The third (and last?) special session of the 87th
Legislature ended in the early hours Tuesday morning, with both the House and Senate adjourning after a day of last-minute maneuvering. In the end, the following bills were sent to Gov. Abbott’s desk for his consideration:
- Redistricting bills for the Texas House (HB 1) and Senate (SB 4), Texas congressional seats (SB 6), and the State Board of Education (SB 7). The bills have been controversial due to accusations of gerrymandering to protect Republican majorities. The Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has filed suit based on allegations that the newly drawn boundaries violate the federal Voting Rights Act, and a lawsuit filed shortly before the third special session began questioned whether the legislature has the authority to pass redistricting bills in a special session, so we may not have seen a final resolution on these issues.
- HB 25 by Rep. Valoree Swanson/Sen. Charles Perry relating to students competing on athletic teams based on biological sex.
After several previous attempts to pass similar legislation, the bill requiring student athletes to participate in UIL athletic competitions based on their sex as recorded on their official birth certificate passed both the House and Senate in the final days of the special session. The bill provides an exception for female students to participate in a sport designated for males if a corresponding competition is not available for females.
- SB 1 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt/Rep. Morgan Meyer and SJR 2 by Bettencourt/Rep. Angie Chen Button reducing property taxes.
The bill increases the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $40,000, and includes provisions to ensure that districts will be held harmless for the accompanying loss of revenue. Earlier versions of the bill would have used federal COVID-relief funds to provide checks estimated at $533 to each property owner, but last-minute changes introduced the homestead exemption proposal, which was approved in the final hour of the session Monday night. The change will take effect for the 2022 tax year if the constitutional amendment is approved by voters next May.
- SB 8 by Sen. Jane Nelson/Rep. Greg Bonnen appropriating federal COVID-relief funds. The bill provides funding to various entities for costs related to COVID-19, ranging from unemployment compensation to supplemental funding for food banks, and includes $286 million for TRS-Care (retirees) and TRS-ActiveCare (active employees) to pay for COVID-related claims. Although ActiveCare premiums may increase next fall due to general health care cost trends, the additional funding will take care of what would have been an estimated 5% increase due specifically to COVID costs. TRS-Care premiums are not expected to increase. UPDATE: TRS has announced that the additional funding will ensure that there is not a premium increase for TRS-Care in 2022, and the agency may be able to provide a "premium holiday" for eligible retirees for an as-yet-unspecified number of months. The premium holiday would not extend to ActiveCare.
- HB 133 by Rep. Jacey Jetton/Sen. Joan Huffman, regarding tuition and fee exemptions for certain higher education students. The bill modifies current law that provides tuition/fee exemptions for minor children of first responders killed in the line of duty to apply to students who were up to age 25 at the time of the parent’s death.
- SB 5 by Sen. Eddie Lucio/Rep. Jared Patterson regarding the unlawful restraint of a dog. Added by Abbott to the agenda after public outcry over his veto of a similar bill after the regular session, SB 5 cracks down on how dogs may be restrained without supervision outside, requiring adequate shelter and water and describing the type of chain and collar/harness that can be legally used.
- SB 52 by Sen. Brandon Creighton/Rep. Greg Bonnen regarding tuition revenue bonds for higher education. SB 52 provides for bonds to be issued to help fund capital infrastructure projects at specified Texas institutions of higher education.