BLOG: HOUSE KICKS OFF SPECIAL SESSION WITH WEEKEND HEARINGS
The first Special Session of the 87th Texas Legislature convened on Thursday, July 8th, with little fanfare on the opening day of the 30-day session. Speaker Dade Phelan convened a quorum at 10 a.m. before referring dozens of filed bills to committees.
In Texas, the governor may call the legislature back to Austin for a Special Session lasting no more than 30 days. Once the 30 days expires, the governor may call another special session.
On Wednesday, Governor Greg Abbott announced 11 agenda items for the special session, two of which were listed as emergency items in the 140-day Regular Session that ended on Memorial Day. Both Election Integrity and Bail Reform bills have been filed, referred to the House's Select Committee on Constitutional Rights & Remedies, and scheduled for a 10 a.m. hearing on Saturday, July 10th.
The committee is focusing on those two key issues in the hearing: bail reform and election integrity. The latter has been expected ever since House Democrats walked off the job and broke quorum on the final deadline night for the 87th Regular Session. The former was also a casualty in the maneuver that drew rebuke from House colleagues and the governor.
In addition to House Bill 2 (by Rep. Reggie Smith) and House Bill 3 (by Rep. Andrew Murr), the committee will hear House Concurrent Resolution 1 by Rep. Kyle Kacal, proposing an additional constitutional amendment that would restrict judges to setting "the least restrictive conditions of bail that may be necessary and authorizing the denial of bail under some circumstances to a person accused of a violent or sexual offense or of continuous trafficking of persons."
On Friday, the House Committee on Pensions, Investments & Financial Services held a formal hearing and passed House Bill 85 by freshman Rep. Glenn Rogers. HB 85 seeks to provide a 13th check for retired teachers, similar to the one provided by the 86th Legislature as part of its overhaul of the Teacher Retirement System. That bill will head to the Calendars committee to be set for a debate on the House Floor.
A total of 223 bills have been filed as of Friday, though only those that are covered by the call items outlined by the Governor will be considered through the full legislative process. For those who missed it, here is the full list of items covered by the Governor's proclamation:
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.
BORDER SECURITY: Legislation providing funding 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 users from being censored by social-media companies 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 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 are 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 additional available general revenue for the following purposes:
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.