87th LegislatureState HouseState SenateGovernment Vaccine Mandates, Transgender Sports, Redistricting on Legislature’s Plate for Third Special Session

The Texas legislature will convene once again this week, tasked with completing a handful of items set by Gov. Abbott.
September 20, 2021
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The third time may be the charm for the legislature this year as members will convene today for another 30-day session with hopes of actually finishing without any quorum-related problems.

There are five items on the agenda:

  • Redistricting
  • Disbursement of $16 billion in federal coronavirus aid
  • Requirements that youth athletes compete within their biological sex
  • Curtailment of vaccine mandates by state and local government entities
  • Establishment of a criminal penalty for the unlawful restraint of a dog

The most important item on the agenda is redistricting, which is a constitutional requirement but was delayed because of the 2020 Census backlog. Now that the data is in, the maps can be drawn. On the federal side, Texas posted the biggest gain, slated to add two congressional districts.

But no matter which maps are drawn, litigation is sure to follow. In fact, a preemptive lawsuit has already been filed by two Texas Senate Democrats arguing the legislature cannot redraw lines until the 2023 regular session.

The other general housekeeping measure is the allocation of federal coronavirus aid. Only one clear expenditure has emerged so far: replenishment of the unemployment insurance fund.

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At most, replenishing the fund and paying off the related loans taken on by the state would cost about $7 billion. That leaves a substantial amount left with which to play. A property tax buydown has been floated and has the backing of both the lieutenant governor and speaker of the House. But other possibilities are up in the air.

Likely to receive the most partisan pushback is the transgender sports bill, setting a requirement that males and females compete separately in youth sports based on their biological sex.

That bill has already perished twice this year — once during the regular session at a key deadline and again during the second special session when House Public Education Chair Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) declined to advance it out of the committee.

A prohibition on vaccine mandates by local governments may also face some pushback, but it’s unclear what shape such legislation will take. Regardless, a carte blanche ban is not on the table as the item excludes such mandates by private businesses. Florida enacted such a prohibition earlier this year, but Texas leaders’ focus has been on political subdivisions issuing those mandates.

And lastly, the dog tethering bill passed during the regular session but was vetoed by Abbott. In his veto statement, Abbott expressed concern over the specificity of the bill. “[The bill] would compel every dog owner,” Abbott said, “on pain of criminal penalties, to monitor things like the tailoring of the dog’s collar, the time the dog spends in the bed of a truck, and the ratio of tether-to-dog length, as measured from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail.”

“Texas is no place for this kind of micro-managing and over-criminalization.”

The third called special session begins today and the legislature has 30 days to complete the business before it.

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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.