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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick expected to reveal priority bills, including harsh penalties for illegal voting

 Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is sworn in during the Oath of Ceremony on Jan. 17, 2023, on the north steps of the state Capitol.
Michael Minasi
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is sworn in during the Oath of Ceremony on Jan. 17, 2023, on the north steps of the state Capitol.

Every year, a number of bills are reserved as priorities for the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House. In the Senate, where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick presides as president, bills No. 1-30 are set aside for Patrick’s priority issues.

Patrick has not unveiled his full list of priority bills yet but is expected to do so in the next few days.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán, who covers the Capitol for the Texas Newsroom, said these bills are expected to reflect the broader priorities Patrick laid out for this year.

In the case of the Senate and the House, the lower the number of the bill, the bigger the priority is. So, for example, in the House and in the Senate, the No. 1 bill, SB 1 or HB 1, are the budget bills, because it’s the No. 1 priority,” he said. “[Patrick] had already signed, or signaled, I should say, that a priority from 2021 is making an appearance again, and that’s Senate Bill 2 this year that would restore the penalty for illegal voting to a felony. In 2021, Gov. [Greg] Abbott actually signed a bill that lowered that penalty to a Class A misdemeanor.”

Martínez-Beltrán said property tax relief, another of Patrick’s goals for this session, will be addressed in the budget bill.

“The lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House … have already said they will allocate about $15 billion to provide relief to Texas homeowners. We have also heard in the past from Patrick that he wants to address the building of natural gas plants in this state,” Martínez-Beltrán said. “So I’m expecting that issue to be included in his priority bills.”

Martínez-Beltrán said he also expects culture war issues to be addressed in Patrick’s priority 30 bills.

“Last week, Patrick said he wants to ban diversity, equity and inclusion – or DEI – programs on college campuses in the state. This is something that Governor Abbott has also said he wants to do and an issue that Republicans are looking into,” he said. “This comes from Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis announced recently a plan to defund the programs in his state.”

Martínez-Beltrán said these efforts are based on model legislation by the conservative think tank the Manhattan Institute, according to reporting by Inside Higher Ed. House Speaker Dade Phelan has not yet announced his priorities or top bills.

Beyond Patrick’s priority legislation, Martínez-Beltrán said he will be keeping an eye on the State of the State address, which Abbott is set to deliver Thursday.

“This is going to be my first State of the State here in Texas, but I find it interesting that this speech will not take place in the Texas Capitol, where it has historically taken place. This year, it will take place in San Marcos,” he said. “In 2021, Abbott gave his speech in Lockhart, but again, it has traditionally taken place during a joint session in the Texas House Chamber. It will be televised by Nexstar, but I also find it interesting that other news outlets besides Nexstar will not be allowed inside.”

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Sarah Asch