North Texas Daily

Texas legislature to debate number of issues, here are some to look out for

Texas legislature to debate number of issues, here are some to look out for

Texas legislature to debate number of issues, here are some to look out for
January 25
19:19 2017

Keoni Holoman | Staff Writer

The Texas legislature convened in Austin for the 85th legislative session on Tuesday, Jan. 10, and will continue for the next 140 consecutive days.

Bill proposals from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other legislators are being discussed, ranging from transportation regulations to more controversial issues like LGBT and gun rights.

Some of these bill proposals have been long-debated by Texans and with the current change in federal administration, the concern is increasing.

UNT students in particular may feel the direct effects, depending on their personal lives and  future career fields if some of these bills are enacted. Here are ten issues to pay attention to this session:

Education

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick proposed his “School Choice” bill that will allow the property tax funds that would be allocated to a child’s public school education to now be managed by the parents so they can decide to spend it towards home or private schooling.

Four thousand people rallied around the state capitol in Austin on Tuesday in support of the decision, but this also causes concern among current and future public school teachers in need of access to those funds.

Another controversial issue being tackled throughout this legislative session is regulations to decrease the rise of improper relations between teachers and students.

The legislature will also discuss how state assessment tests hold school districts accountable.

LGBT Rights

Legislation in both the Texas House and Senate have submitted a total of 21 proposals regarding the LGBT community, 17 pro-LGBT and four anti-LGBT. While there are far more proposals in favor of maintaining and expanding LGBT rights, the four in opposition have caused concern and further debate.

The anti-LGBT bills include the repeal of city ordinances that protect LGBT members from employment and housing discrimination, banning transgender people from using the bathroom of the gender they identify with, and allowing businesses, individuals and government employees to refuse service to same-sex couples based on religious opposition. The bills also include discipline for school employees if they choose to disclose student’s orientation to their parents, regardless of the student’s desire to withhold that information.

Border Control

With a change in federal administration and campaign promises of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico border, House Speaker Joe Straus proposed cuts in border defense spending but increasing monitoring of sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants.

Transportation

The ride-hailing rules that led Uber and Lyft to stop operations in Austin are up for debate once again.

A bill introduced by Sen. Charles Schwertner proposes that ride-hailing rules apply statewide and another bill by Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas opposes this idea and plans to eliminate those regulations to create a free market.

Ride-hailing rules would require drivers to pass a background check and be fingerprinted before being hired.

While the ride-hailing rules for Denton are not restricted, a two-thirds vote in favor of these regulations could cause staffing problems and longer wait times for ride requests, but also hurt the wallets of local students who work for Uber or Lyft.

Child Protective Services

Previous solutions to the high turnover rate in social workers were made in the 84th legislative session but more improvements in the system are being discussed. Bills to lower caseloads and the number of foster group homes as well as improve the foster healthcare management have been proposed.

Students beginning social work careers in Texas will be affected by the decisions made about CPS.

In a letter to the Dallas Morning News from UNT social work major Terri C. Lynn, Lynn mentions how improvements in employee care will actually increase caseworkers’ effectiveness in the field.

“Management needs to focus on the health, pay, and well-being of their employees first, so in return, their employees will be mentally and physically prepared to help other families in need,” the letter read.

Abortion

Bills from the Texas House and Senate are being proposed to reverse the third trimester exception in abortions, ban fetal tissue donation for research and prevent abortion from being covered by insurance providers.

Marijuana Legalization

The legalization of marijuana is being discussed again this session after numerous debates by both state and federal lawmakers over when it is appropriate, if at all, to allow citizens legal access to it.

Other states like California, Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington have legalized marijuana for medicinal uses and D.C. has legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use.

While the answer has been a resounding “no” for decades, proposals for different allowances have been submitted. The Texas House and Senate have proposed bills that allow marijuana use not only for medicinal reasons but to grow it legally as well.

These bills have been fiercely opposed from some of the Texas House and Senate, but nothing has been decided yet.

Featured Image: File Photo

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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