Voter ID, Arizona-style immigration law on Texas Legislature's 2011 agenda

AUSTIN — Conservative lawmakers, empowered by last week's Republican election gains, introduced a host of bills Monday that include an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigration and the requirement of a photo ID to vote.

The bills are among more than 300 submitted by lawmakers as they began pre-filing for the 2011 Legislature. Other bills would impose new safeguards for residents in the Barnett Shale and outlaw K2, an increasingly popular substance that produces a marijuana-like high.

Hundreds of other measures are expected to be filed before the Jan. 11 start of a 140-day session that will be dominated by congressional and legislative redistricting and efforts to deal with a massive budget shortfall. The 2009 Legislature considered more than 7,000 bills.

Several Tarrant County lawmakers joined Monday's early filers with bills that signal some of their priorities for the upcoming session.

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, introduced 15 bills, including proposals designed to improve air quality and to reduce heavy truck traffic in neighborhoods affected by drilling in the Barnett Shale. Davis also introduced a number of consumer-oriented measures and a bill calling for greater oversight of Gov. Rick Perry's premier job-creation initiatives -- the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Emerging Technology Fund.

Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee, unveiled 16 bills that reflect her panel's broad scope. They include measures to improve food safety, toughen criminal background checks on state workers who care for the elderly and disabled, and give prosecutors more power to enforce anti-stalking laws.

Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, said she set up folding chairs and camped out near the House chamber over the weekend to be first in line to file a batch of bills that include a voter ID measure and Arizona-style legislation that would allow local law enforcement officers to arrest illegal immigrants.

The bill that passed in Arizona drew widespread criticism from Hispanic groups -- as well as a legal attack from the Obama administration -- amid concerns that it would result in ethnic profiling. Perry, who was overwhelmingly re-elected last week, has said that an Arizona-style measure would not be a good fit for Texas, but polls have shown the proposal has strong public support.

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