The 3rd special session is scheduled to end tomorrow. There are still many items yet to be resolved, but lawmakers are getting close, and will seemingly get several items completed before the midnight deadline tomorrow night. Here is an update on where the major issues under serious consideration stand at this time:
Redistricting – The main purpose of the session has also produced the most legislative success. New districts for the state House and state Senate have already been sent to the Governor for his signature. Abbott is expected to sign the new plans into law this week, and then the court battles will begin. Late last night, a House/Senate Conference Committee reached an agreement on the plan for new Congressional districts, and that new plan will be adopted by both Houses either tonight or tomorrow. All three plans protect the Republican majority, even increasing the potential majorities by slim numbers.
COVID Federal Relief Funds – Senate Bill 8 became the vehicle for the appropriation of nearly $16 billion in federal relief funds, spent mainly for health care and other pandemic related purposes. That bill is currently in conference committee with few differences to work out prior to the conclusion of the session tomorrow.
Restraint of Dogs – Believe it or not, the House and Senate have not yet come to an agreement on the proper method of restraining dogs in an outdoor setting. The main point of dispute is how methods in rural areas can be more acceptable than those in more urban settings. The bill will go to conference to try and work out the last minute details.
Property Tax Relief – Senate Bill 1 was filed to make use of the federal COVID relief dollars by creating a permanent tax cut for property taxes in the state. After passing the Senate, the House took a different approach by not calling for a tax cut, but instead passing their version that will send one time stimulus checks to homeowners to help with property tax bills. The bill is in conference committee.
Transgender Athletes – Both the House and Senate have finally passed House Bill 25, which requires any high school athlete in the state to compete on the sports team corresponding with their gender at birth. Gov. Abbott is expected to sign the bill this week.
Additional Revenue for Universities – A late addition to the call of the special session, both Houses have passed a version of a bill to add nearly $3 billion to help universities with existing and future capital projects. The bill is in conference committee, with both sides trying to work out an agreement on the list of approved projects before tomorrow’s deadline.
Ban on Vaccine Mandates – Just added to the call last week, both Houses filed bills that would ban an entity in the state – including private business – from mandating vaccines for their employers or patrons. The proposal was met with swift and extreme opposition from the business community, as well as the health care community. The Senate passed a bill out of committee but has not considered the proposal on the Senate floor. The House heard a similar proposal in committee, but has not yet approved the bill at the committee level due to lack of support among the committee members.
The Senate is currently in session, the House will convene at 4PM today.