4 most polarizing bills proposed this year in the Texas Senate

With the Texas Legislature in session, we’ve gathered some of the most polarizing bills proposed so far in the Senate. The 88th Legislature’s regular session began January 10, and runs through May 29. While thousands of bills are filed, only around a thousand typically pass.

The following bills are the topic of conversation as some Texans and nonprofit organizations express concern at their potential impact. After the 2022 elections, Republicans hold 86 of the 150 seats in the House and 19 of the 31 seats in the Senate. 

Bill to ban future ‘ensure’ for college faculty

State Sen. Brandon Creighton filed a bill March 10, that would prohibit the state’s public higher education institutions from offering ensure or “any type of permanent employment status.” Creighton also filed a bill that would prohibit Texas’ higher education institutions from considering diversity, equity, and inclusion when hiring new employees, according to the Texas Tribune.

Why is it polarizing?: The bill would make it extremely difficult for the state to recruit top faculty and could also impact the reputations of higher education institutions. Victor Ray, a professor at the University of Iowa, told the Tribune the bill blocks the freedom tenures are designed to have as a way to protect scholars, who sometimes study unpopular things, from political influence.

Drag queen ‘bounty hunting’ bill

Texas state Rep. Steve Toth filed House Bill 4378 March 9, which would allow anyone in Texas to sue people who perform in drag or host a drag performance where children are present. The bill targets events like family-friendly brunch shows at restaurants or drag queen storytime events at libraries. The people who sue a person or venue can be awarded $5,000 in damages.

The bill defines drag as “a performance in which a performer exhibits a gender that is different than the performer’s gender recorded at birth.” It goes on to say these performances can involve using makeup and clothing to dance, lip sync, or perform “in a lascivious manner.”

Why is it polarizing?: Erin Reed, a transgender rights activist and independent reporter, said the legislation could easily be used to target transgender people who perform. She said, “these bounties can easily be turned against trans performers … It could ban a trans person singing karaoke. It could ban pride.”

Rep. Bryan Slaton also filed a heterosexual tax cut bill that would provide massive tax cuts, up to 100%, for straight couples that are married and have children.

Ban voting sites at college campuses

Texas Representative Carrie Isaac, a Republican from Hays County, introduced a bill February 16, that would prohibit polling places at higher education institutions in Texas. The proposed bill would prevent county officials from designating college campuses or universities as polling place locations starting September 1.

The bill followed another filed proposal that would require counties to put a certain number of polling places on college campuses depending on enrollment size.

Why is it polarizing?: MOVE Texas, a nonprofit organization that works to represent underrepresented youth, condemned the filing shortly after Isaac presented it, calling it “one of the most insidious attempts to silence young voters in Texas.”

‘TEXIT’ bill

Slaton filed a bill on March 6, that would set a referendum for voters to decide whether the state should explore the possibility of seceding from the United States. HB 3596, which is commonly known as the Texas Independence Referendum Act, or “TEXIT,” would be scheduled for the next general election on November 7, 2023, if passed.

A coalition of Texas lawmakers, including Slaton, filed the same bill in March 2021, which was referred to the State Affairs committee. It did not, however, receive a hearing or a vote.

Why is it polarizing?: The bill is proposed by the Texas National Movement, an organization of about 440,000 pushing for the state’s independence. However, it has also been condemned by state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Republican Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano tweeted that the bill is “ridiculous” and the “very definition of hypocritical and seditious treason.”

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