The Texas Legislature’s Missed Opportunities: Unresolved Battles and Unmet Needs in New Laws of 2023

FORT WORTH, Texas – The Texas Legislature passed a series of new laws in 2023, with approximately 30 taking effect on January 1. While some of these laws address important issues, they also highlight missed opportunities for lawmakers to focus on more pressing matters. Among the new laws, several were aimed at property appraisal and taxation, making adjustments to streamline processes and provide relief to homeowners. Additionally, homeowners associations will now be required by law to adopt policies for fines, providing clarity and transparency for property owners.

Another significant change comes in the form of the increased enrollment of minors charged with Class C misdemeanors in diversion programs, aimed at preventing further criminal involvement. Moreover, the legislature passed a law making it a misdemeanor to market e-cigarettes to children, in response to the rising prevalence of vaping among adolescents.

While these laws address specific concerns, there are still areas where the legislature fell short. For instance, no substantial progress was made in expanding Medicaid coverage, leaving a significant portion of Texans without access to affordable healthcare. Although a modest step was taken to improve insurance quality through the requirement of online portals for healthcare providers, it does not adequately address the needs of nearly 2 million Texans who have lost Medicaid coverage due to post-pandemic changes.

One controversial law that has garnered attention is the ban on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at public universities. This decision eliminates important resources and requirements that promoted a diverse and inclusive campus environment. In a state with a majority-minority population, ensuring equal access to higher education becomes crucial.

Despite the passage of various laws, the 2023-24 Legislature will likely be remembered for unresolved battles over property tax cuts and the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton. Additionally, the ongoing fight over school vouchers has led to missed opportunities for improving public education, including teacher pay increases and crucial reforms in reading instruction and school accountability.

In summary, while the Texas Legislature passed new laws in 2023, addressing issues such as property appraisal, vaping, and criminal justice for minors, there were missed opportunities in providing affordable healthcare and improving public education. The ban on diversity efforts in public universities has also raised concerns about equal opportunities in higher education. As the legislative session continues, it remains to be seen if additional measures will be proposed to address these pressing concerns.