85th Texas Legislative Session

2017 Texas Legislature Bill Tracker

The following are bills in the 85th Texas Legislature that are relevant to research taking place at the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living and the expertise of our faculty. The bills are sorted into 4 general categories, listed on the menu to the right. This webpage will be updated regularly with new bills as they are filed, accompanying resources, and the status of each bill as the session progresses.

If there are any bills not included on this list that you feel the Center should be following, please feel free to let us know by contacting our Center Coordinator, Heather Atteberry.

Latest News

Texting while driving will be illegal in Texas starting Sept. 1
Ft. Worth Star Telegram - June 6, 2017
AUSTIN — Texans: Prepare to put down your phones while you're driving. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday signed into law a measure that bans texting while driving across the state, effective Sept. 1. But he also told state lawmakers, as he called them back into special session starting July 18, that he wants an amendment to make sure that no local law can override the statewide ban. "I signed it into law today to ensure Texas is doing all it can to prevent accidents caused by texting while driving," Abbott said Tuesday during a news conference.  Continue reading >>

SA legislators statewide ban on texting while driving headed to full Senate
San Antonio Express - May 16, 2017
AUSTIN — A bill that would make texting while driving illegal in hopes of saving countless lives is headed to the full Senate on a tight deadline but with a strong chance of making it to the governor, who had indicated he would sign it into law.  It's been 10 years in the making.  "We are working hard and considering additional acceptable amendments that would help us secure 25 votes to suspend the three-day rule," said state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, referring to parliamentary procedure that could bring the bill to a vote sooner.  Continue reading >>

Texas children could use school food pantry, avoid lunch shaming under proposed legislation
Dallas News - April 20, 2017
AUSTIN — Lawmakers are trying to make it easier to feed hungry kids while preventing them from being shamed when their families don't have enough money to pay for lunch.  The House gave preliminary approval Thursday to a bill that allows schools to create food pantries on campus using surplus from the cafeteria that would otherwise be discarded.  Another bill by Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas, would prevent schools from taking away meals served to students whose accounts run out of money.  Continue reading >>

Invest in better food -- and build a better economy
TribTalk - April 18, 2017
AUSTIN — Our state lawmakers are considering a bipartisan approach to help remedy areas considered to be "food deserts" -- areas in which millions of Texans live with litter to no access to grocery stores or other forms of food retail.  This is personal to me. When I talk about people in low opportunity neighborhoods, I am talking about my parents as we were growing up.  My friends and family. My teachers and role models. I am talking about me as a child, growing up in a three-bedroom, government-assisted home with two brothers and one sister.  Continue reading >>

Breastfeeding protections get a hearing before House lawmakers
Texas Tribune - March 6, 2017
AUSTIN — Kim Bochert has breastfed in a lot of public places - including Arlington National Cemetery. Which is why she was stunned when an employee at her local Williamson County swimming pool asked her to stop nursing on the pool's steps.  "I said, 'I could assure you my breastmilk is a lot cleaner than the pee that hundreds of kids do in this pool every day,'" Borchert recalled to members of the House Business and Industry Committee on Monday, bouncing one of her children on her hipContinue reading >>

The Swedish-Inspired Way American Cities Are Trying to End Pedestrian Deaths
Governing - February, 2017
SAN ANTONIO — Shirley Gonzales made no secret of her views on transportation when she ran for the San Antonio City Council in 2013. She laid them out in her answer to a questionnaire: “pedestrians first, followed by cycling, public transportation and private automobiles, in that order.” Gonzales promoted this agenda even though she was running in a city where fewer than 2 percent of commuters walk to work. A few months later, after she’d won the election, the tales of some of her constituents drove the issue home. Most prominent was the story of Sharon Ledesma, a 28-year-old single mother who was crossing a four-lane street one night when a car switched lanes and veered toward her and her two children. Continue reading >>

Texas may snuff out smoking for anyone younger than 21
Dallas Morning News - January 16, 2017
AUSTIN — This could be the year Texas raises the smoking age to 21. For a decade, the concept has been a pipe dream of Democrats and doctors bent on finding ways to keep Texans, especially kids, from picking up the habit. But this year it has backing from some powerful Republicans whose support could mean Texas will become just the third state to hike its smoking age above 19. “We can move this bill forward,” said Rep. John Zerwas, a Richmond Republican and physician who will champion the effort in the House. He will be joined by Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, and Sens. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, and Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, who will each file a bill. Continue reading >>

Rep. Donna Howard Hits the Ground Running to Work for Texans' Health
Texas House of Representatives Newsroom - January 11, 2017
AUSTIN — Today, on the second day of the Legislative Session, Rep. Donna Howard passed important breastfeeding legislation with unanimous consent from the Texas House. During consideration of HR 3, the Housekeeping Resolution, Howard offered an amendment requiring the identification and establishment of a space within or near House Chamber to use for breastfeeding or breast pumping. Access to the space would be granted to nursing House members, House staff, and credentialed media. Continue reading >>

Want to take action? Here are some ways our bill tracker can help:

  1. Use the resources at the bottom of each sub-topic to get informed.
  2. Click on a bill author's name to get the names and contact information for their staff--these are your best contact points for questions or concerns.
  3. Click on the name of a committee; each committee Chair has ultimate authority on whether or not a bill will be heard.
    • See if you can meet with committee staff to talk about your issue prior to any hearings.
  4. Contact the legislators who represent you to see how they feel about the issue and whether or not they are willing to help.
  5. Be vocal on social media. Use the hashtag #txlege to see what is happening at the Texas capitol, and add your voice.
  6. Attend committee hearings to voice your opinion and listen to the opinions of others.
  7. Check out the General Tools & Resources at the bottom of this page.
  8. Questions? Contact us.

General Tools & Resources

1. Texas Legislature Online: this website enables the public to view the status of legislation and provides the ability to search bill text, amendment text, and bill information.

2. Guide to Texas Legislative Information: this document provides explanations of each of the steps in the Texas legislative process including diagrams of how a bill becomes law.

3. Texas Tribune Elected Officials Directory: read bios of and get current personal data for the 242 occupants of the state’s highest offices. Get their contact information (including social media), staffer information, and electoral histories.

4. Who Represents Me: find out who represents you in the Texas Senate, Texas House of Representatives, the Texas delegation to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and the State Board of Education.

5. Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living blog: our Center experts discuss the latest news and research in public health.  You can also view the archive of bills filed in past legislative sessions, listed in the column on the right side of this page.