The Texas 87th saw a number of high-profile bills move through the chamber as the Session quickly approached its final month. With calendars growing longer and longer each day, the House and Senate are hard at work discussing key legislation. Bills are flying across the capitol and the finish line is in sight.
Last week, the House passed HB 1927, the Firearm Carry Act, to legalize permitless carry of a firearm by a person over the age of 21 who is not otherwise prohibited by state or federal law to possess the firearm. The bill passed largely on party lines with a vote of 87 to 58. Certainly, the House has made a big stride in protecting second amendment rights, but it comes at a time when Austin alone has registered 23 homicides in 2021 and amid an increased concern for supporting the mental health of all Texans across the state. The Senate received the bill from the House on Monday, although Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has expressed that there are not enough votes in the Senate for the measure to pass. He plans to meet with law enforcement, the National Rifle Association, and the Gun Owners of America to try and shape a piece of legislation a supermajority could support.
On the Border
Border officials are stopping the highest number of people crossing into Texas in two decades. Severe conditions in their home countries, combined with a new U.S. administration, have contributed to a renewed border crisis. Many unaccompanied minors are being housed by federally operated centers all along the U.S. border with Mexico. At the same time, a number of cases continue to move through the court system regarding land condemnations for the wall project under the Trump administration. With both private property and human rights in the mix, Governor Abbott has taken the lead to urge President Biden and Vice President Harris to act on the issue. On April 15, Governor Abbott sent a letter to the administration urging that the federal government designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations. Governor Abbott has also toured various designated housing facilities across the state and jump-started Operation Lone Star to combat human trafficking. A link to the Governor’s letter is provided below for your reference.
Priorities Update from the Governor and Lieutenant Governor
A week ago, Lieutenant Governor Patrick announced that he is on track with his priority issues for this legislative Session. Despite an ongoing pandemic and energy crisis, at least 25 measures have passed through the Senate to meet his mid-April timeline. In his own words, “The Texas Senate unanimously passed a conservative budget that does not exceed population times inflation, we have passed legislation reforming ERCOT and the PUC and laid out a path to fix the problems that caused the February power outages. We have expanded broadband access across the state and passed legislation to secure our elections. We have passed legislation to further protect life and strengthened the Second Amendment rights of all Texans. We have also stopped local governments from defunding the police and reformed the bail system, so that dangerous criminals will no longer be released with low bail or no bail at all.” Lieutenant Governor Patrick highlights that the Senate has passed all of Governor Abbott’s emergency action items for the Session. Among the priority bills already passed are The State Budget, ERCOT Reform, Power Grid Stability, Star Spangled Banner Protection Act, Statewide Broadband Access, Pandemic Liability Protection Act, Election and Ballot Security, Bail Reform, and many more. It is great news that the priories and declared emergency items of our leaders are getting through the chambers, even with the many surprises of the Session!
Major Issues Check-In
Of course, the budget is one of the highest priorities of the Session. SB 1 was heard in the House on Thursday, and HB 2, the supplemental appropriations bill, was set on the House Calendar for Thursday also. There were at least 240 pre-filed amendments on the budget. HB 10, relating to restructuring the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) passed the House and has been referred to the Senate Jurisprudence Committee. SB 2, also relating to the restructuring of ERCOT, passed the Senate. Similar bills pertaining to the Public Utility Commission of Texas, weatherization, securitization, financing, and reliability of the state’s power grid are also seeing favorable movement through the chambers. A number of bills, including HB 4/SB 412, have been passed or are in committee, purporting to increase access to telehealth and telemedicine, and expanding healthcare coverage for certain Texans. Because the Census Bureau is not expected to provide the necessary data for redistricting bills until August or September, the redistricting bills for the Texas Senate, House, Congressional, and State Board of Education districts will not pass during the regular Session. Lawmakers have made an outstanding effort to address crucial issues for Texans this Session – these are just a few!
Dates of Interest
Deep in the heart of the Session there are a number of important dates to keep in mind. Monday, May 10 is the last day for House committees to report House bills and House joint resolutions. May 11 is the deadline for the House to distribute its last House daily calendar, and May 12 is the deadline for the House to distribute its last House local and consent calendar with consent House bills. Friday, May 21 marks the first day the Senate can consider bills and resolutions on the first day they are posted on the Senate Notice of Intent Calendar. This link here provides a comprehensive list of important dates coming up.
Helpful Resources and Countdown
There are just 38 days left in the Session. Realistically, a bill should be out of committee by Thursday, April 29, to make it to the floor on time. However, a bill could be voted out of committee as late as Friday, May 7, and still be reported to the Calendars Committee in time to be scheduled for a vote on the general calendar. This website provides another overview of important dates and deadlines this Session.
Last week, over 200 bills were reported out of House and Senate Committees. As of April 16, the total number of bills passed by the Senate this Session is 194, 62 of which passed just last week and the total number of bills passed by the House this Session is 261, 144 of which passed last week.
To read Governor Abbott’s letter, visit this link here.
To read Lieutenant Governor Patrick’s announcement on the Session’s priorities, click here.
For House and Senate calendars (these can change daily), refer to the link here.
For a complete schedule on upcoming House committee hearings, click here.
For a complete schedule on upcoming Senate committee hearings, click here.
For more information on bills filed and legislative details visit TLO.
Until next week,
Lara Laneri Keel
President, LLK, LLC.