From bills banning abortions to bills limiting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s pandemic powers, a lot has happened during the 2021 Texas legislative session. Many of the bills have caused widespread debate — not just among legislators but also among the public.
So what are some of the bills making it to the headlines and our conversations? Here are five of the most controversial bills from the Texas 2021 legislative session.
Senate Bill 8: The Texas Heartbeat Act
Senate Bill 8 is similar to other heartbeat bills that have gone into effect in other states. Essentially, the bill bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The Texas Tribune reported that this can be as early as six weeks, which is before many women even know they’re pregnant.
However, the bill makes an exception for abortions in medical emergencies but not for victims of rape or incest. It would give citizens — who don’t have to reside in Texas — the right to sue abortion providers or others who assist someone getting an abortion. And those who want to sue don’t even need a connection to the person getting an abortion or the abortion provider.
The bill is heading to Gov. Abbott’s desk right now. And, according to The Tribune, he plans to sign it into law. It will go into effect later this year.
House Bill 1927: The Firearm Carry Act of 2021
House Bill 1927 would allow Texas residents to carry handguns without getting a license as long as they aren’t prohibited by state or federal law from having a gun. Texas’ current law requires citizens to have a license to carry a handgun openly or concealed. To get a license, applicants have to submit fingerprints, take a shooting proficiency test, complete four to six hours of training and pass a written test.
However, on Wednesday, the Texas House rejected changes made by the Senate to the bill, according to The Tribune. As it stands now, the bill has to go to a conference committee to reach a compromise. But that compromise also has to be approved by both chambers.
All of this has to be done before the bill can go to Gov. Abbott’s desk. Abbott also plans to sign this bill into law, according to The Tribune.
House Bill 3979: Limiting Critical Race Theory in Schools
House Bill 3979 would limit teaching critical race theory in public schools. Essentially, the bill would limit what public school students are taught about the history of racism in the U.S.
Critical race theory looks at how the social construction of race and institutionalized racism preserve a racial caste system that puts people of color on the bottom tiers, according to the American Bar Association. It also notes that racism isn’t a thing of the past and continues to live on in the U.S.
On Tuesday, the Texas House passed the bill, The Tribune reported. Now, it’s heading to the Senate.
House Bill 4492: Electricity Market Bailout
House Bill 4492 is a $2.5 billion plan to prevent the electricity market from financial crises due to Winter Storm Uri in February, The Tribune reported. The bill would impose a fee on electricity companies. However, those fees would be passed to residential and business customers in their power bills. It’s unclear how much the legislation will affect citizens’ electricity bills.
The imposed fee would likely continue for a decade, according to The Tribune. And if the legislation makes it past the Senate and governor, it would create the Texas Electric Securitization Corp. The corporation would use the money raised from the imposed fee to help pay off electric company debts.
The bill was approved by the Texas House on May 6 and advanced to the Senate.
House Bill 3: Limiting Abbott’s Pandemic Power
House Bill 3 is the result of both parties’ criticisms of Abbott’s use of executive orders throughout the pandemic. The bill would limit Abbott’s emergency powers during a pandemic and simultaneously involve the legislature during decisions, The Tribune reported.
Essentially, the bill would give legislators greater control over Abbott’s decisions during a pandemic. However, the bill would also ensure Abbott’s ability to suspend state laws during a pandemic and allow him to override local orders that differ from state orders, The Tribune reported.
The bill passed the Texas House on May 11. But it’s unclear if the Texas Senate will do anything with the bill this late in the legislative session, according to The Tribune.