AUSTIN, Texas (Nexstar) — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is giving Texans an idea of his top legislative priorities Monday, after releasing his interim charges for lawmakers to work on during the off session year.
From border security and the criminal justice system, to the COVID-19 impact on educators and books in school libraries are just a few of several topics the Texas Senate will likely prioritize for the 2023 Legislative Session.
There are 14 topics in total listed in Patrick’s 2022 Interim Charges. As president of the Senate, the Republican is responsible for tasking state senators with action items to work on when they are not in an active legislative session.
On the issue of immigration and border security, the Senate’s Border Security Committee will be taking a look at border resources and how they’re allocated. Currently there are thousands of Texas National Guard members deployed to the border under Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star.
The Senate will “examine and report on the impact on members,” while reviewing “the availability of existing border barrier materials that remain unused by the federal government.”
Major school topics
The topic of teacher shortages has gained statewide attention as the affects of the pandemic are still ongoing. The TEA recently launched a Teacher Vacancy Task Force to address this very issue, and the Senate’s Education Committee will also examine teacher shortages and possible solutions.
KXAN has reported on the ongoing debate regarding books in schools, and top Republicans’ push to ban “controversial” books in public libraries. This too, is on the Senate’s radar. Its Education Committee plans to assess standards that the State’s Library and Archives Commission puts in place. This assessment will also include deciding what material is “developmentally appropriate.”
As Texas’ electricity grid came into question after the 2021 winter storm, the Senate’s Business and Commerce Committee is also looking into issues impacting the grid. Weather preparedness and maintenance are key points raised in the interim charges document.
Broadband issues are also top of mind for the Senate right now. Its Business and Commerce Committee has plans to study these problems that impact Texans. Much of that will be related to laws that are already in place to help with funding to improve broadband and 911 service.
Crime and the justice system
Another priority for senators is the issue of criminal case backlogs. This is an ongoing problem for the state, as some experts predict it could take up to five years to get back on track after the pandemic stalled cases. The Senate wants to discuss ways to improve the delay.
KXAN Investigates found crooks print real DMV temporary tags to cover up crimes, back in December 2021. That topic is also a priority for discussion for the Senate — its Criminal Justice Committee will be tasked with looking into how this relates to human and drug trafficking, theft and homicide.
Abortion in Texas
After Texas passed the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, Senate Bill 8 went into effect — the State of Affairs Committee will continue policy that “protects the unborn.” It wants to discuss, “the expanded funding for alternatives to abortion programs.”
Other policy items include:
- Business & Commerce Committee: reviewing state and federal laws around cybersecurity protections and adding requirements for local governments and entities
- Business & Commerce Committee: examining pros and cons of remote working and implications on statewide recruitment
- Education Committee: determining whether existing practices are enough at preventing students from vaping on school grounds
- Finance Committee: reporting on stage usage of federal COVID-19 relief funds
- Finance Committee: recommend ways to reduce Texans’ “property tax burden”
- Finance Committee: review impact inflation is having on local businesses, governments and taxpayers
- Health & Human Services Committee: evaluate state investments in the child welfare system and look into reasons behind delays in implementation of past legislative reform
- Health & Human Services Committee: study the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on the health care workforce
- Higher Education Committee: review the history and current policies of academic tenure
- Higher Education Committee: ensure critical race theory is not included in curriculum in higher levels of education in Texas schools
- Local Government Committee: study language used in constitutional amendment and local ballot propositions to recommend changes to make it more easily understood by voters
- State Affairs Committee: study allocation of polling locations, protocols around election equipment and look into shortening the primary election runoff period, all to ensure it’s “easier to vote and harder to cheat”
The 2023 legislative session will begin in early January.