One week into the second called special legislative session, the Texas Senate has passed almost everything on Gov. Greg Abbott’s special session agenda—again.
In what seems like a replay of the first called special session, the Senate has retained a quorum, allowing them to quickly get to work, while the House of Representatives has been left paralyzed, lacking enough lawmakers to do much of anything at all.
What Has the Senate Passed?
Thus far, the Senate has considered and passed the omnibus election integrity and bail reform bills, issues that were emergency legislative items of Abbott’s in the regular legislative session and had their legislative prospects cut short due to a quorum break enabled by House Republican leadership at the end of May.
“After 24 hours straight on the Senate floor, including a 15-hour filibuster, I am very proud that the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 1 today. This is the fourth time we have passed this bill out of the Senate. SB 1 is about ensuring that every Texan trusts the outcome of every election in Texas. It increases transparency and ensures the voting rules are the same in every county across the state. It will require that signatures on mail-in ballots are verified so we know that ballots cast by mail belong to the people they say they belong to.” said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. He continued, “Final passage of SB 1 into law will require the House Democrats who have fled the state to return to the House for a quorum. If they do not, this bill will die, but the Senate will pass SB 1 over and over again until the House finally has a quorum.”
The Senate has also already considered bills relating to virtual education, social media censorship, family violence prevention, youth sports and ensuring children play sports associated with their biological sex at birth, a prohibition on abortion-inducing drugs via the mail, a so-called “13th check” for beneficiaries under the Teachers Retirement System of Texas, improvements to the supposed ban on critical race theory passed during the regular legislative session, various property tax bills purporting to provide relief to Texans facing ever-increasing tax burdens, a delay in primary elections and candidate filing periods resulting from a postponed redistricting process and receipt of census data, and a statewide pre-emption of a patchwork of local government regulation on business employment practices.
After concluding legislative business this week, they have recessed until Monday, August 16.
What is Left to Consider?
There are only a handful of bills still left to consider on Abbott’s agenda in the Senate. These include bills related to border security and potentially enhancing criminal laws or appropriating additional money to support law enforcement agencies as a part of the ongoing border security plan. It includes legislation reforming laws governing radioactive waste. It also includes the restoration of funding for Article X, or for the Legislature, as a part of the overall budget for the next biennium, something Abbott himself vetoed in the wake of his priorities dying at the end of the regular session.
It includes deciding where to appropriate $10.5 billion of federal relief dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, as well as appropriating money for enhanced protections for children in the Texas foster care system and money for better safeguards from potential cybersecurity threats in the state.
Notably, it also includes a proposed constitutional amendment relating to changing what constitutes a legislative quorum. The Senate had an initial vote on this legislation on Wednesday, but it still awaits final consideration pending the necessary votes.
Where is the House of Representatives by Comparison?
Paralyzed. The Texas House of Representatives has lacked a quorum, or the attendance necessary to conduct legislative business, for 31 days. Due to this paralysis, they cannot refer bills that have been filed to committees, let alone hold committee hearings on bills.
The House, after many days of doing virtually nothing to compel absent Democrat lawmakers to return, finally issued arrest warrants for them on Tuesday. Thus far, there have been no reports of those absent lawmakers actually having been arrested and brought back to the Texas Capitol.