Around the Texas Capitol: Redistricting to take center stage in third special session

Around the Texas Capitol: Redistricting to take center stage in third special session

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Around the Texas Capitol:
Redistricting to take center stage in third special session

By Lauren Fairbanks, Shayne Woodard and J Pete Laney
TAD Governmental Affairs

The Texas Legislature’s second called special session has wrapped up and lawmakers have headed home, but not for long – they’ll be returning to Austin on Monday, Sept. 20.

During the second special session, the Legislature passed 19 bills and resolutions that addressed most of Gov. Greg Abbott’s agenda items, including funding for the legislative branch (originally vetoed by the governor during the regular legislative session), social media censorship, bail reform, election reform and additional funding for border security.

However, a couple of Abbott’s priorities remain and will be added to the to-do list for the third special session, which will convene at 10 a.m. on Sept. 20. The five items on the agenda will include:

  • REDISTRICTING. Legislation relating to the apportionment of the State of Texas into districts used to elect members of the Texas House of Representatives, the Texas Senate, the State Board of Education and the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • FEDERAL COVID RELIEF DOLLARS. Legislation providing appropriations from the $16 billion Texas received from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
  • TRANSGENDER 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.
  • VACCINE MANDATES. Legislation regarding whether any state or local governmental entities in Texas can mandate that an individual receive a COVID-19 vaccine and, if so, what exemptions should apply to such mandate.
  • RESTRAINT OF DOG. Legislation similar to Senate Bill 474 as passed by the 87th Legislature, regular session, but that addresses the concerns expressed in the governor’s veto statement.

Many of these items are not likely to directly impact the Texas dairy industry; however, redistricting will be worth paying attention to, given the high impact on the state’s rural areas. On Aug. 12, the U.S. Census Bureau released detailed demographics that the state will use in the once-every-10 years redrawing of state House and Senate and U.S. congressional districts. Overall, the Texas population grew by 16% from 2010 to 2020, picking up two additional U.S. House districts. Texas gained more residents than any other state since the last census in 2010. Of the 14 cities that grew by more than 100,000 people over the past decade, five are in Texas including Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.

While the state overall experienced rapid growth, that growth largely missed rural parts of the state, where the population remained stagnant and even shrunk in some places. This loss of population to urban and suburban areas could mean the loss of more rural representation when maps are redrawn. Portions of those suburbs might need to be carved out of their current district and placed in rural districts in order to create districts with equal populations. When the dust settles on new maps, there will likely be a shuffle ahead of the election cycle. We will keep you informed as this continues to unfold.


Attorney General

Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) announced that he would challenge AG Ken Paxton in the Republican primary. This marks the third primary challenger to Paxton. Land Commissioner George P. Bush and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman have both already announced their candidacy. Krause is the founding member of the House Freedom Caucus — made up of the chamber’s most conservative lawmakers — and has been an ally of Paxton in the past. But he pointed to Paxton’s looming legal troubles as his reason for running. He hopes to bring the same ideology as Paxton to the office, if elected. The Democratic side of the race has drawn at least two candidates: Joe Jaworski, a Galveston lawyer and former mayor of the city, and Lee Merritt, a nationally recognized civil rights attorney. 

Texas House District 10 Special Election 

A runoff on Sept. 28 will be needed to fill the Texas House District 10 seat recently vacated by now-Congressman Jake Ellzey. In the Aug. 31 special election, the eight-person ballot was narrowed to Republican John Wray, who held the seat before Ellzey until he decided not to seek reelection in 2020, and Republican Brian Harrison, a former Health and Human Services official in the Trump administration who finished fourth in the May special election for Congressional District 6. HD 10 has been a Republican-held seat covering largely rural areas south and southeast of Dallas.

 Texas House District 118 Special Election

Abbott announced Tuesday, Sept. 28, as the special election date for the Texas House District 118 seat recently vacated by Rep. Leo Pacheco. Early voting starts Sept. 20. On the ballot are three Democrats and two Republicans:

  • Democrat Katie Farias, a member of the Southside Independent School District Board of Managers
  • Republican John Lujan, former HD-118 representative
  • Democrat Desi Martinez, a prominent trial attorney
  • Democrat Frank Ramirez, former zoning and planning director for the city of San Antonio
  • Republican Adam Salyer, the 2020 GOP nominee for the seat

HD 118 includes part of the city of San Antonio and areas south and east of the city.


August 16. Abbott appointed three people to the Governor’s Broadband Development Council for terms set to expire Aug. 31, 2026:

  • Bill Hetherington of Boerne, CEO of the Bandera Electric Cooperative
  • Akbar Kara of Plano, president and CEO of LEARN: Lonestar Education and Research Network
  • Hatch Smith Jr. of Llano, CEO and administrator of MidCoast Medical Center-Central.

August 17. Abbott appointed Kathleen Jackson of Beaumont to the Environmental Flows Advisory Group for a term at the pleasure of the governor. Jackson is a member of the Texas Water Development Board, where she has served since 2014. She is a registered professional engineer and is a member and past chairman of the Southeast Texas section of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. She is a member of the Texas Farm Bureau. Additionally, she is a past member of the Lower Neches Valley Authority Board of Directors and the Texas Water Conservation Association, and has participated on the Sabine and Neches Rivers Bay and Estuary Environmental Flows Assessment Program Stakeholders Committee.

August 24. Abbott is surging the Texas National Guard to better secure the border. The Guard is now authorized to enforce Texas law, including arresting people who have crossed the border illegally and violated Texas law. They are working with the Texas Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement to increase border security. In addition to performing a law enforcement function, the Texas National Guard also is helping with the early stages of constructing border barriers and a border wall.

September 7. Abbott reappointed Jon Niermann to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for a term set to expire Aug. 31, 2027. Niermann of Austin was first appointed to TCEQ in September 2015 and has served as chairman since September 2018. Previously, he served as chief of the Environmental Protection Division in the Texas Attorney General’s Office, and as an attorney at Baker Botts, L.L.P. Niermann received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master of Business Administration and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Oregon.

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