Texas Lawmakers Prepare For Upcoming Session by Filing Laws Targeting Abortion, LGBT Rights

 At 8 a.m Monday, Texas state legislators officially began pre-filing new  legislation to be considered in the fast-approaching 2017 session. By noon, state  lawmakers had already submitted more than 400 bills.

 While the official January 10 start date is still a couple months off, Monday  marks the unofficial kickoff to the 85th legislative session with a fresh laundry  list of proposed laws.

 Many of them are expected. One bill, filed by Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-  Austin), simply asks that Congress repeal the Affordable Care Act. At least a  couple ask for state sovereignty from the federal government. Another bill  would require all health clinics that provide abortions to bury or cremate the  aborted remains—a rule already under consideration by the Department of
 State  Health Services. This “fetal burial” bill join a handful of others  attempting to  restrict abortion access and care:
One would block women from  getting an  abortion if their fetus has a “severe and irreversibility abnormality,” another  would grant unborn fetuses the same constitutional rights as a human  being in  hopes of banning abortion altogether in Texas.

 Sen. Bob Hall filed the first anti-LGBT measure of the session with a bill that  would ban cities from enforcing nondiscrimination laws that protect LGBT  people—giving businesses a free pass to block transgender people from using  bathrooms that match their gender identity. Hundreds of state business owners  have already spoken out in opposition to this proposed bill, despite Lt. Gov.  Dan Patrick’s attempt to disguise it as a “women’s privacy” law.

 In fact, Patrick himself on Monday delivered
a laundry list of priorities for  the upcoming session. They include vague promises to pass tax reform, bolster  charter-school funding, end so-called "sanctuary cities" where police tell their  cops not to act like immigration agents, pass another version of a voter ID law  (since the courts blocked the last one the Texas Legislature passed), crack down  on the creeping rise of improper student-teacher relationships in
 Texas  – and, of course, further restrict abortion in the state.

 Hall also submitted a bill mimicking a Florida law that bans doctors from  asking their patients if they had a firearm in their house. Physicians have
adamantly argued against this type of legislation on the grounds that guns  could pose a serious risk to a patient’s health—especially if they are mentally  unstable.

 And, perhaps in an attempt to preempt future battles over city rideshare  regulations, Sen. Don Huffines (R-Dallas) filed a bill that extends state taxi and  limousine regulations to rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft. Austin and Houston  have already imposed similar rules on rideshare companies citywide, and San  Antonio is slated to make a decision this month.

 A few bills hope to scratch outdated laws in the state constitution, including the  definition of marriage being between one man and one woman, and the  criminalization of homosexuality. Both of these, of course, have been overruled  by U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

 A handful of other filed bills address vaccine exemptions, something Bexar  County Attorney General Nico LaHood has been openly in favor of. One,  introduced by Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) would require parents meet with  a physician to understand the benefits of vaccination before signing an  exemption slip for their child.

 Other proposed bills would legalize the sale of marijuana, ban the state from  contracting with companies that boycott Israel, introduce automatic voter  registration, do away with corporal punishment in public schools, and abolish  the death penalty.

 If you were at all worried that November 8 marked the end of a political season,  don't fret — you've got a wild seven months to look forward to now that the  Texas Legislature has unofficially kicked it into high gear.