Big news came this week with the announcement of the first special session for the Texas 87th. The session will begin July 8, so keep an eye out for future messages about topics on the agenda. Election season is also in full swing, Governor Abbott makes good on his promises, and the final numbers are in on bills vetoed and bills signed into law from the Texas 87th regular session. Stay tuned!
We have a number of developments in the Texas Primaries season. Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman has officially filed for Texas Attorney General and has been endorsed by TLR. She is running in a race for Ken Paxton’s seat competing against George P. Bush, the current Texas Land Commissioner. Former RPT executive director Chad Wilbanks announced for Texas GOP chairman, joining former Rep. Matt Rinaldi and SREC member David Covey.
On the Border
Governor Abbott announced his initiative to begin building a wall along the state’s southern border. He says he will direct the Texas Department of Public safety to work with local officials and is coordinating with county officials to expand jail space for detainees. The new state budget will allocate more than $1 billion for border security over the next biennium. The governor said, “A border crisis is plaguing the farmers, the ranchers, the residents of the entire border region…a change is needed.” Governor Abbott said during a press conference that he has sent a letter to President Biden asking him to return private lands taken under President Trump’s wall project to the original property owners. Private individuals wishing to donate to the state’s project can visit www.borderwall.texas.gov. In just a week, Texans have raised about $450,000 for the project.
Although the official list of topics is not yet out, there are rumblings that subjects like election integrity and critical race theory will make a reappearance during the session beginning July 8. After the veto of Article X of the budget (which affects the Senate, House, Legislative Budget Board, Legislative Council, Commission on Uniform State Laws, Sunset Advisory Commission, State Auditory, and the Legislative Reference Library) it’s almost certain that the budget will also be addressed again. In preparation, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is making a few changes ahead of the special session. Four chairmanships will be different from the regular session. Senator Campbell will chair the Nominations Committee, Senator Hall will chair the Administration Committee, Senator Hancock will chair the Veterans and Border Security Committee, and Senator Schwertner will chair the Business and Commerce Committee. Lieutenant Governor Patrick also announced that he is expanding the scope of the Jurisprudence committee to include pension and insurance issues. The fall special session will address redistricting and the allocation of federal coronavirus relief funds. Of course, other issues may be up for consideration. However, the fall session is a little ways off, and we won’t know for certain what makes the agenda until the first special session concludes.
Calls for energy conservation from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) came as a surprise in June when the state experienced above-average temperatures. Three issues came together to create tight grid conditions – an unusually high number of unexpected forced outages due to mechanical failures, lower wind generation than expected, and higher demand than anticipated for June. The Texas legislature passed its ERCOT reform bills SB 2 and SB 3. SB 3 reorganizes the way the power grid is managed and creates the Texas Electricity Supply Chain Security and Mapping Committee to better prepare the grid for potential disruptions. It also protects against lengthy rolling blackouts, creates fines for utility services that are unprepared for severe weather events, establishes a statewide power outage alert system, and provides for greater government oversight in the membership of the Public Utility Commission (PUC). SB 2 affects just ERCOT and establishes residential requirements for board members, requires that members have expertise in industry-specific areas, prohibits those with fiduciary standing in the electric market from participating, and creates a board member selection committee. Governor Abbott named Lori Cobos, a government and utilities lawyer, to an interim seat on the PUC. She has spent the last two years heading the Office of Public Utility Counsel and is an ex-officio board member of ERCOT.
An array of factors play into this year’s delays on the numbers necessary for redistricting. The pandemic, wildfires on the West Coast, hurricanes on the East Coast, and the Trump administration’s legal efforts to exclude undocumented persons from the population counts have all swirled together to delay redistricting data. Census officials aim to deliver the data to each state by August 16, but no later than September 30. So, expect at least one more special session after July’s to address redistricting in preparation for next year’s primary elections.
The veto period ended for Governor Abbott this week. Twenty bills were vetoed from this year’s legislative session. It is the fewest number of vetoes made by Governor Abbott, and the fewest for a Texas governor since 2005. The Texas Legislature passed a total of 1,073 bills out of 6,927 filed. The bills vetoed by Governor Abbott included Article X of the budget, two relating to the energy sector, one relating to higher education, five relating to property, two relating to higher education, six relating to statewide issues, three relating to tax, and one relating to telecommunications. The majority of priority items for Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Speaker Dade Phelan passed and were sent to the governor for signature. Among the list of passed priority items are permitless carry, the expansion of broadband, the increase in access to telehealth and telemedicine, the lowering of drug costs for the uninsured, and the expansion of Texas Compassionate Use Program.
It’s a busy summer for Texas lawmakers, and we’ll have all the latest news and headlines for you in the coming weeks. This special session is sure to be a memorable one!
Until next time,
Lara Laneri Keel
President, LLK, LLC.