This week marks a key pivot point in the 87th Legislative Session. On Friday, March 12, legislators will no longer be able to file bills to be considered in the overall legislative process. That date also marks the 60th day of the 140-day legislative session. 

Up until this point, the only bills that could be considered by the Legislature were items deemed emergencies by the governor.

Governor Abbott’s “Emergency” Priorities

On February 1, Gov. Greg Abbott announced his “emergency” priorities for the Legislature to consider. He later added priorities to that list as a result of the severe winter weather in mid-February. Those priorities, their statuses, and the seemingly different approach each chamber has taken to address them follow:

  • Priority 1: Expanding Rural Broadband Access
    • Senate Bill 5: Filed and referred to Senate Transportation Committee
    • House Bill 5: Filed and referred to House State Affairs Committee

 

  • Priority 2: Prevent Local Defunding of Police
    • Senate Bill 23: Not filed as of yet
    • No House bill filed as of yet

 

  • Priority 3: Bail Reform
    • Senate Bill 21: Filed and referred to Senate Jurisprudence Committee
    • No House bill filed as of yet

 

  • Priority 4: Election Integrity
    • Senate Bill 7: Not filed as of yet
    • House Bill 6: Not filed as of yet

 

  • Priority 5: Liability Protection for COVID-Related Lawsuits
    • Senate Bill 6: Not filed as of yet
    • Included as a portion of House Bill 3

 

  • Priority 6: ERCOT Reform
    • Senate Bill 2: Not filed as of yet
    • House Bill 10: Filed and referred to House State Affairs Committee

 

  • Priority 7: Mandate Winterization of Generators in Power System & Allocate Funding
    • Senate Bill 3: Not filed as of yet
    • House Bill 11: Filed and referred to House State Affairs Committee
    • Senate Bill 1 – Overall State Budget: Filed in Senate and heard various times in Senate Finance Committee

 

We are just days away from the bill filing deadline, and there are still emergency items that have yet to be filed or take the actual form of a bill. For the bills that have been filed, no committee has taken any of them up in a hearing even though they have had the ability to do so since early February.

Nothing requires the Legislature to consider these “emergency” priorities, and they choose to do so at their own discretion. Not bringing them up in consideration or front-loading them to be drafted and filed potentially speaks to how the remainder of the legislative session’s time will be used.

Undoubtedly, the priorities’ potential consideration will bleed into the final 80 days of the legislative session and consume political oxygen that could have been used for other legislative priorities.