HOUSTON - The 87th Texas Legislature begins Tuesday at the State Capitol in Austin. Opening day will include COVID protocols and tightened security.
Lawmakers will be headed into the 2021 legislative session with one of the largest budget deficits in recent years.
In light of last week’s insurrection at the US Capitol in Washington, the Texas Department of Public Safety has deployed additional troopers for tightened security around the State Capitol.
Once inside, COVID protocols require everyone to wear a mask and all lawmakers, guests and media will be tested before entering the House and Senate floors.
"The only entrance to the building that will be open to the public will be the north entrance so that we can control the number of people in the building," said TX. House Rep. Charlie Geren, Dist. 99.
"We bought paradigm air purifiers that are available for every office, every committee room, every meeting room in the building. We bought a UV robot disinfecting machines to disinfect the public areas," added Geren.
Geren serves as Chairman of the Committee on House Administration.
He's also introduced a popular bill that would make alcohol-to-go permanent in the state. Governor Abbott granted the measure last June to help struggling restaurants and bars during the pandemic.
"The restaurant industry has been very adversely affected by the pandemic and it’s just been a revenue source. It’s enabled some to keep their doors open," Geren said.
Another bill up for debate this session is a proposal by Rep. Ron Reynolds of Missouri City. The bill would raise the minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $15.
"We haven’t had any indexes for cost of living or inflation. If you make $7.25 an hour, that’s not a livable wage. You cannot support a family, much less you’re barely able to support yourself. With the pandemic, I think people appreciate front line workers. Many of them are grocery store employees," Reynolds said.
Reynolds said although the bill was heard last session, it was not passed citing concerns from the Texas Association of Business that the increase could hurt potential job creation. Reynolds said he hopes to garner bi-partisan support this year.
Lawmakers are also expected to discuss a bill surrounding police and criminal justice reform, in light of the controversial death of George Floyd last summer.