AUSTIN, Texas —
In preparation for the beginning of the 88th Texas legislative session, lawmakers have submitted 1,600 bills to address a wide breadth of issues Texans are facing.
Although there is a large docket of bills moving into the start of the 88th session, which begins Tuesday, none of the bills that state representatives and senators have written can be reviewed until the state budget has been set.
The Legislature convenes every other year for 140 days, so lawmakers are meeting again for the first time since 2021. They have until March 10 to propose any additional bills to the already 1,600 amassed before the session began.
After March 10, the Legislature will begin the review process to eventually create laws for the next two years.
Sherri Greenberg, UT LBJ School of Public Affairs' assistant dean for state and local government engagement and a former member of the Texas Legislature, said Texans can expect to see many topics in the bills proposed that we've seen before, such as border and immigration laws, election and voting, transgender rights and education.
Greenberg added that there will also be bills related to events that residents have seen in both Texas and across the country, like energy bills related to power grid failures, proposed gun laws following the Uvalde school shooting and bills regarding abortion.
"Of course, with the abortion restrictions that passed, you will see some bills filed to maybe carve out some from the restrictions because there have been some pretty dire situations with women with, you know, problems with their pregnancies," Greenberg said. "We'll see what happens with that."
On top of the issues that lawmakers tackle in the bills they write, the Finance and Appropriation committees will have their hands full determining what to do with the state's historic economic surplus. The House of Representatives' Appropriations Committee and the Senate's Finance Committee are responsible for creating the proposed budget for their respective branch.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar released the biennial revenue estimate on Monday, which showed a projected record surplus of nearly $33 billion. Hager is urging lawmakers and the committees to spend the money wisely to benefit Texans now and in the future.
Greenberg explained that the committees will have to prioritize many different topics when deciding where the surplus of money will go.
"This is going to be a big debate. What to do with the surplus, right? Does it all go to property tax relief? There's certainly leadership [that] has said they want property tax relief," Greenberg said. "If not, where the dollars go to ... teacher pay raises? Do they go to, you know, child protective services, Medicare funding? But this is going to be a big debate."
Both committees will write appropriation bills, which will have to be debated, changed and eventually approved before being sent to the governor's desk.
The 88th legislative session will end on May 29. That final day is referred to as "sine die." Gov. Greg Abbott can call for a special session following sine die, but special sessions can only last up to 30 days. The governor has the sole authority to determine which items lawmakers consider during a special session.