Texas lawmakers finalize priorities ahead of 85th Legislature


ABILENE, Texas - State lawmakers are about to head to Austin, and what they decide there might affect you.

The 85th legislative session begins Tuesday, and finding out what the big issues are depends on which lawmaker you talk to, from Gov. Greg Abbott on down.

"Abbott wants to talk about a constitutional convention where all the states would get together and suggest amendments to the federal Constitution that would give the states more power," said Ross Ramsey, the executive editor for the Texas Tribune.

Ramsey said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has a long list of about 30 issues he considers priorities, including a so-called bathroom bill. Ramsey said that bill would clarify "which bathrooms transgender people in Texas should use."

Patrick would also focus on passing a bill for school vouchers, which is "a way of using public school money for private schools," Ramsey said.

"The next five months or so will be very exciting down in Austin," said Dr. Paul Fabrizio, a political science professor at McMurry University.

Fabrizio said the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and House Speaker Joe Straus have all supported increasing funding for the state's struggling Child Protective Services.

"One of the first things they're talking about is pay raises," Fabrizio said. "Give the employees more money so they can encourage more people to apply for the jobs, [and] keep good employees as well."

Dawn Buckingham, incoming state senator for District 24, campaigned on cutting wasteful spending and securing the border.

Incoming state representative for District 71 Stan Lambert wants to create jobs and protect second amendment rights.

"One of the things that's always interesting about the legislature is that there is always an issue that you can't really predict that will kind of sweep away with a bunch of attention," Ramsey said. "I don't know what that's going to be yet, but I'm looking forward to it, and it'll probably be sometime in April.

Monday, the state comptroller is scheduled to release the official estimate of how much money will be available for the next budget.

We'll be reporting from Austin on Tuesday as the legislative session gets underway.

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