Happy New Year!
Everyone is most hopeful now that “2020” is behind us. Let us keep the faith!
As we hit the ground running, the 87th Legislature meets tomorrow, January 12th. New members will be sworn in, to vote on a House Speaker -Dade Phelan looks to be a shoe in- then each chamber will vote on the rules their respective Chambers will adopt to operate under during a new Session. This happens every opening day, but both Chambers have had to work hard over the interim, to determine the do’s and don’ts of running a legislature amidst a global pandemic.
1,381 bills have been filed to date. Certainly, this number falls below the typical 7,000 bills filed during a typical legislative session, but these numbers simply reflect the “prefiling” of bills and they have an additional 60 days to continue their bill drafting and filing.
There are several big items demanding priority over the next 140 days. There will likely he a COVID-19 omnibus bill, which is expected to open up new opportunities for Telemedicine and liquor delivery, funding for tests, and new legislation regarding assisted and independent living facilities for seniors. Other issues we anticipate hearing quite a bit about is Medicaid, police funding, gaming and marijuana legalization/decriminalization, among other things.
The legislature must also pass a budget this year – many departments have submitted their proposed 5% cuts to budget writers as requested. Another must for this session: redistricting. But with data collecting behind schedule, we anticipate a special session in the summer on that issue.
In preparation of the budget, Comptroller Hegar today announced his “Revenue Estimate” that basically guides the Legislature on how much money is available to spend. $112.5 billion in revenue available for general-purpose spending during the 2022-23 biennium.
According to the report, “The revenue estimate represents a 0.4 percent decrease from funds available for the 2020-21 biennium. This decline is a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused revenue collections to fall well short of what was expected when the Legislature approved the 2020-21 budget; the ending 2020-21 balance will be close to a negative $1 billion” To see the report in its entirety you can go here: Read more »
Tomorrow, expect to see plenty of plexiglass, face coverings, and hand sanitizing stations around the Capitol. When the rules are finalized, we’ll surely know what the rest of the session holds.
For more information on opening day broadcasts, bills filed, hearing testimony and legislative info, please go to www.capitol.state.tx.us.
Cheers to a happy and healthy 2021!
Lara Laneri Keel