The next Texas legislative session begins in January, and lawmakers began filing their legislation Monday.
Every other November, state senators and representatives hover over their computers, ready to file their contributions to the new legislative session.
State Sen. Jose Menendez, who represents the San Antonio-area, is ready to get started on his "People First" agenda, and his bills were part of the first-day rush.
“One of them is equal pay for equal work — that men and women are paid the same if they’re doing the same job,” he said. “And I’ve also got a bill that’s going to outlaw the use of non-disclosure agreements designed to silence the victims of sexual harassment.”
By the time the session begins, lawmakers will have filed thousands of bills.
State Rep. Diego Bernal, another San Antonio lawmaker, filed his own stack of bills on day one. They range from addressing school finance to regulating payday lenders.
Bernal explained that clerks assign a number to the bills in the order in which they are filed. He says it’s often the case that lower-numbered bills are given a higher priority to be heard in committee, debated and then voted on.
“Because the mechanics of the legislature are: the earlier you file a bill the lower the bill number. So a lot of the bills most important to people have already been filed now,” Bernal said.
Brandon Rottinghaus, who teaches political science at the University of Houston, said many of those bills and the issues they're based on might face an uncertain future.
“So a lot of legislators come to Austin with good ideas and noble aspirations but ultimately it’s really difficult to get attention to an issue that isn’t something that is prioritized by the party leadership,” he said. “It is also difficult to get something publicized that might be a big policy change, the bigger the policy change the more difficult it is in finding unity to make it happen.”
For example, he said, the House and Senate will prepare their own versions of the state's two-year budget. Those get the lowest bill numbers and the highest priority because the legislature is legally obligated to pass a budget. After that comes anything the governor has labeled emergency items, and then everything else.
Among the bills filed on the first day arene bill that wants to prohibit cities and counties from passing ordinances concerning children’s Lemonade stands, and another bill calls for the end of daylight savings time, and another bill would limit the number of chickens you can legally keep in your backyard.