Phelan continues slow-walk release of Texas House priority bills

Thirteen of the House’s top 20 bill numbers — the loose list of the chamber’s priority legislation for this session — have been filed after three more were announced Tuesday, including legislation that would prohibit “sexually explicit materials” in school libraries.

“As lawmakers, it is essential that we do everything we can to support Texas children, which starts with the state creating the best possible trajectory for our most vulnerable kids,” Phelan said in a release. “That conversation extends to prioritizing more dedication and dollars toward better understanding mental health issues and traumatic brain injuries, and, as a parent myself, ensuring that parental involvement is present when it comes to the types of content in public school libraries.”

Unlike his counterpart in the upper chamber, Phelan has slow-walked the release of his chamber’s priority bills, releasing a few at a time, each grouped by a similar theme.

The headliner of Tuesday’s release is state Rep. Jared Patterson’s (R-Frisco) House Bill (HB) 900, dubbed the READER Act, which states, “A school district or open-enrollment charter school may not allow a student enrolled in the district or school to access sexually relevant materials in the catalog of a school library at the district or school unless the district or school first obtains written consent from the student’s parent or person standing in parental relation.”

It also requires the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to create a rating system and a list of book vendors found to have sold sexually explicit books to schools, and prohibit further purchases from those offending vendors. Patterson has already filed an identical version of the READER Act, but this one gets the round bill number.

The other two bills in Tuesday’s group also pertain, either loosely or explicitly, to children: one would create the Mental Health and Brain Research Institute of Texas, with an emphasis on studying mental health in children, and the other would reform the juvenile justice system.

The themes of previous slates include economic development, data protection, and infrastructure investment.

Below is a list of each House priority bill Phelan has announced:

HB 1 by Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood) – the 2024-2025 budget

HB 2 by Rep. Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas) – appraisal cap reduction

HB 4 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) – consumer data protections

HB 5 by Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) – tax abatement program to replace Chapter 313

HB 8 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) – junior college scholarship program

HB 9 by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) – broadband expansion fund

HB 10 by Rep. Tracy King (D-Uvalde) – water development fund

HB 12 by Rep. Toni Rose (D-Dallas) – one-year Medicaid extension for new mothers

HB 14 by Rep. Cody Harris (R-Palestine) – building code reform

HB 15 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) – creation of the Mental Health and Brain Research Institute of Texas

HB 16 by Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) – juvenile justice system reform

HB 18 by Rep. Shelby Slawson (R-Stephenville) – protection of minors’ digital information

HB 19 by Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Junction) – creation of a commercial appeals court

HB 300 by Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) – sales tax exemption for feminine hygiene products

HB 900 by Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) – ban on “sexually explicit materials” in school libraries

There are at least seven more priority bills yet to be released by the speaker. The filing deadline for non-local bills is Friday.

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