Taxes, tenure, transgender care, sports bills discussed amid Texas regular session ending

Taxes, tenure, and transgender care and sports bans were some of the hot topics at the Texas Capitol on Thursday, May 18. 

The regular session ends at the end of the month, and Thursday was a critical moving day for several key pieces of legislation.

One of the bigger items to get bounced was SB 18. The bill is a priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and was originally drafted to eliminate tenure for university professors. It got watered down in the House and then Thursday, on a procedural motion, it was kicked back to committee. 

SB 18 has until Tuesday, May 23 to make it back to the house floor.


On May 17, SB 14 was sent to the governor for his signature. The Senate accepted some minor modifications that were made in the House. 

SB 14 would prohibit transgender Texans under the age of 18 from accessing transition-related medical treatments including puberty blockers, hormone therapies and surgeries — though surgeries are rarely performed on kids.

The bill would also require trans youth already getting this care to be "weaned off" in a "medically appropriate" manner.

Another transgender bill got final approval in the House on May 18. SB 15 prevents transgender women from competing in women's collegiate sports programs. The ACLU has issued a statement promising to file a lawsuit against the legislation. 

The House vote came after one final debate, which once again included a fight over the definition of a woman.

"Women's sports, as a whole, suffer when transgender students are excluded" said state Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint).

The defense of transgender athletes brought a rebuttal from state Rep. Steve Toth (R-Conroe).

STATE REP STEVE TOTH: Can you tell me what a trans woman is? 

STATE REP. MARY GONZALEZ: I think that we've had lots of conversations about trans identity on this floor, and I would love to not participate in reinforcing the negative rhetoric that we have.

REP STEVE TOTH: It's not negative. 

STATE REP. MARY GONZALEZ: I’m focused on why this bill…

REP STEVE TOTH: We are having a discussion on why a trans woman should or should not be able to compete against natural women at the college level. This is the whole issue of this bill. What is the difference? What is a trans woman?

STATE REP. MARY GONZALEZ: I've literally laid out in my opposition speech why this bill is harmful. You don't have to agree with me. 

STATE REP. MARY GONZALEZ: I've expressed it's harmful to the economy. Is there harmful to all students? 

REP STEVE TOTH: Is there a difference. 

STATE REP. MARY GONZALEZ: Is reinforcing a discriminatory rhetoric and misinformation and stereotypes, and you don't have to agree, Rep Toth, that is your choice. But I think this line of questioning is potentially problematic.

With a vote of 140 to 5, a more unified House approved what continues to be a contentious fight with the Senate over how big a property tax cut should be. 

SB 3 was amended to increase the homestead exemption to $100,000, a little higher for seniors, which is more than the Senate version. But the House also included an appraisal cap, which Lt. Gov Dan Patrick doesn't like.

Both chambers are also offering different amounts of new money to school districts. A final vote in the House is expected to come Friday, May 19, and then the SB 3 ball will bounce back to the Senate side. The bill could be rejected or sent to a conference committee.

The next looming fight is expected to be over a package of bills to address problems with the power grid. A border bill, which includes a revived idea to create a new border protection police force, may be considered by the weekend in the Senate.

The Texas Tribune contribued to this report.