Around the Texas Capitol: No rest for weary lawmakers in third special session

Around the Texas Capitol: No rest for weary lawmakers in third special session

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Note: Content below was posted on and current as of Oct. 13, 2021

Around the Texas Capitol: No rest for weary lawmakers in third special session

By Lauren Fairbanks, Shayne Woodard and J Pete LaneyTAD Governmental Affairs

The Texas Legislature’s third called special session gaveled in on Sept. 20 and will run for 30 days, with a planned Oct. 19 adjournment. In addition to the original five items on the call (redistricting, federal COVID relief dollars, transgender sports, vaccine mandates, restraint of dog), the Governor initially added three new items:

  • PROPERTY TAX. Legislation providing additional property-tax relief for Texans.
  • BAIL REFORM. Legislation proposing a constitutional amendment to further protect the safety of the community, law enforcement, and victims, from accused criminals who may be released on bail, including by giving magistrates the discretion to deny bail under some circumstances to people accused of certain violent, sexual, or trafficking offenses.
  • ILLEGAL VOTING. Legislation to increase the penalties for illegal voting will now be part of the deliberations. These penalties were reduced in Senate Bill 1 that passed in the second special session.

And, with just over a week to go in the special session, Abbott added one more agenda item: prohibiting vaccine mandates by employers, if those mandates did not include the ability for an employee to “opt out” of the vaccine for reasons of personal conscience, a religious belief, or for medical reasons. In addition to adding the item to the agenda, Abbott issued an executive order for the same.

The last time the Legislature had multiple special sessions was in 2013. Rick Perry was governor, and the Legislature was called back three times that year as well. The agenda was not as lengthy as those we have seen in the last four months, but there are certainly some similarities. In 2013, the Legislature was called back to address redistricting for court-ordered maps and, while they were at it, a handful of partisan measures also were passed.

We continue to monitor the proceedings of the third called session. Only a few days remain with a lot of work still ahead. Redistricting is still outstanding and is a must-pass, whether in this special session or another.

The Senate and House have been meeting regularly in the last few weeks to iron out changes to the current state Senate and House, U.S. Congressional and State Board of Education boundaries, to reflect a shift in the state’s population as outlined in the 2020 Census numbers.

The Texas Senate has approved plans for its own members’ districts, the State Board of Education and Congress. The Texas House has passed the bill on House lines, but has not taken action on any other maps. All maps must be approved by both chambers and then sent to Abbott.

A draft Senate map, awaiting consideration by the House, attempts to strengthen Republican majorities by protecting incumbents and creating more GOP-friendly districts, going from 22 to 25 districts that would have voted for Donald Trump in 2020. In one of the biggest changes, the current version redraws SD 10 represented by Sen. Beverly Powell (D-Burleson). That district now is contained in Tarrant County and voted for President Joe Biden during the 2020 general election. The proposed district would include parts of more conservative Parker and Johnson counties as well as other GOP-leaning surrounding areas in the state.

HB 1 by Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), as passed by the House, would increase Republican representation across the state. Under the current map, 76 districts went to former President Donald Trump during the 2020 general election while 74 went to President Joe Biden. In the new proposed map, 85 districts would have gone for Trump, while 65 would have gone for Biden.

The House map also pits several incumbents against one another. With map proposals quickly changing at this point in the special session, we’ll have the full rundown of these pairings when the maps are finalized.

Historically during a redistricting cycle, several retirement announcements are made, and that is proving to be the case again this cycle. See more in the Election Roundup (below).


Texas House District 10 special election runoff

On Oct. 12, Republican Brian Harrison was sworn in as the newest legislator representing House District 10, which covers largely rural areas south and southeast of Dallas. Harrison prevailed in a runoff to a special election, defeating John Wray, who had held the seat in previous years. Harrison, a former Health and Human Services official in the Trump administration, had finished fourth in the May special election for Congressional District 6 but first in the Aug. 31 election for HD 10, which went to a runoff on Sept. 28. The HD 10 seat was vacated by the election of now-Congressman Jake Ellzey.

Texas House District 118 special election

The Sept. 28 special election for HD 118, to fill the seat recently vacated by Rep. Leo Pacheco, who resigned to take a teaching position at San Antonio College, is headed to a runoff on Nov. 2. Emerging from the five-candidate field to faceoff in the runoff are Republican John Lujan and Democrat Frank Ramirez. The south San Antonio district is considered Democratic-friendly but is being targeted by Republicans. House Speaker Dade Phelan has endorsed Lujan in the race.

Lieutenant Governor

Democrat Matthew Dowd has announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor. Dowd was the chief strategist for George W. Bush’s presidential reelection campaign and worked for the late Bob Bullock, a former lieutenant governor, prior to that. He will face a primary challenger in Mike Collier, who came within 400,000 votes of unseating Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in the 2018 general election.

Texas Senate District 10

State Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) has announced he will run for SD 10, after the release of the newly redrawn, proposed district as part of the redistricting process. The current proposed new map would lean more Republican than its current swing status and would go from one that elected President Joe Biden by 8 points to one he would have lost by 15. The new boundaries also include Parker County, which is King’s home county. Shortly after his announcement, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick endorsed King. SD 10 is currently held by Sen. Beverly Powell (D-Burleson), who flipped the seat in 2018.

Texas Senate District 24

Former state Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton) has launched a bid for the newly drawn SD 24. Flores lost reelection last year in SD 19 to Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) after winning a 2018 special election upset in a historically Democratic district. In the current proposed map, SD 24 was redrawn to include Flores’ hometown and will be a more Republican-leaning district that went for President Donald Trump by 18 percentage points last year. The proposed SD 24 would be a friendlier district for Flores than SD 19, which President Joe Biden carried by 8 points. The proposed SD 24 is largely rural, jutting into Atascosa County to encompass almost all of Flores’ hometown of Pleasanton. It then curves north around the San Antonio area and farther up through the Hill Country and beyond Austin.

Flores has already received several big-name endorsements including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, U.S. Senator John Cornyn, former Gov. Rick Perry and current SD 24 incumbent, Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway), who is vacating the seat to run for land commissioner.

Retirement Announcements

Several House and Senate members have announced they will not seek reelection. We have included several of those announcements in past reports but wanted to include a complete list for your reference. New additions to the list are bolded.

  • Texas Senate
    • SD 12: Jane Nelson (not seeking reelection)
    • SD 24: Dawn Buckingham (Land Commissioner candidate)
  • Texas House
    • HD 9: Chris Paddie (not seeking reelection)
    • HD 13: Ben Leman (not seeking reelection)
    • HD 19: James White (Agriculture Commissioner candidate)
    • HD 38: Eddie Lucio, III (not seeing reelection)
    • HD 50: Celia Israel (exploratory, City of Austin mayor candidate)
    • HD 61: Phil King (SD 10 candidate)
    • HD 63: Tan Parker (SD 12 candidate)
    • HD 65: Michelle Beckley (CD 24 Congressional candidate)
    • HD 70: Scott Sanford (not seeking reelection)
    • HD 93: Matt Krause (Attorney General candidate)
    • HD 114: John Turner (not seeking reelection)
    • HD 122: Lyle Larson (not seeking reelection)
    • HD 133: Jim Murphy (not seeking reelection)


September 17. Comptroller Glenn Hegar issued his revenue estimate for the third called legislative session. He projected a 2023 ending balance of $6.04 billion and $12.08 billion in the Economic Stabilization Fund. As a result of better-than-expected revenue collections in the final months of fiscal 2021 and some appropriations authorized for fiscal 2021 not being fully expended by the end of the fiscal year, the fiscal 2021 ending balance of GR-R funds available for certification was $11.23 billion. Adding that ending balance to the current forecast of 2022-23 GR-R collections results in a projected $129.25 billion in total GR-R available for certification. After accounting for appropriations made through the 87th Legislature, second called session, the fiscal 2023 ending balance is projected to be $6.04 billion. Based on final fiscal 2021 severance tax collections, $1.46 billion each will be transferred to the State Highway and Economic Stabilization funds in fiscal 2022. Another projected $1.88 billion will be transferred to each fund in fiscal 2023. After accounting for appropriations made from the Economic Stabilization Fund by the 87th Legislature, the fund’s balance is projected to be $12.08 billion at the end of the 2022-23 biennium, absent any further appropriations by the legislature.

September 17. The Governor’s Broadband Development Council released its 2021 report. The report serves updates findings and recommendations based on the Council’s duties. Read the report in its entirety here.

September 21. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced new appointments to the Sunset Advisory Commission, including Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) as chair, and Sens. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) and Drew Springer (R-Muenster) as members. Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) will continue to serve. Jim Lee, of Houston, is the new public member appointee. Lee is the Managing Member of JHL Capital Holdings. He is a former commissioner of Texas Parks and Wildlife and the former chairman of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. He also previously served on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The current Sunset cycle will review 21 agencies including:

  • Electric Reliability Council of Texas
  • Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
  • Public Utility Commission of Texas
  • Office of Public Utility Counsel
  • Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board
  • Texas Water Development Board
  • State Water Implementation Fund for Texas

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