McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — With a week to go before the start of the 88th Texas Legislature, Republicans in the Lone Star State have made border security a top issue.
Several border-related bills have already been filed in advance of the start of the session on Jan. 10 in Austin.
However, the No. 1 issue for the Republican Party of Texas in the upcoming session is election accountability, according to the organization. Their other top priorities include:
- Ban gender modification of children.
- Protect children from explicit and harmful and “obscene” materials.
- Prevent Democrats from chairing committees in the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature.
- Abolish all abortion in Texas.
- Defend gun rights.
- Improve school choice.
During the 87th Legislature in 2021, border security didn’t even rank among Texas Republicans’ priorities.
But political watchers say it is an issue that has united Republicans in the past couple of years and one that has helped them win recent elections — although a predicted “red wave” in November did not happen state-wide.
“It’s definitely from Gov. Abbott’s standpoint, and from the standpoint from Republicans in the Legislature, I think it’s something that they can win on,” University of Texas Rio Grande Valley political science lecturer Andrew Smith told Border Report on Tuesday.
“This is something that Republicans believe. It’s a calculated risk but it’s one that Republicans are looking at the Texas-wide election results and think that border security is something that they can win on perhaps more than other issues,” Smith said.
Nov. 14 was the first day that bills could officially be filed for the upcoming session, and many are still coming in daily. Several so far involve border security and ways to fund Texas’ aggressive border security initiative known as Operation Lone Star.
Texas lawmakers have approved funding over $4 billion for Operation Lone Star efforts and are expected to increase that in the upcoming five-month session. Efforts include Texas building its own state-funded border wall, which has begun in rural Starr County in South Texas.
“It seems like Texas Republicans are more united on the issue of Operation Lone Star and on border security so I think that one will move pretty quick,” Smith said.
Bills must be filed by March 10 and committee hearings begin March 11. The following border-related bills have been filed:
- HB 209 – Would create a special fund to pay border security enhancement projects. If passed, it would be established in the state treasury outside the general revenue fund and be allowed to accept gifts or crowd-sourced donations toward border security. Operation Lone Star and the building of a state-funded border wall are paid for, in part, by donated funds crowdsourced by the governor’s office.
- SB 237 and HB 82 – Would create an interstate compact on border security and immigration enforcement with other states. The compact would be formed only if it receives permission from the U.S. Congress. Entering a compact is among the top priorities for the Texas Republican Party.
- HB 434 and SB 155 and HB 90– Would provide benefits for certain members of the Texas military forces who serve on the Texas/Mexico border, and their survivors.
- SB 242 – Would require monthly reports presented from the attorney general’s office on any federal lawsuits relating to border security in Texas.
The 140-day regular session is set to end on May 29.