North Texas Daily

86th Legislative session underway, will go until May

86th Legislative session underway, will go until May

86th Legislative session underway, will go until May
January 31
00:21 2019

Texas’ 86th Legislative Session began Jan. 8 and ends May 27. The following are some of the bills that have been proposed during this session.

Process of a bill

After bills are introduced, they are referred to a committee where it goes through hearings and amendments. Afterwards, it is sent to the chamber floor. The Senate must have a three-fifths vote for a bill to be sent to the floor where it is debated, amended and voted on.

If the bill passes, it is sent to the opposite chamber and goes through the same process. If successful, the bill is sent to the governor, who has the power to sign a bill into law, veto it or allow the bill to become a law without his signature. A two-thirds majority vote in both chambers can override a veto.

Legalize marijuana (S.B. 8)

This would propose a constitutional amendment for cannabis to become legal in the state of Texas. The state will “authorize and regulate the possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis.” This would include all forms of cannabis. The amendment would be a referendum on the 2020 presidential ballot.

Criminal justice senior Amanda Riley said she supports this bill due to the benefit of cannabis being taxed.

“If it’s regulated by the state, it’s another tax,” Riley said. “That tax, therefore, pays for other things in the communities.”

T.A.N.F. applicants must drug test (H.B. 320)

Those seeking benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families would have to submit to a marijuana and controlled substance test. If the applicant fails the test, they will be blocked from receiving benefits for 12 months and must submit to a test when they reapply. A subsequent failure results in another block and a third will result in permanent ineligibility. The only exception to this rule is if the applicant is using marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Texas Mental Health Care Consortium  (S.B. 63)

A Texas Mental Health Care Consortium would be established. The purpose of the Consortium is to “coordinate the expansion and delivery of mental health care services.” The state will collaborate with 12 health related institutions of colleges and universities.

Student ID as voter ID (H.B. 694)

This bill would make public college or university student IDs an acceptable form of voter ID.

Decriminalizing marijuana (H.B. 371)

Possession of marijuana in the amount of one ounce or less would be considered a Class C misdemeanor in the state of Texas. Possessing one ounce or less is currently a Class B misdemeanor. The offense would only be a Class B misdemeanor if the offense was committed within 1,000 feet of any school property, youth center, playground or school bus.

Services for homeless students and students formerly in foster care (H.B. 809)

More measures would be taken to assist students enrolled at public institutions of higher education who are homeless or were formerly in foster care. Each school would have at least one liaison to help these students transition and provide resources for housing, financial aid and meal plans. Additionally, homeless students will receive priority for housing and will participate in a professional development program.

“If you’re constantly worried about where you’re gonna be living, how you’re gonna be eating and stuff, it’s very hard to concentrate on school,” education junior Leslie Montano said. “They deserve to not have to worry about it.”

Unlawful to discriminate based on sexuality and gender identity (H.B. 850)

It would be considered unlawful for an employer to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. This will be added to the current list of race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin and age.

Protection of expressive activities (S.B. 447)

There would be no restrictions on expressive activity of students at public institutions of higher education. “Expressive activities” includes any form of free speech or assembly protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution. Expressive activities will not be restricted for reasons concerning location, time, manner or any other reason, unless it proves to be a danger to the campus.

Reporting on hazing (S.B. 38)

If a student at a public college or university were to report an incident of hazing before it were to be investigated, the student would be immune of any charges. However, one would not be immune of charging if they participated in hazing someone or had malicious intent for reporting it. Also, every public college and university must post an online report about hazing at its school. The report would include disciplinary actions for hazing and organizations that participated in hazing in the past.

Tuition Cap (S.B. 143)

For the 2020-2021 academic school year, public colleges and universities would have a limit to how much tuition can be charged to students. If a student were to have the same residency status, degree plan, course load and course level, they cannot be charged more than what they were charged in the 2019-2020 school year.

Abortion exceptions (H.B. 47)

If this were to pass, more exceptions would be added to Texas’ current laws on abortion. If the woman has a condition that giving birth will complicate and an abortion will avert her death or irreversible physical impairment, medical doctors can perform an abortion. If the pregnancy is ectopic (outside of the womb) an abortion can be performed. If the woman has multiple babies, an abortion can be performed too if it means one of the babies will be saved.

No taxing of feminine hygiene products (S.B. 146)

Feminine hygiene products would be exempt from sales taxes.

“It does get expensive and our bodies just can’t stop having [a period] as girls,” integrative studies senior Samantha Castillo said. “It’s just hard having other things on top of that, so we shouldn’t be taxed on those things.”

Abolish I.C.E. (H.C.R. 34)

This resolution will urge the U.S. Congress to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or I.C.E. The resolution states that I.C.E. has gained “a disturbing reputation as a mass deportation strike force incompatible with democracy and human rights.”

Women’s Veteran Suicide Prevention Public Awareness Campaign (H.B. 620)

This will establish the Women’s Veteran Suicide Prevention Public Awareness Campaign, made to increase awareness and provide services for veteran women’s suicide prevention.

Minimum wage (S.B. 161)

This would allow a county or a municipal to establish their own minimum wage greater than the current statewide minimum wage of $7.25.

Jonathan Shanks, a senior operations and supply chain management student, doesn’t agree with the bill. He said if a county raises its minimum wage higher than others, workers will be drawn to that county, leaving the other counties with less workers.

“It should be something that should be talked about by all the representatives that we elect in the state,” Shanks said. “And the state chooses to raise the minimum wage as a state.”

More information

Robbie Sittel is the government information librarian at UNT. She urged students to do what they can to get involved. Students can contact their representatives to advocate for bills or participate in an organization’s “legislative day.”

“The bills will impact how we engage in our daily lives,” Sittel said.

Every bill is available online at MyTLO. Those interested can create a list of bills to keep track of and even set up alerts when action is taken. Sittel also recommends The Texas Tribune for an overview and description of the legislative process. and are websites one can visit to find out who their representatives are and retrieve their contact information.

In the Eagle Commons Media Library, media library students can learn about voter registration, which Sittel said is important with local elections coming up in May. Library resources can also help students get acquainted with city council members. With the 86th Legislative session occurring, she wants students to be informed on the bills affecting them.

“All of these could definitely have a direct impact on student life,” Sittel said.

Featured Illustration by: Chelsea Tolin

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Jasmine Robinson

Jasmine Robinson

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