Bills we’re watching in the 2019 Texas Legislative Session
The Texas Legislature convenes every two years for session. This year, the legislature is in session from January 8 through May 27.
With thousands of bills filed by Texas lawmakers, it can be hard to keep up. Fortunately, we’ve read them ALL so that you don’t have to, and narrowed them down to the bills we feel are most relevant to the progressive movement. Some of these bills we support, and others, we staunchly oppose.
The deadline to file bills was March 8. As the session progresses, we will continue to update our list.
- Good - 😀
- Bad - 😟
- Ugly - 😡
- Reproductive Health Care - 💕
- Economic Opportunity - 💸
- Elections - 🗳
- Health Care - 🏥
- LGBTQIA+ - 🌈
- Immigration - 🦋
- Education - 🎓
- Marijuana - 🌿
- Criminal Justice - ⚖
- Guns - 💥
- Religion - 🛐
- Environment - 🌎
The Good 😀
Good things do come out of the Texas Capitol every now and then, thanks to hardworking progressives with Texans’ best interests at heart.
Texas has a few standout legislators working to pioneer an impressive progressive agenda. We’ve divided some of their bills up below by the key issues they address.
Reproductive Health Care
Rep. Gina Hinojosa’s HB 30 would allow for the transfer of unused contraceptive products to another recipient under Medicaid and the Healthy Texas Women program.
HB 241, filed by Rep. Jessica Farrar, would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days after a woman gives birth or miscarries to one year.
Farrar also filed HB 247, which would require the development of a standard information form for sexual assault survivors that includes medically and factually accurate information regarding emergency contraception.
Farrar’s HB 248 calls for medical accuracy in the informational materials given to a woman seeking an abortion.
HB 249, also by Farrar, would eliminate the 24-hour waiting period before an abortion can be performed.
House Bill 311 😀💕💸
HB 311, filed by Rep. Donna Howard, would implement a sales tax exemption for feminine hygiene products.
HB 895, known as Rosie's Law, was filed by Rep. Sheryl Cole. Rosie's Law would enable coverage of abortion care for Texans enrolled in the state's Medicaid program.
Senator José Rodríguez’s SB 150, or the Whole Women’s Health Act, says that every woman in the state has the fundamental right to a safe and legal abortion. Rodríguez then goes on to define what would be considered a burden on access to abortion.
SB 112 addresses unlawful employment practices regarding discrimination in compensation. The goal of Sen. Jose Menendez’s bill would be to ensure men and women are paid the same for doing the same job.
Multiple lawmakers have filed proposals to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. Some want to raise it to $10, while others want to go as high as $15.
Rep. Lina Ortega’s HB 328 would allow a county or municipality to establish a local minimum wage.
Rep. Mary Gonzalez filed HB 572, which would allow employees who leave the workplace due to sexual harassment to be eligible for unemployment compensation.
In HCR 12, Rep. Eric Johnson calls on Congress to make Election Day a national holiday.
HB 77 would expand the registration powers of volunteer deputy registrars to include the entire state of Texas, regardless of which county appointed the deputy registrar.
Texas is one of 12 states that doesn’t allow online voter registration. Rep. Celia Israel has filed a bill to allow Texans to register online to vote since 2015. Israel has been a long-time champion of this cause.
Many other lawmakers filed similar online registration bills including Rep. Eric Johnson, who wants the secretary of state to implement an online voter registration system. His bill, HB 79, would also require counties to automatically register any eligible resident who is issued or changes a Texas driver’s license or personal identification card.
Rep. Ina Minjarez filed a bill that would automatically register Texans to vote whenever a driver’s license is issued or changed.
Sen. José Rodríguez filed a bill to make student identification cards issued by colleges an acceptable form of voter identification.
Rep. Gina Hinojosa filed a bill that would require four-year universities with more than 10,000 enrolled students to have a polling place on their main campuses.
HB 508, from Rep. Shawn Thierry, would allow auto-voter registration for college students.
Rep. Donna Howard wants to allow a person who will be 18 years old on the date of a general election to vote in the primary that year.
Rep. Alfonso “Poncho” Nevárez filed a bill that would recognize photo identification from a tribal organization as a valid form of voter ID.
Rep. Hubert Vo’s HB 579 would make it a criminal offense for employers to refuse to allow an employee to vote during early voting and on Election Day.
HB 2010, by Rep. Terry Meza, would provide for "ranked choice" voting during primaries which would create instant runoffs.
Rep. Art Fierro's HB 3514 would allow for preferential voting in certain elections.
Rep. Garnet Coleman filed a bill that would expand eligibility for Medicaid in Texas and codify insurance protections outlined in the Affordable Care Act into state law.
HB 84, by Rep. Joe Moody, would repeal the section of the Texas penal code that lists "homosexual conduct" as a crime. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that the section cannot be enforced, but it remains on the books.
Sen. Rodríguez and Reps. Hinojosa and Whitmire are proposing a constitutional amendment to repeal the constitutional provision that says marriage in Texas is between one man and one woman.
These bills would provide comprehensive protections for LGBTQIA+ Texans in state nondiscrimination laws.
These bills would ban the practice of conversion therapy.
HB 3281, by Rep. Gina Hinojosa, would eliminate "Gay Panic" as a legal defense.
House Bill 35 😀🦋
Rep. Ramon Romero Jr. is sponsoring a bill that would give undocumented people in Texas the ability to get a conditional driver's license if they have an employment identification number and don't have a criminal record.
Rep. Mary Gonzalez’s HB 445 would exempt a person under the direction or control of a local entity or campus police department from assisting or cooperating with federal immigration officers.
House Bill 21 😀🎓💸
HB 21 is related to higher education. Authored by Rep. Terry Canales, the bill would exempt college textbooks from sales taxes during one week in August and one week in January.
Senate Bill 32 😀🎓💸
Sen. Judith Zaffirini’s SB 32 would allow Texas students whose annual household incomes are less than $100,000 a year to go to college for free.
Senate Bill 33 😀🎓💸
Zaffirini’s SB 33 would create tuition-free access for Texans at community colleges.
Senate Bill 95 😀🎓💸
In SB 95, Menendez proposes giving every Texas teacher a $4,000 pay raise.
There have been multiple bills introduced this session concerning marijuana.
House Bill 63 😀🌿
HB 63, by Rep. Joe Moody, aims to loosen marijuana laws in Texas. The bill would make it a civil offense (instead of a crime) to be caught with less than one ounce of marijuana. This would decriminalize cannabis by eliminating the threat of arrest and jail time for Texans who possess less than one ounce of marijuana.
Senator Menendez filed a bill to expand access to Texans who could benefit from the healing properties of medical cannabis, such as veterans dealing with PTSD, under the already existing Texas Compassionate Use Program.
Rep. Gina Hinojosa’s HB 122 would support the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Rep. Ron Reynolds’ HB 209 would legalize marijuana use for a huge variety of "debilitating medical conditions.”
Sen. Rodriguez proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow voters to decide if recreational marijuana use could be legalized.
Rep. Jessica Farrar filed a bill that would abolish the death penalty in Texas.
The Bad 😟
Legislators think they know what’s best, but often the opposite is true. Instead of pushing toward progress, the Texas legislature has historically been guilty of implementing regressive policies that ultimately hurt our state and residents.
The following bills are decidedly not good for Texas or the nearly 30 million residents that live here.
In HB 154, Rep. Valoree Swanson proposes allowing election workers to make copies of documentation a voter presents at the polls or to take a photo of the voter’s face if the worker questions the authenticity of the photo ID presented.
Swanson’s HB 273 would shorten the deadline for counties to mail ballots to voters from 45 days before Election Day to 38 days.
HB 357, the constitutional carry bill filed by Rep. Jonathan Stickland, would allow the legal permitless carry of a handgun, either openly or concealed, without a license or permit.
Rep. Dan Flynn’s HB 307 states that the board of trustees of an independent school district may not prohibit the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments in a prominent location in a district classroom.
Rep. Phil Stephenson’s HCR 17 would require that the Legislature support prayers, including the use of the word "God," at public gatherings and displays of the Ten Commandments in public educational institutions and other government buildings.
Rep. Lyle Larson’s HB 412 would require an annual football game between The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University. While our organization has no stance on whether there should or should not be a game between UT and A&M, we do take issue with lawmakers wasting taxpayers’ time and money.
Texas has real issues and our lawmakers are drafting legislation like this. Really?
What’s more? This bill is notably harsh. It states that if UT or A&M refuses to play the football game, the university would not be allowed to award any student for the following academic year an athletic scholarship, grant, or similar financial assistance funded by state funds and conditioned on the student’s participation on the university’s intercollegiate football team.
Our lawmakers should have better things to do than punish hard working students for matters out of their control.
Reproductive Health Care
In SJR 3, Rep. Ralph Hall proposes a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to life of “unborn children” (aka embryos or fetuses) and prohibiting abortion to the extent authorized under federal constitutional law.
Republican politicians have been trying to ban abortion entirely for decades — passing law after law state by state to chip away at access. We cannot let this happen.
The ability to end a pregnancy legally and safely has had a profound impact on improving a woman’s health and life, ensuring that they can live equally and with opportunities to determine their own futures.
The Ugly 😡
Here at Progress, we’re remaining weary of the “Kumbayah” attitude coming out of the legislature at the moment. While we’re hopeful that this year will be different, there have already been bills filed that prove we have cause for concern.
Progressives gained 12 House seats and two Senate seats in the midterm election, which puts us in a better position than before. Even so, it’s important to point out that conservatives still have the power in the Texas lege.
Here are a few reprehensible bills filed for this year's session that target the most vulnerable communities in our state.
House Bill 222 😡💸
HB 222, by Rep. Matt Krause, is a paid sick preemption bill that would prohibit Texas cities from adopting or enforcing ordinances that require employers to offer their employees paid sick leave. Earlier this year, Austin and San Antonio approved paid sick leave measures.
This bill would disproportionately impact low-income families who often cannot afford taking off work for health issues. Not only would individuals not be able to miss work, but they also may not be able to take their sick children to the doctor, which negatively impacts their standing in school. Doctor’s notes are a luxury some families genuinely cannot afford if it means no pay.
Paid sick leave is a compounding issue that has a direct impact on the lives of everyday Texans. Many of us live paycheck by paycheck. The comfort of knowing that you will be paid even when you must miss work for health-related problems is something all Texans deserve.
Rep. Ken King’s HB 320 would require drug testing for people seeking benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. This bill targets low income Texans and perpetuates a harmful stereotype about those who have fallen on hard times.
Senate Bill 15 😡💸
SB 15, by Senator Brandon Creighton, aims to take away paid sick days for working Texans and overturn other employment protections passed by Texas cities. SB 15 threatens strides that many Texas cities have made in protecting workers’ rights, implementing fair wage initiatives, and creating economic opportunities. SB 15 is especially broad and could prevent Texans from receiving paid sick, higher wages, safety standards, fair chance hiring, and a range of unknown legislative consequences.
Reproductive Health Care
Senate Bill 22 😡💕
SB 22, by Senator Donna Campbell, would prohibit state and local governments from partnering with agencies that perform abortions, even if they contract for services not related to the procedure.
House Bill 16, Senate Bill 23 😡💕
Rep. Jeff Leach's HB 16 and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst's SB 23, two companion bills, could impose civil fines on abortion providers if they don’t care for a baby that is born alive during an abortion procedure. These bills perpetuate the myth that fetuses are born after abortion procedures and physicians are not helping them. The bills would allow physicians to be sued and the Attorney General to investigate and scapegoat them. These bills seek to solve a nonexistent problem and are simply meant to advance a false narrative that targets and demonizes abortion providers.
House Bill 47 😡💕
HB 47, filed by Rep. Valoree Swanson would make it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion in Texas except to save the woman's life or prevent serious injury.
Women should have the right to an abortion no matter the circumstances of their pregnancy. HB 47 targets women by taking away their bodily autonomy. This bill would disproportionately impact lower income women and women of color, who have less access to contraception.
House Bill 1500 😡💕
HB 1500, filed by Rep. Briscoe Cain, would effectively ban abortion in Texas by making the procedure illegal after around 6 weeks of pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant.
With this 6-week abortion ban, Texas Republicans are trying to force women into unwanted pregnancies before they even know they're pregnant. Republicans are effectively telling women they can’t get an abortion before they know they might need one, taking away their right to make decisions about their bodies and reproductive health.
Senate Joint Resolution 3 😡💕
Sen. Bob Hall proposed a state constitutional amendment that would prohibit abortions in Texas if Roe were overturned, joining a half-dozen other states that have enacted similar "trigger bans.” This bill targets all women who deserve to have control over their own bodies and reproductive decisions.
Rep. Mike Lang’s HB 378 would require voter registration applicants to provide proof of citizenship to the registrar in order to vote. This bill targets all Texans — but most especially immigrants — by making the voter registration process unnecessarily complicated.
Texas elections historically have low voter turnout numbers and this requirement would only make it harder to register to vote.
Instead of using this legislative session to protect the vote, Texas Republicans are pushing a dangerous assault on voting rights with SB 9, which would weaken safeguards on private information and give indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton access to the voter rolls where he could further threaten and intimidate voters of color.
SB 17, by Senator Charles Perry, would allow occupational license holders to turn away or refuse services to LGBTQIA+ people or people of different faiths due to “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Texas currently has no statewide law that explicitly protects LGBTQIA+ Texans from discrimination and Texas Republicans have a history of using religion as a weapon to discriminate.
Senator Bob Hall's SB 85 would allow counselors to refuse counseling to patients based on the counselor’s “sincerely held religious belief.”
SB 1107, by Senator Lois Kolkhorst, would would allow healthcare professionals to refuse all but life-saving care based on a “sincerely held religious belief,” without requiring a referral to another provider.
SB 1009, by Senator Brian Birdwell, would allow faith leaders and judges, including justices, judges, magistrates, and justices of the peace, to refuse to perform marriages based on “sincerely held religious belief.”
HB 1035, by Rep. Bill Zedler, is a sweeping religious exemption bill that would allow individuals to discriminate specifically on the basis of two specific, anti-LGBT religious beliefs: that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that gender refers to “an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at the time of birth.” It also reintroduces “bathroom bill” language from the 85th Legislative Session.
Rep. Briscoe Cain's HB 4512 would allow any individual to refuse marriage related services to a couple based off of a “sincerely held religious belief.”
Stay tuned for our coverage of the 2019 legislative session. We will be closely following these bills and helping to keep you informed on what exactly is happening inside the Texas lege.
To look at an updated list of bills filed for the 86th Legislature, go to the Texas Legislature Online at capitol.texas.gov.
Think we missed a bill? Let us know at email@example.com.