By Gary Borders
Texas legislators are off to the races, filing more than 850 bills on Monday, the first day of filing season for the 88th session, which begins Jan. 10.
The Austin American-Statesman reported the potential laws, constitutional amendments and propositions address everything from property taxes to border security, access to guns, abortion, education and health care.
Thousands more bills will be filed prior to the March 10 deadline. Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan have not yet announced their legislative priorities.
Property tax relief is likely to be a top item, given past remarks from the state’s leaders. With a hefty state surplus of $27 billion predicted, two bills would carve into that surplus to reduce property taxes.
Other topics drawing proposed legislation:
· Democrats have filed a bevy of bills to increase gun safety and limit access to certain firearms.
· Eight Democratic state senators filed a bill that would create exceptions to the state’s abortion ban in the case of rape or incest, as well as additional medical exceptions.
· Legalizing gambling will again be before the Legislature, as it has the past several sessions.
· Another Democratic measure would expand Medicaid benefits for women both before and after birth.
DACA recipients urge quick congressional action
A number of recipients of the Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are urging Congress to act during the lame duck session to give them permanent protection against deportation.
The Texas Standard reported Austin accountant Edilsa Lopez was one of several recipients who met with Congressional leaders to tell their stories and urge them to adopt such legislation.
Nearly 600,000 children who were brought here by parents who are not U.S. citizens are protected under DACA, while another 400,000 are eligible but have been stymied from enrolling by legal challenges.
“This is my third time in D.C. flying to meet with congressmen from both sides of the aisle and they just keep on talking and talking,” said Diego Corzo, 32, of Austin. “I think it’s time that they finally put an importance to find a solution — a long-term solution — for the DACA recipients, for the Dreamers, so that we stop living in limbo.”
RRC inspectors sent to Reeves County after quake
The Texas Railroad Commission sent inspectors to Reeves County in West Texas Thursday after the area was rocked with a 5.4 magnitude earthquake near its border with Culberson County. The agents are examining disposal activity at injection wells in the area.
Tremors from the earthquake were felt in both San Antonio and Austin.
State now busing migrants to Philadelphia
The City of Brotherly love is the latest recipient of migrants being bused from Texas border communities, the Texas Tribune reported. The first bus arrived in Philadelphia last Wednesday.
“Since April, Texas’ busing strategy has successfully provided much-needed relief to our border communities overwhelmed by the historic influx of migrants caused by President Biden’s reckless open border policies,” Abbott said.
Texas has been sending busloads of migrants to Washington, D.C., Chicago, and New York in an attempt to pressure Biden to stiffen his immigration policies.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said the city welcomed the migrants and has been preparing for their possible arrival since summer.
“As a proud welcoming city, we will greet our newly arrived neighbors with dignity and respect,” said Kenney.
Safe driving urged during holiday season
The Texas Department of Public Transportation is urging holiday season motorists to exert caution and to especially not drink and drive.
The state saw 48,641 traffic crashes during the holiday season from Dec.1, 2021, to Jan. 1, 2022, with 433 fatalities and 1,695 serious injuries. Nearly a quarter of those deaths – 23% – were related to drunk drivers, according to TxDOT.
“Get together with family and friends and have a great time, but please find an alternative way home if you choose to drink,” Marc Williams, TxDOT executive director, said. “You have many options available.”
Those options include a designated sober driver, calling a taxi or rideshare service, public transportation, or just staying put.
Fed funds sought after North Texas storms
Abbott has requested a disaster declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration for Northeast Texas counties that were hit by severe weather and tornadoes earlier this month.
An SBA disaster declaration would make federal funds available for residents and business owners in Lamar, Morris, Bowie, Camp, Cass, Delta, Fannin, Marion, Red River, Titus, and Upshur counties.
The program, if approved by the SBA, would provide long-term, low-interest loans to qualifying persons who sustained damage and losses.
COVID-19 cases rise slightly
The number of new cases of COVID-19 during the past week in Texas rose to 13,104, with 57 deaths reported by the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University. Cases of lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state stayed steady at 993, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches, and Cedar Park. Email: email@example.com.