87th LegislatureState HouseState SenateTexas Lawmakers Conclude Third Special Session of the 87th Legislature

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan signaled the third special session could be the last one of the 87th legislature.
October 19, 2021
With the rap of Speaker Dade Phelan’s gavel and holiday wishes from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Texas legislature concluded its third called session just after midnight on Tuesday.

The Texas House adjourned sine die — a Latin phrase that means “without day” — upon a motion by Rep. James White (R-Hillister). On the other side of the capitol, Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) made a similar motion to end the Texas Senate’s proceedings.

Governor Greg Abbott called the session after several of his priorities remained unfinished during an abbreviated second special session. Lawmakers did not begin work until about halfway through the second called session in August due to a quorum break by Democrats over the Election Integrity Protection Act.

The legislature passed new maps for congressional and state legislative districts and passed more restrictions on dog restraints that are intended to prevent animal abuse.

The Republican majority also passed House Bill (HB) 25, a bill requiring student-athletes to compete according to biological sex. In a speech before the House gave final approval to the measure, Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) called it a “mean-spirited bill” and urged lawmakers to take their last opportunity to kill the proposal.

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“There have been no cases in Texas of a UIL student missing an opportunity to participate because of a transgender student participating in the same sport. That hasn’t happened, so we know there is no real problem we’re addressing,” Zweiner said. “And we also know that this bill is causing real harm right now.”

Proponents of the bill, including bill author Rep. Valoree Swanson (R-Spring), contend it is necessary to preserve fairness for female student athletes. HB 25 passed third reading by a vote of 76 to 61 on Sunday afternoon.

Notably, the third called session comes to a close without action on reversing the downgrade of the criminal penalty for illegal voting. Texas lawmakers also did not act to prohibit vaccine mandates by governmental or private entities.

Rep. Brian Harrison (R-Waxahachie) introduced House Bill (HB) 168, which would have done just that. Dozens of lawmakers signed on to the bill, but it was referred to the Texas House State Affairs Committee and not acted upon.

From the speaker’s dais, Phelan signaled that this could be the last special session.

“For some of you, this marks the end of your experience in the Texas legislature, and for some of you this is the beginning of your experience in the Texas legislature,” Phelan remarked. “I want to thank each of you for your hard work and your dedication and commitment to the Texas House.”

The speaker suggested that the chamber would be back to work “when bill filing starts in 13 months.”

In the Senate, after Whitmire moved to adjourn sine die, Patrick handed off the gavel to Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) who concluded the Senate session by saying, “Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!”

Unless Abbott calls a fourth special session, the Texas legislature will gavel back in for the 88th legislature’s regular session in January 2023.


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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."