A piece of legislation deemed a top priority by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is one step closer to reaching the governor’s desk after being approved by the Texas House on Wednesday.
No, it’s not constitutional carry, a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying, or any Republican Party of Texas legislative priority. Instead, it is a bill to raise the age at which adults can legally purchase tobacco products.
The bill, Senate Bill 21 by State Sen. Joan Huffman (R–Houston), increases the age to buy tobacco, e-cigarettes, and other nicotine products from 18 to 21. When Patrick announced his 30 priority pieces of legislation for the Texas Senate in March, conservatives were shocked to see SB 21 on the list—especially in light of the absence of other priorities like ending government-subsidized union dues collection, once considered critically important. Regardless, the legislation was rammed through the Senate last month—notably with more Democrats than Republicans voting in favor of the legislation.
Several attempts to modify the legislation occurred before it was finally passed, though. One amendment by State Rep. Justin Holland (R–Rockwall) would have exempted cigars from the bill. That amendment failed. Another amendment by State Rep Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) would have tied the age to buy tobacco to the age at which you can vote. That amendment also failed.
At various points in the discussion, State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R–Deer Park) even attempted to derail debate on the issue by challenging the bill on procedural grounds, though after long deliberation, his point of order was overruled. An amendment by Cain to prevent local governments from implementing higher ages to buy tobacco was accepted, however, and approved by the body.
Tinderholt also attempted to stop consideration on the bill by claiming that the bill violated the “one subject” rule but was unsuccessful.
When the votes were cast, the bill was approved by the body on a vote of 110-36.
Now that the bill has passed both chambers in different forms, it will be up to the Texas Senate to either approve the changes made in the House or take the bill to a conference committee to hammer out the differences.
The final decision-maker on the bill’s fate will ultimately be Gov. Greg Abbott, who has expressed support for the proposal.