The Brief: Top Texas News for Nov. 13, 2012

The Big Conversation:

The 2013 legislative session doesn't start until January, but eager lawmakers on Monday offered a glimpse of what to expect next year.

As the Tribune's Audrey White reports, state lawmakers filed more than 250 bills on Monday, the first day of pre-filing for the 83rd session. If the bills are any indication, legislators appear ready to target health care, education and public safety.

A few of the noteworthy filings:

  • Several lawmakers, including Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, filed texting-while-driving bans. In 2011, the House and Senate in 2011 passed such a bill authored by Craddick, but Gov. Rick Perry vetoed it, citing government overreach.
  • Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, filed legislation to restore funding for full-day pre-kindergarten, which the state cut in 2011.
  • Rep. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, filed two measures to bring Texas into compliance with federal health care reform. A resolution authored by Ellis would also also amend the Texas Constitution to expand the state's Medicaid program.
  • Another resolution by Ellis would let Texans decide whether to legalize casino gambling.
  • Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, filed a bill that would put a temporary moratorium on standardized testing.
  • Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, filed a bill that would put new restrictions on the distribution and prescription of abortion-inducing drugs. Patrick also authored legislation that would end straight-ticket voting for state judicial races.
  • In contrast with 2011, the first day of pre-filing saw few bills aimed at immigration. San Antonio Republican Lyle Larson, however, filed one that would eliminate in-state tuition for undocumented students.

Culled:

  • Rick Perry's office, in response to a WhiteHouse.gov petition asking the Obama administration to approve Texas' secession from the U.S., said on Monday that the governor sympathizes with frustrations toward the federal government but that he "believes in the greatness of our Union and nothing should be done to change it." On Monday, the petition hit 25,000 signatures, the number needed to elicit a formal response from the Obama administration, per terms agreed to by the White House.
  • On Monday, Perry's office also reiterated the governor's support for "sanctuary cities" legislation, saying, "We need to ensure that local law enforcement has every tool available to keep Texans safe and that no municipality in our state is taking discretion away from our peace officers." The issue will likely surface again in next year's legislative session, though no lawmaker had filed a bill on the matter as of Monday.
  • State Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, on Monday officially announced that she would seek the state Senate seat of the late Mario Gallegos, the Houston Democrat who posthumously won re-election after dying last month. Members of Gallegos' family also expressed their support for Alvarado, whom Gallegos is said to have wanted to replace him. Alvarado will face Democratic competition from former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, who has won the support of some of Alvarado's fellow House members, including Reps. Ana Hernandez Luna and Jessica Farrar, the leader of the House Democratic Caucus.

"Now more than ever our country needs strong leadership from states like Texas, that are making tough decisions to live within their means, keep taxes low and provide opportunities to job creators so their citizens can provide for their families and prosper." — Rick Perry's office's response to the petition calling for Texas to secede from the U.S.

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