Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has announced a second special legislative session. Its opening salvo will be August 7.
The current special session pretty much died when House Democrats fled the state to deny a quorum, preventing votes on bills they opposed. Most of them went to Washington with no masks and non-Texas beer in tow. There they testified (poorly) before Congress and spread COVID. Others reportedly jetted off to Portugal.
The agenda for Special Session Part Two looks a lot like the agenda for the previous one. It covers several items Democrats would like to avoid discussing and voting on if they can, but also some — spending federal money — that they would surely like to vote on. Their choice to flee has slowed down COVID relief. See the third item.
The Democrats are also blocking money for teachers and property tax reform.
BAIL REFORM: Legislation reforming the bail system in Texas to protect the public from accused criminals who may be released on bail.
ELECTION INTEGRITY: Legislation strengthening the integrity of elections in Texas.
FEDERAL RELIEF APPROPRIATIONS: Legislation providing appropriations from unappropriated available revenues for COVID-19-related healthcare expenses, such as those listed below, taking into consideration the approximately $10.5 billion in funds received by local governments intended to be used on COVID-19 from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021(ARPA), Pub. L. No. 117-2:
- healthcare staffing needs, including physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals;
- establishing, staffing, and operating alternative care sites;
- supporting the operations of nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities;
- vaccine administration;
- testing sites;
- supplies and equipment, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators; and
- standing up and operating infusion centers.
EDUCATION: Legislation providing strategies for public-school education in prekindergarten through twelfth grade during the COVID-19 pandemic, which ensures:
- students receive a high-quality education and progress in their learning;
- in-person learning is available for any student whose parent wants it;
- the wearing of face coverings is not mandatory; and
- COVID-19 vaccinations are always voluntary.
BORDER SECURITY: Legislation enhancing criminal laws or providing funding from unappropriated available revenues to support law-enforcement agencies, counties, and other strategies as part of Texas’ comprehensive border security plan.
SOCIAL MEDIA CENSORSHIP: Legislation safeguarding the freedom of speech by protecting social-media and email users from being censored based on the user’s expressed viewpoints, including by providing a legal remedy for those wrongfully excluded from a platform.
ARTICLE X FUNDING: Legislation providing appropriations from unappropriated available revenues to the Legislature and legislative agencies in Article X of the General Appropriations Act.
FAMILY VIOLENCE PREVENTION: Legislation similar to Senate Bill 1109 from the 87th Legislature, Regular Session, requiring schools to provide appropriate education to middle- and high-school students about dating violence, domestic violence, and child abuse, but that recognizes the right of parents to opt their children out of the instruction.
YOUTH SPORTS: Legislation identical to Senate Bill 29 as passed by the Texas Senate in the 87th Legislature, Regular Session, disallowing a student from competing in University Interscholastic League athletic competitions designated for the sex opposite to the student’s sex at birth.
ABORTION-INDUCING DRUGS: Legislation similar to Senate Bill 394 from the 87th Legislature, Regular Session, which prohibits people from providing abortion-inducing drugs by mail or delivery service, strengthens the laws applicable to the reporting of abortions and abortion complications, and ensures that no abortion-inducing drugs arc provided unless there is voluntary and informed consent.
THIRTEENTH CHECK: Legislation similar to House Bill 3507 from the 87th Legislature, Regular Session, relating to a “thirteenth check” or one-time supplemental payment of benefits under the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.
CRITICAL RACE THEORY: Legislation similar to House Bill 3979 concerning critical race theory as originally passed by the Texas Senate in the 87th Legislature, Regular Session.
APPROPRIATIONS: Legislation providing appropriations from unappropriated available revenues for the following purposes:
- property-tax relief;
- enhanced protection for the safety of children in Texas’ foster-care system by attracting and retaining private providers for the system; and
- to better safeguard the state from potential cybersecurity threats.
PRIMARY ELECTIONS: Legislation modifying the filing periods and related election dates, including any runoffs, for primary elections held in Texas in 2022.
RADIOACTIVE WASTE: Legislation reforming the laws governing radioactive waste to protect the safety of Texans, including by further limiting the ability to store and transport high-level radioactive materials in this state.
EMPLOYMENT: Legislation shielding private employers and employees from political subdivision rules, regulations, ordinances, and other actions that require any terms of employment that exceed or conflict with federal or state law relating to any form of employment leave, hiring practices, employment benefits, or scheduling practices.
STATE LEGISLATURE: Legislation relating to legislative quorum requirements.
That last one is interesting.
Since the Democrats fled Texas to avoid the first session, they may do the same for the second, and Gov. Abbott will then call another special session. Rinse. Repeat. Special sessions are expensive but that seems to be of little concern to the Democrats.
The legislature will eventually have to deal with a contentious issue that it cannot avoid: redistricting. They’ll probably take that one to court no matter what the map lines end up looking like.