85th Legislature: issues to watch
On January 10, 2017 the 85th Texas Legislature Session will begin. November 14 was the opening day to file a bill.
Here’s a preview of five bills being introduced in Texas’ 85th legislative session dealing with issues of voter registration, cyberbullying, tuition costs and marijuana legalization.
Coming off of a hotly debated presidential election one bill to discuss deals with Texas voter registration. In most states, online voter registration is an option. Texas lags behind the majority. Online voter registration is not an option in Texas. HB 159 aims to change that.
Introduced by Rep. Harold Dutton of Houston, HB 159 focuses on registering to vote electronically making voter registration easier and more accessible to Texans.
For the 2016 presidential election, Texas saw a record amount of registered voters, over 15 million, according to the Secretary of State’s office. With HB 159 that number could increase to even more registered voters.
Another bill authored by Rep. Dutton is HB 112 it proposes relief for the rising tuition costs at Texas public universities.
Since 2003, the cost of attendance at Texas public universities has more than doubled.
The 78th Legislature deregulated the cost of tuition at public universities giving governing boards of public universities the ability to design their own tuition costs, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. From 2003 to 2009, a student who took 15 hours saw an increase of 72 percent in academic charges.
From 2003 to 2009, a student who took 15 hours saw an increase of 72 percent in academic charges.
HB 112 seeks to limit the amount governing boards of public universities can charge for tuition at 85 percent or less of what tuition currently costs.
School and social media go hand and hand together leading to bill HB 304 which has an emotional tie with San Antonio. The bill known as “David’s Bill” is authored by Sen. Jose Menendez and Rep. Ina Minjarez it hopes to aid the fight against cyber bullying.
The bill is in honor of 16-year-old David Molack who made national news for taking his life in Jan. 2016 after being cyber bullied for months.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released statistics showing the increasing percentages of students being cyber or electronically bullied. In 2013, the percentage of students reporting being cyber bullied was 14.8 and in 2015 increasing to 15.5 percent. These increasing numbers are proof there needs to be legislation in place combating the plague of cyber bullying.
Buying textbooks for college can put a dent in a student’s bank account. The bill SB 48 authored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini wants to ease the cost of textbooks for Texas college students. Zaffirini proposes a tax-free area of time for textbooks. This tax-free time is similar to the tax-free weekend held every August in Texas.
From January 2006 to July 2016 the price of college textbooks has risen 88 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the past 30-plus years the cost of college textbooks has ballooned about 900 percent.
The bill SB 48 makes textbooks tax-free for all Texas public, private and independent college students in early August and January.
After thinking about higher education textbook prices SJR-17 officers possible stress relief.
Introduced by Jose Rodriguez SJR-12 proposes a Texas constitutional amendment to “authorize and regulate the possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis,” according to the Texas Legislature website.
In 2015 there were 1,672 arrests made dealing with marijuana drug abuse violations, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety 2015 Texas Arrest Data. Anglos had the most marijuana drug abuse violations in 2015 totaling 1,218 arrests.
Numerous states have legalized the sale of recreational marijuana including Colorado, California, Nevada and Washington.
The amendment is not likely in Texas because Gov. Greg Abbott is opposed to marijuana legalization.
Texas’ 85th Legislature begins Jan. 10, 2017 for more information visit their website http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/.