitted.

The measure heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.

Tenure regulation

The bill was originally meant to ban tenure in Texas. That’s what Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wanted and, in fact, even made one of his legislative priorities for this year.

However, the bill evolved in the Texas House. Instead of banning tenure, it would codify and regulate the practice at public universities.

Under the legislation approved by the Texas Legislature Sunday, “only an institution of higher education’s governing board, on the recommendation of the institution’s chief executive officer and the university system’s chancellor, if applicable, may grant tenure.”

The measure also codifies the reasons for dismissal for professors with tenure. They include failure to perform duties, violation of laws or policies of the university system, and professional incompetence.

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

Sexually-oriented performances

Another of Patrick’s priorities was a measure that would ban drag performances in front of minors.

Patrick and other Republicans have argued that the performances are sexually explicit and that minors should not be allowed to see them. The Senate version directly targeted drag performers with language that classified “a male performer exhibiting as a female, or a female performer exhibiting as a male” as a sexually as a sexually-oriented performance.

The House-Senate compromise version drops that language, but it still seems to target drag performers.

The bill now bans performances in front of minors that have been classified as sexually explicit. It classifies as sexual conduct “the exhibition of sexual gesticulations using accessories or prosthetics that exaggerate male or female sexual characteristics.”

Anyone in violation could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor — up to one year in jail and up to $4,000 in fines.

The bill now heads to Abbott’s desk.

Bills that failed

Border security priorities

House Bill 7 by state Rep. Ryan Guillen, R-Rio Grande City, would have created the Texas Border Force. Duties of the unit would have included keeping unauthorized immigrants from entering Texas through non-lethal force, intelligence gathering and analysis, and coordination with other state agencies on border operations. The legislation would have also provided millions in grant funding for law enforcement agencies on the border to aid in prosecuting border-related crimes.

Guillen told The Texas Newsroom Sunday afternoon that House and Senate members could not come to an agreement on the final version of the bill after the upper chamber added a provision that would make unlawful entry from Mexico into Texas a state crime.

“The Senate did something totally different – they put on an amendment that was probably not germane,” he said about the unlawful entry language. “At the end we couldn’t agree on anything.”

Guillen said he hoped the issue will be revisited during a special session. The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Guillen refusing to accept the Senate changes.

Vouchers and teacher raises

Teacher raises were attached to a bill that would have created a school voucher program.

Despite being a priority for Abbott, the addition of vouchers to the teacher pay bill turned many lawmakers against the legislation.

The bill attempted to address the exodus of teachers from the profession. Certified educators who had been teaching for 10 years or more would have made a minimum of $60,000.

The voucher program attempted to create Educational Savings Accounts that could have been used at a charter or private school of the parents’ choice. Opponents of the bill worried it would weaken already underfunded public schools.

Abbott has said he would call a special session to push through school choice legislation.

Copyright 2023 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Aurora Berry
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán | The Texas Newsroom
Julián Aguilar