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Gender-affirming care, books, property taxes targeted by Republican legislators this session

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick unveils his legislative priorities for 2023 in November. He said property tax relief and fixing the electric grid are on top of his list.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick unveils his legislative priorities for 2023 in November. He said property tax relief and fixing the electric grid are on top of his list.

The leader of the Texas Senate unveiled 30 bills on Monday – touching on everything from culture wars to property taxes – that he said he will focus on passing this legislative session.

The legislation has a high chance of passing, in part because Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is a Republican in the Republican-led Senate.

“I believe Texans support our priorities because they largely reflect the policies supported by the conservative majority of Texans,” Patrick said in a news release. “Most will pass with bipartisan support.”

The number one priority — or SB1 — is the state budget. The second highest priority (SB2) relates to voting laws.

Patrick has announced he’d like to restore the penalty for illegal voting to a felony. In 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that lowered the penalty to a Class A misdemeanor.

Patrick and Republicans signaled their interest in certain issues last year. For instance, Republicans said then that they wanted to use $15 billion from the budget to provide tax relief to Texas’ homeowners.

Two newly announced bills would provide additional property tax relief and increase the business personal property tax exemption. Another bill would raise the homestead exemption to $70,000. The exemption reduces the taxable value of a homeowner's primary residence.

The lower the number of the bill, the higher it is on the list of priorities for Senate Republicans.

“This session I could have used 50 low-bill numbers because there are so many issues that need to be addressed,” Patrick said in a news release.

Sen. Carol Alvarado, the chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, told The Texas Newsroom in statement expressed mixed feelings about Patrick's priority bills.

"I'm glad to see the Lt. Governor has prioritized several issues long championed by Democrats, including increasing teacher pay, additional compensation for retired teachers, improving mental health access and addressing health professional shortages," Alvarado said. "Unfortunately, many of the other listed priorities continue attacks on vulnerable Texans."

Alvarado said Senate Democrats will fight to strengthen "our economy, the power grid, our public schools and access to health care."

Priorities include culture wars

Some bills would go after issues pertaining to sexual orientation, sexuality, and even race.

SB12 would ban “children’s exposure to drag shows,” while SB13 would ban certain books. SB14 would ban gender-affirming care for minors.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott would likely sign at least some of the bills if they came across his desk. For example, Abbott has supported topics covered by SB15 and SB17; the former would ban transgender athletes from participating in women’s college sports, and the latter would prohibit diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, also known as DEI, in higher education.

According to the University of North Texas, DEI is a term used “to describe programs and strategies that promote representation and participation of diverse groups and individuals.”

Patrick’s priorities received pushback minutes after they were released.

Stephen Vladeck, the Charles Alan Wright Chair In Federal Courts at the University of Texas in Austin, warned about the impact some of the bills would have on higher education.

“Texas has 38 public colleges and universities, many of which boast nationally elite academic programs, and all of which provide critical access to higher education for Texans,” Vladeck tweeted. “Three of (Patrick’s)

‘priorities’ would destroy those colleges and universities.”

Vladeck was referring to the banning of DEI programs, as well as SB16 and SB18, which would ban teaching critical race theory in colleges and end tenure for college professors, respectively.

Last year, Patrick proposed revoking tenure for professors at public universities who teach critical race theory, after faculty at the University of Texas at Austin passed a resolution that stated they had the freedom to teach about race and gender.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the former Texas Capitol reporter for The Texas Newsroom.
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