On Thursday, the Texas House of Representatives is set to consider its first calendar of bills since the conclusion of the 87th regular legislative session in May.
Ever since July 13, the House has been barred from attending to legislative business due to a quorum bust by Democrats. Now, with only 12 days left in the second called special session and a tenuous quorum at best, there is a scramble to consider at least some of the bills on Gov. Greg Abbott’s special session agenda before the session’s forced conclusion.
Election Integrity, Property Tax Relief, & a Plan for Delayed Primary Elections
Perhaps the most notable bill on Thursday’s calendar is Senate Bill 1, the bill related to election integrity.
This bill is different from the omnibus election integrity bill considered during the 87th regular session, which served as the motivation for House Democrats to originally leave the chamber after being enabled by House Republican leadership to do so.
It is unclear whether it will serve as a reason for the same lawmakers to break quorum once again.
The posted calendar also includes three bills related to purported property tax relief over the next biennium. When they passed the Senate on August 9, they did so unanimously. One of those bills would allow for someone who acquires property to also qualify for the homestead exemption from property taxes within the first year of that acquisition. Another would put it to voters to compress tax rates for those over 65 or disabled.
Altogether, supporters of those bills believe they will provide some property tax relief over the next few years, although some critics believe it is nowhere near enough to lessen the ever-growing property tax burden on Texas taxpayers.
Lastly, the calendar includes Senate Bill 13. With the delayed decennial redistricting process looming, Abbott added the issue of delayed primary elections to his agenda.The bill, if passed, would create a plan to delay candidate filing periods, primary elections, and primary runoff elections dependent on if and when the Legislature finalizes the redistricting process. Largely uncontroversial, it has passed through the legislative process thus far with no opposition.
Though the House achieved a quorum (the attendance necessary to conduct legislative business) on Thursday last week, ending a 37-day paralysis, they have thus far done nothing publicly to ensure they retain it.
On Monday, two Republican House lawmakers endeavored to ask House Republican leadership questions about the process and what could be done to ensure the quorum does not break again. Their efforts were largely ignored.
These efforts came at the heels of a joint statement released by 32 House Democrat lawmakers reminding their colleagues that a quorum is in fact “not perpetual.”
Though enough Democrat lawmakers have returned to the Capitol, no lawmaker lost their chairmanships, vice chairmanships, committee membership, or seniority privileges as a result of participating in the quorum breaks.