“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 3 by Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) – school safety and security funding
- 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 11 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) – teacher pay raise
- HB 12 by Rep. Toni Rose (D-Dallas) – one-year Medicaid extension for new mothers
- HB 13 by Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) – school safety and mental health training funding
- 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 100 by Ken King (R-Canadian) – move to an enrollment based school funding system
- HB 300 by Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) – sales tax exemption for feminine hygiene products
- HB 400 by Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) – establish mental health funding for higher education
- HB 600 by Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood) – provide a cost of living adjustment for retired teachers
- 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.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with new priority bills announced since publishing.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.