High Five: Bills to watch in the Texas Legislature

The 87th session of the Texas Legislature convened on Jan. 12. Over the next 140 days, lawmakers will approve the budget for the next two years and redraw the state’s political districts. Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) replaced Dennis Bonnen as House speaker.

Debates over police reform and bills intended to generate more revenue for the state in the wake of coronavirus-related shortfalls are expected to be prominent issues this session. So far there have been 1,146 bills filed. Here are some bills to be watching out for.

—Compiled by Harriet Ramos

George Floyd Act

House Bill 88, proposed in the wake of the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis, is designed to reduce instances of police brutality and bans the chokehold.

It would also require police officers to intervene if a colleague uses excessive force against a suspect and to provide immediate medical aid to victims harmed during arrests. It also prohibits arrests of those who are suspected of petty crimes that only require a fine.

Minimum Wage Increase

House Bill 60 would raise the minimum wage for Texans from $7.25 an hour to $15.

President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan calls for raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and on Jan. 22 he signed an executive order raising the minimum wage to $15 for all federal employees.  

Casinos in Texas

House Bill 477 would legalize casino gambling in coastal areas of the state.

The profits would increase funding for insurance that protects property holders from hurricane and tornado damage.

The only casinos currently allowed in Texas are all located on Native American lands where casinos are legal.

Marijuana

More than two dozen bills related to marijuana have been filed for this legislative season.

Among them are Senate Bill 140, which seeks to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 years of age and older. Senate Bill 90 would expand the use of medical marijuana to include those with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has consistently opposed marijuana reform bills in the past, saying he does not want to turn Texas into California.

Alcohol to-go sales

Senate Bill 298 and House Bill 1094 would make alcohol to-go sales permanent.

Gov. Greg Abbott allowed alcohol to-go sales as a way to help restaurants that had to close their dining rooms due to COVID-19. These two bills would allow that to continue after the pandemic ends.

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