Fewer Bills Filed as March 14 Deadline Nears
AUSTIN -- It appears that fewer bills will be filed during the 78th Texas Legislature compared to previous sessions as lawmakers work toward Friday's filing deadline, according to State Senator Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls.
More than 5,500 bills were filed during each of the previous three sessions while the total stood at 3,022 a week before Friday's filing deadline for the session underway; that includes 1,022 bills filed in the Senate and 2,000 bills filed in the House.
"We can expect a significant number of bills to be filed during this last week leading up to Friday's deadline, but most political observers agree that the total number of bills filed this session will be appreciably fewer than in the past," Estes said.
He said three major factors appear to have influenced the lower number of bills being filed this session.
"The $10 billion budget shortfall is an obvious factor. Any legislation that would cost a lot of money will have an extremely tough time surviving this session. The prevailing attitude among my colleagues is that there's not much sense in filing a bill that's accompanied by a significant fiscal note," Estes said.
"Another factor is that for the first time since Reconstruction, a Republican majority controls both the Senate and the House, along with a Republican governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the House. A benchmark of the party is its efforts to reduce the size of government. New legislation often tends to produce more government and more bureaucracy," Estes said.
"A third influence is the unusually higher number of freshman members of the 78th Legislature. There are about three dozen new members of the House and a half-dozen new members of the Senate. Some of the new members, myself included, are concentrating on learning the legislative process and cultivating relationships to help us become more effective leaders and legislators. Therefore, many of the new members are carrying lighter legislative loads this session compared to some of our predecessors who aren't back this session," Estes.
"I personally didn't enter this session with the preconceived vision of filing a lot of legislation. We have a staggering number of laws already, so my personal goal during this first session is to try and defeat any bad legislation that is filed," Estes said.
Estes said he plans to have filed about 15 bills by Friday's deadline while co-authoring or sponsoring a similar number of bills.
Bills he has filed include Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 asking Congress to allow Texans to deduct sales taxes from their federal income taxes, Senate Bill 146 requiring convicted sexual offenders to report name changes to their supervising law enforcement agency, and Senate Bill 696 promoting the use of desalination devices to convert salty water into potable water. This week Estes plans to file a bill to improve concealed handgun license reciprocity agreements between Texas and other states.
Legislation that Estes is co-authoring includes Senate Bill 10 helping small business owners wishing to provide employees with affordable health insurance, Senate Bill 12 aimed at lowering healthcare costs while addressing medical malpractice reform, and Senate Bill 310 requiring insurance companies to report residential property rates to the Legislature for review.
Estes said he encourages citizens to stay informed of the Legislature's activities as the session continues and to communicate with their legislators.
One of the best tools for tracking and researching legislation is available on the Internet by going to Texas Legislature Online at www.capitol.state.tx.us. Select the "78th Regular Session" and click on "Legislation."
The Legislative Reference Library also operates a toll-free legislative hotline at 877-824-7038 open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
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