87th LegislatureState HouseState SenateA Week Remains in Texas Republicans’ Quest to Deliver on Governor Abbott’s Priority Items

This year's second special session expires on Sunday and the legislature is hoping to push the governor's agenda items across the finish line.
August 30, 2021
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Time marches on and the sun sets on all things, and as such the 87th Legislature’s second special session dusk approaches. Nineteen items were placed on the agenda by Governor Greg Abbott and as it stands, only two have passed both chambers with one week remaining.

Those two items are the election bill and the slate property tax reforms — the former of which must be reconciled in a conference committee made up of members of both chambers before it can move to the governor’s desk.

The election reform bill passed the House on final reading last Friday, but author Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) objected to one of the 17 amendments approved by the House. That amendment, offered by the lower chamber’s election bill author during the regular session, Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park), would make minor changes.

With the objection, a conference committee was appointed to decide on that amendment’s fate in the final version of the bill. As of Monday, the conference committee report has been approved, but no bill text has yet been uploaded to the legislature’s website.

The slate of property tax bills, which passed the Senate during the first special session but stalled due to the House Democrats’ near-40-day quorum break, would apply the 2019 property tax compression to disabled and elderly homeowners and allow homeowners to access the annual homestead exemption in the first calendar year during which their home was purchased.

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Most other items have been moved through the Senate entirely, but seven still await the final approval. Those are:

  • ARPA funding appropriation
  • Border security funding
  • Legislature appropriations restoration
  • Foster care funding enhancement
  • Cybersecurity allocation
  • Radioactive waste disposal
  • Additional legislative quorum requirements

The House, meanwhile, is awaiting final approval on 13 items: 

  • Bail reform
  • Virtual learning program in schools
  • Border security funding
  • Social media censorship
  • Legislature appropriation restoration
  • Family violence prevention appropriations
  • Youth sports requirement that athletes participate within their biological sex
  • Abortion-inducing drugs restriction
  • 13th check for retired teachers
  • Critical Race Theory education restriction
  • 2022 Primary date adjustment
  • Local government employment regulation restrictions
  • Additional legislative quorum requirements

Two bills pertaining to a late addition to the special session roll — the prohibition of vaccination mandates by governmental entities — have not made much progress yet.

Both chambers are keen on restoring the legislative funding that Abbott vetoed in retaliation for the House’s initial quorum break during the regular session. The Texas Supreme Court denied Democrats’ request to usurp Abbot and restore the funding itself and the governor has said its approval is contingent upon the election and bail reform bills’ passage.

As a half-measure after the expiration of the July special session, the Legislative Budget Board unilaterally extended the funding through September. The line item was set to expire on September 1 at the start of the fiscal year.

Governor Abbott previously indicated, after the regular session’s premature end, the must-pass items are election and bail reform. But if any of his items fail to pass before the session expires on Sunday, the governor has the option to call another special session.

There’s a lot for the legislature to squeeze through in the final week, but after the Democrats ended their out-of-state expatriation there is a straight shot to the finish line.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.