AUSTIN -- At the office of the Chief Clerk of the Texas House, the first Monday of pre-filing means a first look at what lawmakers hope to accomplish in the upcoming legislative session.
"Right now all of our offices are gearing up for the session; we're pre-filing bills," State Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) told KVUE Monday.
Among those pre-filing in anticipation of the 83rd Texas Legislature, Villarreal says HB 96 would take advantage of a projected revenue surplus heading into 2013 to expand full day pre-Kindergarden to eligible Texas four-year-olds. Early childhood education programs were among the $5.4 billion in cuts to public education spending approved by the legislature during the 2011 session.
"What I am suggesting is that if we're going to spend a new dollar anywhere, if we're going to reverse the trend of cutting our schools, this is the first place that you should invest," said Villarreal.
Other legislation that could soon light up the vote board includes HB 63, a statewide ban on texting while driving submitted by State Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland). A similar bill submitted by Craddick passed in 2011 but was vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry, citing concerns of an overreaching government.
"Those families, like Johnny Mac and Jeanne Brown, who have lost a loved one, know all too well the dangers of texting while driving," Craddick said in a statement Monday. "If passed next session, this law will provide a uniform statewide approach to curb this unsafe practice and will go a long way in helping educate drivers on the dangers posed by texting while driving and save lives."
A bill submitted by State Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) would create new crackdowns on abortion-inducing drugs, including requiring patients and doctors to sign a detailed contract. A bill similar to Patrick's SB 97 failed to pass the legislature last session.
State Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) filed HB 58, which would alter current law to remove language banning "entities that perform or promote elective abortions or affiliate with entities that perform or promote elective abortions" from participating in state programs which provide women's health care, a change that would ostensibly allow Planned Parenthood to resume legal participation in the Women's Health Program.
Other legislation pre-filed Monday takes aim at the relationship between social networking and sex crimes. Submitted by State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio), HB 23 would require convicted sex offenders to post their offender status, details of their crime and personal address on social networking sites such as Facebook.
"This next session will again bring us some bills that are anti-immigrant, such as sanctuary cities," said State Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso), echoing media predictions made by some heading towards 2013. Rodriguez was among more than a dozen Hispanic leaders who met with media Monday to highlight their concerns over future immigration legislation in the upcoming session.
"Republican or Democrat, we want to make sure people see Texas as an environment that's pro-people, pro-education, pro-business," State Rep. Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas) told KVUE.
One thing's clear for state lawmakers of every stripe: Now it's officially time for business.
"Come January, you've got to have your act together or you're going to show up late," said Villarreal. "It's a very abbreviated process. We have five months to do our work and once it's over, we're not coming back for another two years."
More than 200 pieces of legislation, including bills and resolutions, were pre-filed on Monday between both the house and senate. By the end of the session, that number could be as high as 11,000. Once the session begins in just two months, lawmakers will have their work cut out.