Since the Texas Legislature meets for only 140 days every two years (though an old joke suggests it should convene for two days every 140 years), its leaders hand out homework to keep lawmakers busy between sessions. Known as "interim charges," these study topics help lawmakers prepare for debating the complex and important issues facing our state. This year, though he's been busy running for the U.S. Senate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst drew up a lengthy list of issues meriting special attention by interim committees.

How do we make sure Texas, with its booming population, doesn't run out of water? How do we pay for highways, or ensure the reliability of our electric utility grid? What do we do about rising homeowners' insurance rates, or the increasing phenomenon of prescription drug abuse?

How does Sharia law - the legal and moral foundation of Islam - impact Texas family courts?

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