The 87th session of the Texas Legislature ended Monday afternoon, after an eventful weekend culminating in House Democrats walking out Sunday to break a quorum and preclude voting on a controversial elections bill (SB 7). The bill was one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s top priorities and had caused wide-scale partisan disagreement throughout the session.
Other key legislation also perished before the session’s end, and a special session including some of those subjects is certain. A fall special session to address redistricting has been anticipated, and Abbott has already indicated lawmakers will also consider how federal COVID-relief funds should be spent during that session. There has been some talk of addressing a benefit increase for retirees during the fall session. We don’t yet know whether that session would be expanded to include voting issues, bail reform, how transgender students participate in sports, and other legislation that did not pass during the regular session, or whether Abbott will call a separate special session this summer.
Abbott threatened to veto funding for the legislature after the House Democrats’ walkout ended chances for his priority bills to pass. It is unclear how a fall special session would function without such funding (which pays not only legislator costs, but those of staff), which would presumably be cut off at the beginning of the new fiscal year, September 1.
The abrupt end to the session affected at least one major education-related bill. Although the final version of the bill was scheduled for House consideration Sunday, the House adjourned before taking up HB 1468, a bill addressing how school districts can continue virtual instruction for some students post-COVID and receive full state funding for the program.
Among the high-visibility bills that did pass were the school finance clean-up bill, which includes a number of other issues that were added near the end of session as amendments; a bill revising the accountability system and the circumstances under which the commissioner can take serious steps against districts with failing campuses; legislation to implement accelerated learning programs for struggling students; and a bill placing limitations on civics instruction.
Provisions in multiple bills that would have paid bonuses to districts for students in an accelerated program who performed successfully on statewide assessments, and language in another creating a voucher program for special education supplemental services, were defeated.
Special sessions can offer opportunities to pass good legislation that didn’t survive the regular session, but more often seem to provide opportunities to revive bad bills. As always, TCTA will be actively representing your interests at the Capitol. Despite a difficult session, we had several legislative victories and will be explaining those wins, as well as providing summaries of all the education bills that passed, in the coming days.