The 84th legislative session ended on June 1, 2015. See the bills that have become law.

Curated by

Alexa Ura

Bobby Blanchard

"Judicial bypass" for minors seeking abortions

Two years after imposing stringent abortion restrictions, Republican lawmakers passed a measure limiting a legal process that allows some minors to obtain abortions without their parents’ permission.

Texas law requires minors to obtain permission for an abortion from at least one parent. But if obtaining an abortion could endanger the minor, she can look to the courts for “judicial bypass” to obtain the abortion without parental consent.

The bill approved by lawmakers restricts that legal process by requiring more proof that a minor is at risk for abuse by their parents, limiting the venues where a minor can seek judicial bypass and extending the time period judges have to rule on a judicial bypass request.

Updated: May 29, 2015

Gay rights legislation

Social conservative lawmakers were largely unsuccessful in their efforts to further restrict same-sex marriage in Texas, despite the fact that there's already a constitutional amendment here that defines marriage as being one man and one woman. 

Rep. Cecil Bell's bill to prohibit state or local funds from being used to issue same-sex marriage licenses — a move designed to defend so-called "traditional marriage" in the event the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage — ended up being tacked onto a county government bill as an amendment in the House. But there weren't the votes to bring it up in the Senate, leading some GOP lawmakers in the upper chamber to offer a non-binding resolution recognizing marriage as being between a man and a woman. 

That resolution — which makes no changes to the law — passed over the objections of most of the chamber's Democrats. 

The session also saw some interesting developments among a couple of GOP lawmakers in the House; Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, came out in favor of gay marriage, saying it didn't affect her own marriage. Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, said he wasn't ready to take that stand yet, but called Davis' position "courageous." 

Updated: May 29, 2015

Efforts to defund Planned Parenthood providers

Four years after an aggressive legislative effort to keep Planned Parenthood from receiving state dollars for health care for low-income women, lawmakers were back at it in 2015 — this time over funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings.

Republicans were successful in ousting Planned Parenthood from the Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program, which provides cancer screenings for uninsured women. That was the last stream of state funding any Planned Parenthood clinics received, though the majority of funds were coming from the feds.

Planned Parenthood says the move is just the latest effort to push its clinics out of business in the state. 

Updated: May 29, 2015

Further restrictions on abortion

The end of the 2013 legislative session was marked by a divisive debate over abortion regulations that garnered national attention when then-Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth filibustered a measure that bans abortion in Texas after 20 weeks, requires doctors who perform the procedure to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and requires facilities that perform abortions to meet the same hospital-like standards as ambulatory surgical centers. The bill was signed into law later that summer, enacting some of the strictest abortion regulations in the country. Challenges against the abortion law have made their way through the legal system since the law was passed and could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. With abortion regulations in other states also in the courts, opponents of abortion sought to further restrict the procedure.  

But those efforts — including a bill to prohibit health insurers from covering abortions and another that would have made it a crime to coerce women into having abortions — were unsuccessful.

Updated: May 29, 2015

Expanding gambling in Texas

Attempts to legalize casino gambling in Texas have failed for years, and 2015 was no exception. A 2013 study estimated that Texans spend nearly $3 billion annually at gaming facilities in other states, and some lawmakers have said they would like to use that money to fund roads.

Rep. Matt Krause, R- Fort Worth, has been fighting against “historical racing” machines, saying they are no more than slot machines, which are illegal in Texas. In November, a state district judge ruled the Texas Racing Commission did not have the authority to install this type of machines at racetracks.

Leaders of the Texas Racing Commission might consider themselves lucky that lawmakers didn't defund the agency. Early in the session, senators in charge of the state's budget called it a "rogue" and "renegade" agency, saying the commission should  have waited for the Legislature's approval before deciding last summer to allow historical racing. 

Updated: May 29, 2015

Questions, suggestions or concerns? Let us know.

The Texas Legislative Guide was designed and developed by Becca Aaronson, Emily Albracht, Daniel Craigmile, Annie Daniel, Ben Hasson and Ryan Murphy for The Texas Tribune. The Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that promotes civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government and other matters of statewide concern.