The first called special legislative session began on Thursday, July 8. Almost as soon as lawmakers began working on legislative items related to Gov. Greg Abbott’s agenda, some Democrat lawmakers decided to bust quorum, leaving the state and throwing the prospects for bills and the overall session into a state of chaos.
Though some Senate Democrat lawmakers joined their colleagues in Washington, D.C., enough remained behind to maintain quorum, allowing the Senate to continue deliberating legislation as usual. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives does not have enough collective attendance to maintain a quorum, precluding them from considering bills as a body or in committee.
The upper chamber has generally been quick to consider many of the bills on Abbott’s agenda, including policy areas that have proven to be more controversial in the past.
What Bills Have Been Considered Thus Far?
Almost one week into the special session, the Senate has passed out bills related to seven of the 11 items on the special session agenda. These include bills related to election integrity, bail reform, social media censorship, youth sports, a “13th check” for beneficiaries of the Teacher’s Retirement System of Texas, family violence, and property tax bills purporting to provide property tax relief by allowing homeowners to qualify for the homestead tax exemption the same year the home is acquired, as well as tax reductions for elderly or disabled individuals.
Two of those items, election integrity and bail reform, were related to emergency legislative items announced by Abbott back in February, and they ultimately failed at the end of the regular legislative session due to House Democrat lawmakers walking out and breaking quorum right before an impending deadline.
The Senate is set to consider an additional agenda item in the near future. Senate committees have already passed out a bill seeking to restore funding to the Legislature, after Abbott employed his line-item veto power to rid the next biennium’s budget of appropriations for the Legislature, certain agencies, and legislative staff.
What Agenda Items Remain in the Senate?
The Senate has not taken up and considered bills related to border security, abortion-inducing drugs, improvements to the ban on critical race theory instruction, or appropriations for enhancing protections for children in the foster care system as well as potential cybersecurity threats.
What Does This Mean for the Remainder of the Special Session?
There are a little more than three weeks left in the 30-day special legislative session. Thus far, the overall House of Representatives has not considered any bills, as they are precluded from doing so due to a lack of quorum. Before lawmakers left, some agenda items were making their way through the committee process, including the House versions of the election integrity, bail reform, restoring funding for the Legislature, and a “13th check.”
The Democrat lawmakers who left have pledged to stay away for the entirety of the days remaining. If true, this ends all legislative prospects for any of the bills the Senate passes until Abbott calls a future special session, which he has promised to do until the missing lawmakers return home to conduct business.