By Ryan Welch
The 2019 Texas Legislative Session has begun, but no legislation can be passed or even debated on the floor of Congress for 60 days. The Texas Constitution prohibits any bill from passing within the first two months of the session to allow congress time to research, write, submit bills to the committees, and allow lawmakers enough time to deliberate on proposed laws before they vote on them.
Texas Lawmakers met for one day on Jan. 19, 2019 and will return on the following Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. This is typical scheduling during this phase of each legislative session where the Texas Legislature only convenes a couple times a week. Lawmakers often use this time to take to the floor to praise constituents and even school children from their district who are visiting the Capitol or to announce loved one’s birthdays. However, the Texas Lt Governor and Speaker of the House are assigning Committee Chairs and members to the various committees. The only exception to the 60-day rule requires the Texas Governor declare bills an emergency Item. Emergency items are generally declared during the Governor’s State of the State speech, which is scheduled for next month. Governor Greg Abbott was sworn in on Tuesday, the first day of this legislative session, and he is required to submit his proposed budget to lawmakers before he can give his state of the state address. Huntsville, North Cleveland, and Liberty are represented by Earnest Bailes in Texas House District 18. The main topics that Rep Bailes is discussing with his staff are education and eminent domain according to Jessica Allen, who works on the staff of Rep Bailes. Rep Bailes has submitted four bills to committee and is waiting for Legislative Council before submitting 15 other bills in the next two weeks. Rep Bailes and his staff are working on at least 25 topics for this legislative session according to Allen, including post Harvey disaster relief issues, a drainage district in Liberty county, and they are planning to be better equipped in District 18 for future disaster events. A lot of bills are still waiting on Legislative Council which provides research, information, computing and printing support to the legislature. Allen is not worried about the schedule because they are nowhere near the deadline and there is still plenty of time. However, more than 400 bills have already been filed on the first day of the session.
The first bill submitted in the Senate this legislative session is a bill to create a guardianship, abuse, fraud, and exploitation deterrence program within the state Office of Court Administration.
The first bill submitted in the House is a higher education bill that would exempt college textbooks from sales taxes during one week in August and one week in January. Each bill is assigned a number. Filing early gets a bill a low number. But the lowest numbers are reserved by the House speaker and lieutenant governor, who assign those numbers to their top-priority legislation. Here's a list of other notable bills from the first day of the 2019 legislative session: House Bill 49 to get rid of daylight saving time in Texas, House Bill 63 which would make it a civil offense but not a crime to be caught with less than one ounce of marijuana, Senate Bill 90 which would offer medical cannabis for qualifying patients, House Bill 84 which would repeal the section of the Texas penal code that lists "homosexual conduct" as a crime, House Bill 222 which would prohibit Texas cities from adopting or enforcing ordinances that would require employers to offer their employees paid sick leave, and Senate Bill 66 which would reduce and eventually eliminate the state's franchise tax.