87th LegislatureState HouseState SenateTexas Legislature Adjourns Three Days Early With a Few of Abbott’s Agenda Items Left on the Table

The break for legislators is likely to be brief after a few of Governor Abbott's priorities failed to reach his desk before the chambers adjourned.
September 2, 2021
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Both chambers of the Texas legislature adjourned Thursday night, three days before the 30-day clock was set to expire on the second special session.

Of the 19 items Governor Greg Abbott identified for the August special session, the legislature delivered in some capacity on 15 of them.

The items that were sent to the governor include:

  • Bail reform
  • Election reform
  • $1.8 billion in border security funding
  • Social media censorship
  • Article X legislative funding
  • Family violence protection
  • Restriction on abortion-inducing drugs
  • Supplemental payment to the Teachers Retirement System
  • More comprehensive critical race theory ban
  • Property tax reform
  • Foster care system appropriation
  • Cybersecurity appropriations
  • COVID-19 response in schools
  • Primary election date modifications
  • Prohibition on high-level radioactive waste storage and transportation

Those that failed to pass through the process are:

  • State employment regulations to preempt local ordinances
  • Requirement for student-athletes to compete within their own biological sex
  • Legislative quorum requirements
  • Appropriations from COVID-19 federal relief funds

An additional item that was added in late August, a prohibition on vaccine mandates by political subdivisions, also did not pass.

The Texan Tumbler

In adjourning before the Labor Day weekend, House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) said “there’s some unfinished business,” indicating the members will return soon to Austin.

“During this special session, the Texas Legislature passed landmark legislation, including providing needed income to our retired teachers, improving our foster care system, creating uniformity in our state’s election code, attacking the scourge of human trafficking by securing our border, and reforming our bail system to keep our streets safe,” Phelan added in a statement.

“As we finish this week,” Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said after adjourning the upper chamber, “I am very proud to say that the Texas Senate completed one of the greatest weeks for Republican legislation in Texas, and perhaps, American history.”

“Tonight, we set the foundation for conservative, common sense policy.”

The biggest items passed during this truncated special session are the long sought-after election and bail reform bills. The former was the reason Texas Democrats jettisoned off to the nation’s capital and kept up a near-40-day expatriation to break quorum.

After that spell ended and the quorum was restored, the Texas House began to move quickly through the legislation the Senate had already queued up for them.

The election reform bill was prioritized and moved swiftly through the process followed by more uncontroversial proposals such as the slate of property tax reforms.

Others include a restriction on the accessibility of abortion-inducing drugs, a roadmap for full-time virtual learning in schools, repercussions for social media companies that censor heterodox viewpoints, and restoration of the legislature’s 2022-2023 biennium funding.

The lattermost was vetoed by Abbott after the initial Democratic walkout on the final night of the regular session in May. But the funding has been approved only two days into the Legislative Budget Board’s month-long extension of funding that began on Wednesday.

As Phelan alluded to, this is sure not to be the last special session of 2021. The legislature was already slated for a fall special session to tackle redistricting — which is already off with a bang as Democratic senators have preemptively sued Republicans, arguing redrawing of districts by the legislature cannot occur until 2023.

But with the failures of the “Save Women’s Sports Bill” and the restrictions on local government employment ordinances, Abbott will likely add those two to the call in addition to redistricting. Additionally, the State of Texas must appropriate $16 billion in federal coronavirus aid.

And since the legislature has adjourned early, House members will have to restart the process for levying punishments on their colleagues who participated in the quorum break. Two proposals were advanced but neither gained much steam and are now entirely null and void after the adjournment.

Labor Day weekend is likely to be a short respite for members and Abbott is expected to issue the call for the third special session shortly. But now with election reform in the rearview mirror, the third special is likely to feature a return to hashing out legislative differences within the chambers rather than on national television thousands of miles apart.

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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.