87th LegislatureState HouseState SenateSenate Priority Bills, From ERCOT Reform to Hotel Carry, Inch Toward Passage as Deadline Nears

Fourteen of the lieutenant governor’s priority bills have received House committee approval, but are still awaiting a vote before the entire lower chamber.
May 19, 2021
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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced a list of 31 priority bills in February that he wanted to see lawmakers pass during the 87th Legislature.

As the legislative session nears its end, a deadline is just around the corner for lawmakers in the House to pass Senate bills.

If the House does not give initial approval to a Senate bill before Tuesday, May 25, it is effectively dead. And in order to be brought before the chamber, those bills realistically need to be approved by a committee by Saturday, May 22.

Nearly all of Patrick’s top bills have received committee approval, and several have already been approved by the entire chamber.

Senate Bill (SB) 1, the biennial budget that the legislature is obligated to pass every session, was approved by the lower chamber in April with a plethora of amendments and is now in a conference committee where members from each chamber are working out the differences on the bill.

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A final version, known as the “conference committee report,” will need to be approved by both chambers before Sunday, May 30.

Two other priority Senate bills have been sent to conference: SB 7, the omnibus election integrity bill, and SB 13, a bill to prohibit taxpayer funding of businesses that boycott energy companies.

The House has also approved SB 8 to ban abortions after a heartbeat can be detected, which was signed by the governor on Wednesday, and SB 19, which would prohibit government contracts with businesses that discriminate against firearm companies or organizations.

On Wednesday, the House gave initial approval of SB 22, a bill to ensure compensation and benefits for first responders who contracted COVID-19 by establishing a presumption that if they tested positive for the virus, they contracted it while performing their duties.

Fourteen of Patrick’s priority bills have received approval from the House committees they were referred to, but have yet to be voted on by the entire lower chamber:

  • SB 2, filed in response to the events of the Texas freeze in February, would reform the Public Utility Commission (PUC) — the governing body over the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) — including a requirement that members of the PUC be residents of Texas.
  • SB 3, also related to the freeze, contains broad reforms with respect to weather-related emergency management and power outages.
  • SB 4 would require professional sports teams that receive financial benefits from government entities in Texas to play the national anthem before each game.
  • SB 6 would create liability protections for businesses that operated during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been scheduled to be brought to the floor on Friday’s calendar. A similar policy is included in House Bill (3), the Texas Pandemic Response Act, which was approved by the House and is scheduled for a committee hearing in the Senate on Thursday.   
  • SB 10 aims to restrict taxpayer funded lobbying. While the House committee approved the measure, the bill that they sent to the Calendars Committee was drastically revised.
  • SB 12 seeks to curtail censorship from big tech platforms by allowing censored or deplatformed users to file lawsuits against the company.
  • SB 14 would tighten state code to provide stricter prohibitions on municipalities from adopting ordinances that require private businesses to provide employment benefits beyond federal and state requirements.
  • SB 15 would tighten privacy protections related to personal information contained in government motor vehicle records.
  • SB 20 would require hotels to allow guests to carry and store firearms in the rooms that are rented for their stays. A similar measure, HB 1856, was approved by the House and scheduled for a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee on Thursday.
  • SB 23 would require elections in large counties in order to approve measures to “defund the police.” HB 1900, a related bill which would allow the state to reprimand cities that enact such policies, was approved by the House and is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee on Thursday.
  • SB 24 would reform the protocols in place for hiring law enforcement officers by enhancing screening requirements to prevent “bad actors from bouncing from one law enforcement agency to another.” The bill has been placed on the House calendar for Friday.
  • SB 25 is the enabling legislation for Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 19, which together would protect the right of patients of long-term care facilities to designate an “essential caregiver” who is always permitted in-person visitation.
  • SB 29, which was moved forward by Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) in an act of retaliation toward other lawmakers that shot down another of his education bills, would require public school athletes to compete within their own biological sex.
  • SB 30 aims to remove discriminatory restrictions from real estate deeds.

While there has been committee movement on a number of the priority Senate bills, a handful have not been moved forward in the House but have identical or similar House bills that are now being considered in the Senate:

  • SB 5 was the Senate’s version of a rural broadband expansion plan, but the bill has been held up in the House State Affairs Committee since early April. HB 5 is the House version that was approved by both chambers, though with differing amendments, the bill is now in a conference committee.
  • SB 9 would ban abortions in Texas if Roe V. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court. Though it has not advanced in the House committee, its twin legislation, HB 1280 was scheduled for a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee on Thursday.
  • SB 17, a bill to reform civil liability laws related to the commercial trucking industry, saw no movement in the Senate. However, it’s identical bill in the House, HB 19, was approved by the upper chamber on Wednesday. The amended version must now be approved by the House.
  • SB 18 would prohibit firearms from being regulated under the Texas Disaster Act. The bill has been sitting in the House State Affairs Committee, but a companion bill, HB 1500, is scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee on Thursday.
  • SB 21, a bill reform bill, has been sitting in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee since late April, but a similar bill, HB 20 was approved by the lower chamber and has also already been approved by a Senate committee.
  • SB 26 aims to prohibit the closure of places of worship and has been in the House State Affairs Committee since early April. However, the identical HB 1239 was approved by the House and both chambers recently passed a constitutional amendment that would accomplish a similar goal if approved by voters.

Two redistricting bills — SB 11 for the court of appeals districts and SB 31 for the state Senate districts — are not expected to make any further progress thanks to delays in the release of population data from the Census Bureau.

SB 16, which would prohibit the dissemination of any personal data without an individual’s written consent, has seen no movement this session beyond its filing.

Similarly, little movement has been seen in the Senate on SB 27, a bill to create a framework for virtual education, since it was approved by the Senate Education Committee in late April.

Only one priority bill, SB 28, was approved by the Senate but shot down in a House committee.

Though the “Charter School Equity Act” had some bipartisan support, it was voted against in a 4 to 6 vote during a recent House Public Education Committee meeting.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.