Seal of the Senate of the State of Texas Welcome to the Official Website for the Texas Senate
Seal of the Senate of the State of Texas
Welcome to the official website for the
Texas Senate
February 17, 2023
(512) 463-0300



(AUSTIN) — Governor Greg Abbott laid out seven emergency items during his state of the state address on Thursday, allowing measures relating to these topics to be taken up and passed prior to the constitutional prohibition against passing legislation in the first 60 days of a session. Abbott tagged bills relating to property tax reform, border security, fentanyl, ending COVID restrictions, school choice, school safety, and bail reform. Monday, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick laid out a list of 30 priority bills and the governor's emergency issues are well represented among them.

Each session, Patrick reserves the top twenty to thirty bills for his priority issues. Legislation is normally numbered in the order in which it is filed with the Secretary of the Senate, but Patrick likes to set aside the low numbers for big bills. "Senators like to get a low bill number because it shows their bill is also a priority of the Lt. Governor and has a great chance of passing," Patrick wrote in a release accompanying the legislative agenda.

Senate Bills 3 and 4 will deal with property tax relief, with SB 3 raising the homestead exemption to $70,000 and SB 4 containing the mechanism by which to distribute $12 billion set aside for tax relief in the Senate budget. SB 5 will also be a tax relief bill, aimed at increasing the personal property tax exemption for small businesses.

Senate Bill 8 will be the chamber's vehicle for school choice legislation, SB 11 will address school safety, and SB 12 will allow for disciplinary action against judges who fail to follow state law. SB 29 will ban local COVID mandates. For border security, the Senate has included $4.6 billion for continued support for Operation Lone Star.

Not every priority issue can be covered by only 30 bills. "Just because a bill does not make the priority list does not mean it is not a priority for me or the Senate," he wrote. "We will pass over 600 bills this session. As I like to say, every bill is a priority to someone, otherwise we would not pass it."

Bail reform was a major issue last session, with the governor naming it an emergency item in 2021 and adding it to the agenda of all three called special sessions. That year, members were responding to repeated incidences of violent crimes committed by individuals out on a low or no-cash bond from a prior violent offense. The Senate passed a bail reform bill in each session with overwhelming majorities, but the measures failed to receive the required support in the House. It's going to be a major focus of the Senate again this session. On Thursday, when the Senate Finance Committee took up the budgets for the state courts, members took the opportunity to air their displeasure with judges and magistrates who they believe continue to allow violent criminals out on the streets. "We've got people that have lost their lives because judges can't figure out that to let violent criminals back out onto the street like popcorn is the wrong thing to do," said Houston Senator Paul Bettencourt.

Finance Committee Chair and Houston Senator Joan Huffman authored all four of the Senate's bail reform measures in 2021, and said she will be taking up the topic again this session. "We hear the complaints all the time in hearings - horrible stories - and I just don't understand the decisions of the judges and I do think some of the decisions should violate some code of conduct," she said. "We're going to put that in statute, and if we have to file the complaints ourselves, we're going to file them, and file them, and file them until those judges, at least, make a few reasonable decisions."

The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, February 21 at 11 a.m.

Session video and all other Senate webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's Audio/Video Archive.