What's Coming Up in the 2021 Texas Legislature
The Texas legislature began its 87th session on January 12th. In the Texas Senate where 18 votes are required to bring legislation to the floor, Republicans hold an 18-13 majority. In the Texas House where 75 votes are required to pass legislation, Republicans hold an 82-67 majority with one additional open seat likely to be filled by either Republican David Spiller or Republican Craig Carter in a Feb 23 runoff.
The Republicans’ hold of law passing majorities in both chambers is especially significant because this year lawmakers will take on the task of redistricting the state’s senate and house district maps, an important process that only happens every ten years. Lawmakers will have to do this in a special summer session after the end of the regular session because they are not expected to receive full US Census results until July. This should allow them to focus on other matters at hand before the regular session ends May 31.
In his State of the State Address, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott designated five emergency items that lawmakers can vote on within the first 60 days of session. They included:
- expanding broadband access
- preventing cities from defunding police
- election integrity
- civil liability protections for individuals, businesses and healthcare providers that operated safely during the pandemic
- the Damon Allen Act, bail reform to “protect law enforcement and enhance public safety”
Governor Abbott also called for lawmakers to act on additional issues in the coming months, including:
- funding public education as “promised”
- focusing on mental health challenges Texans face
- improving law enforcement tools and training
- fortifying efforts to secure the border and crack down on human trafficking and drug smuggling
- protecting Texans’ rights to worship
- making Texas a “Second Amendment Sanctuary State”
- pro-life legislation, including that no child should be targeted for abortion on the basis of race, sex, or disability
There is also talk of legislation to inhibit social media companies like Facebook and Twitter from discriminatory censoring based on political viewpoint or religion. Texas Representative Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) will be introducing a bill to try and give Texans who are being wrongfully censored a way to fight back.
“What we would like to do is to give any Texan who's being discriminated against the option to bring an action. We think that will get Facebook's attention, get Twitter's attention, and cause them to start treating Texans fairly,” said Hughes.
On immigration, some conservative leaders are calling for the creation of a method for unauthorized immigrants in Texas to earn conditional drivers permits so that they can purchase legitimate automobile insurance and utilize reliable transportation, which would help protect all Texas drivers.
In the wake of the economic impacts resulting from COVID-19, lawmakers will also be looking for ways to increase state tax revenues and remain budget neutral while adequately funding public education, all without raising property taxes. Two areas of legislation to increase state revenues that lawmakers may consider are the further legalization and taxation of gambling and cannabis.