Texas Legislative Update on Governor Abbott’s Special Session Agenda

July 8, 2021 | Insights

By Kate Goodrich & Denise Rose

Today, Texas legislators will reconvene for a special session to address the 11 agenda items recently issued by Governor Abbott. This article summarizes the items up for discussion during the session, including two emergency items on bail reform and election integrity that did not reach the governor’s desk during the regular session.

The Texas Constitution limits special sessions to a maximum of 30 days but imposes no minimum. Only legislative items that the governor puts on the agenda can be discussed during a special session, however, he can add additional items on to the call as the special session goes on. If the governor is not satisfied with the outcome of this special session, or if he wants lawmakers to focus on additional topics, he may call as many additional sessions as he wants.

This is the first of at least two expected special sessions this year, with a fall special session likely coming to address redistricting and the spending of billions of dollars of federal COVID-19 relief funds. The Texas Constitution does not limit the number of special sessions a governor may call in between two regular legislative sessions.

Related Insights: Overview of 87th Texas Legislature: Key Bills, the State Budget, and Jackson Walker’s Role »

Revisiting Emergency Items That Didn’t Pass

At the outset of the regular session, Abbott declared five emergency items that focused on bail reform, election integrity, COVID liability protections, broadband, and local defunding of police. He later added ERCOT and PUC reform following Winter Storm Uri. On the last day the House could pass Senate bills, Democrats walked out of the House chamber, breaking quorum and effectively blocking the election integrity bill. During the special session, Texas lawmakers will revisit that item as well as the Governor’s emergency item on bail reform.

  • Bail Reform (House Bill 20): Relating to rules for fixing the amount of bail, to the release of certain defendants on a bail bond or personal bond, to related duties of certain officers taking bail bonds and of a magistrate in a criminal case, to charitable bail organizations, and to the reporting of information pertaining to bail bonds.
  • Election Integrity (Senate Bill 7): Relating to election integrity and security, including by preventing fraud in the conduct of elections in this state; increasing criminal penalties; creating criminal offenses.

Other Items to Be Considered

In addition to addressing the Governor’s emergency items on bail reform and election integrity, Texas legislators will discuss legislation that would potentially:

  • provide funding related to Texas’ border security plan;
  • prohibit social media companies from blocking, banning, demonetizing, or otherwise taking action against a user based on the user’s expressed viewpoints;
  • restore or revoke Article X of the General Appropriations Act;
  • address the education provided to middle- and high-school students in public schools about dating violence, domestic violence, and child abuse, and also allow parents to opt their children out of the instruction;
  • mandate that student athletes participating in University Interscholastic League (UIL) athletic competitions compete based on their sex assigned at birth;
  • prohibit abortion-inducing drugs from being sent by mail or delivery service and amend the laws applicable to the reporting of abortions and abortion complications;
  • provide a “thirteenth check” or one-time supplemental payment of benefits under the Teacher Retirement System of Texas;
  • revise the public school social studies curriculum to prohibit teaching critical race theory; and
  • provide appropriations from additional available general revenue for:
    • property tax relief,
    • enhancing protection for the safety of children in Texas’ foster-care system by attracting and retaining private providers for the system, and
    • protecting the state from potential cybersecurity threats.

More to Come

Stay tuned for updates from Jackson Walker as Texas legislators convene for the special session. For questions about how you or your business could potentially be impacted, please contact a Jackson Walker attorney.

Texas Legislative Updates:

These materials are made available by Jackson Walker for informational purposes only, do not constitute legal advice, and are not a substitute for legal advice from qualified counsel. The laws of other states and nations may be entirely different from what is described. Your use of these materials does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Jackson Walker. The facts and results of each case will vary, and no particular result can be guaranteed.

In This Story

Kate Goodrich
Governmental Affairs Consultant, Austin

Denise Rose
Partner, Austin