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Texas GOP sets goal for 2023 legislative session | News


HOUSTON — Texas Republican lawmakers on Thursday set a preliminary list of 15 legislative priorities that will be used as a guidepost in the upcoming session.

At the biennial, multi-day GOP state convention held in Houston this week, delegates came together to establish the party’s platform and legislative priorities.

The three priorities that bubbled to the top of the list were protecting election integrity, banning Democratic chairs in a Republican-controlled state Legislature and abolishing abortion.

Of the 15 preliminary priorities, delegates will vote on a final list of eight top priorities on Saturday. Those will be used to guide members of the State Republican Executive Committee on bills they should or should not support in alignment with the party. The 88th legislative session launches in January.

Committee Chairman Nathan Macias said there were no surprises for him on the list, and he hopes all residents will see the list of priorities and understand that it is for the well-being of all Texans.

“When Texans gather together for a common good of all Texans, the results can be fabulous,” Macias said. “When you gather people together who have a servant’s heart and have a love of our state, then good things will result.” 

Election integrity, abortion, gun rights, banning gender modification and securing the border continue to be pillars of the Republican Party.

Many members of the Republican Party continue to believe the 2020 election of President Joe Biden was stolen, even as those claims have been debunked by experts and conservative leaders alike.

To strengthen trust in elections the Texas GOP will seek legislation that restores felony penalties and enact civil penalties for election code violations that would be enforceable by any Texas jurisdiction, including the Texas attorney general. If the attorney general’s power is reinstated, it would go against an 8-1 ruling by the state’s highest criminal court that ruled in December that the state attorney general cannot unilaterally prosecute election cases.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the power to prosecute election cases is “absolutely essential if we’re going to have free and fair elections in Texas.”

“Somehow the Court of Appeals decided that because I’m in the executive branch that the attorney general is not allowed to go into court,” Paxton said. “It absolutely makes no sense, and it’s very surprising, shocking and amazing the (Texas) Supreme Court would strike down that many years of precedent.”

Many delegates said they were also in favor of returning to paper ballots that can be hand counted. 

“We need the ballots to be hand counted,” delegate Jean Angers said. “I know that’s hard. I know it’s difficult to hand count ballots, but it doesn’t matter how much it costs (or) how much time it takes.”

There was also vocal delegate support for parental equality in child custody cases.

Delegates said some fathers struggle to get equal time to see their children following a divorce, often given every other weekend as a base decision. Wording that directly addresses equal parenting protections did not make it into the preliminary list of top priorities but is part of the Texas GOP’s platform.

David Bellows, an equal parenting advocate, said he will still go before the delegates Saturday in an attempt to convince them to add equal parenting rights to the party’s top priorities list.

Bellows said the issues the country is facing, including a rise in mass shootings, can be attributed to children growing up without a father. He said the current court system makes it difficult for divorced fathers to be a part of their children’s lives, and their absence is detrimental to the next generation.

“A majority of (fathers), I would say, want to be in their kids’ lives. They’re not deadbeat dads; they want to be in their kids’ lives but the system … causes parents to go to court fighting,” Bellows said. “This plank states that a child should have the right to see both parents equally after a child custody case as long as both parents are fit, willing and able.” 

Even if equal parenting does not make the top priority list, Bellows said he will continue to work on bills to push through the next legislative session, and is hopeful they will make it past committees and onto the chamber floors for a vote. 

“(Equal parenting) affects everybody,” Bellows said.

The top 15 priorities ranked by legislative committee members, representative of the state’s 31 Senate districts, are:

• Protect elections

• Ban Democratic chairs

• Abolish abortion in Texas

• Protect the electric grid

• Ban gender modification of children

• Ban taxpayer-funded lobbying

• Stop sexualizing Texas kids

• Secure the border

• Eliminate property taxes

• Educational freedom and parental rights

• Protect medical freedom

• Defend gun rights

• Stop executive overreach

• Convention of States

• Save women’s sports

The Texas Democratic Party will convene for its state convention July 14-16 in Dallas.

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