The Texas Legislature’s second special session ended ahead of Labor Day weekend with many of the bills prioritized by Gov. Greg Abbott passing. Key among them was election reform and bail reform, which failed to pass during the regular session and the first special session.
Of the 17 items on Abbot’s list, the majority passed. Abbott called a third special session to begin Sept. 20, with five agenda items listed.
One priority that passed was HB9, which allocates an additional $1.8 billion for border security. The bill went to the governor on Sept. 8, after being signed by the Texas comptroller. This is in addition to $1.1 billion allocated earlier in the year to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which didn’t appropriate additional funds to sheriffs or other law enforcement border security efforts. The additional funding allocates more money to DPS as well as to the Office of Court Administration, Department of Criminal Justice, Commission on Jail Standards, Department of State Health Services, Texas Military Department, and Trusteed Programs within the Office of the Governor. HB9 passed in the House by a vote of 85 to 36 and in the Senate by a vote of 23 to 8.
Three special session agenda items passed related to education. SB7, authorizing a one-time supplemental payment of benefits under the Teachers Retirement System of Texas; SB15, a bill authorizing school districts or charter schools to create virtual learning programs in addition to existing state virtual school network within certain parameters; and a revised version of the Critical Race Theory Ban, which Abbott had said needed to be amended when he signed it in the 87th legislative session.
Another priority legislative item that passed was SB4, banning abortion-inducing drugs from being sold through mail order, following the regular session’s passage of the heartbeat bill.
The legislature also passed a ban of social media and email censorship in the state of Texas, HB20. The law requires social media companies to publicly disclose their content management practices and policies and expressly prohibits them from targeting users solely because of their political or ideological beliefs. The law states, “a social media platform may not censor a user, a user’s expression, or a user’s ability to receive the expression of another person based on: (1) the viewpoint of the user or another person; (2) the viewpoint represented in the user ’s expression or another person’s expression; (3) or a user ’s geographic location in this state or any part of this state.” Notably, it allows Texans to sue social media companies for discriminating against them, as well as allowing for the Texas attorney general to intervene on their behalf.
Another measure that passed was restoring Article X funding for legislative salaries, which Abbott had vetoed after House Democrats fled the state in July to halt further legislative activity. After the first special legislative session concluded with nothing achieved and House Democrats still missing, Abbott and the Legislative Budget Board issued a temporary reprieve to fund legislative staff members. The reprieve allowed for funding to extend for another month. With the budget going into effect Sept. 1, HB5 restored the vetoed funding and provided for supplemental appropriations to other government agencies and programs.
Other priority legislative items that passed related to regulating the storage or disposal of high-level radioactive waste, amending legislation related to family violence, and amending provisions in a statute allowing for the delays of primary election dates and candidate filing periods resulting from the redistricting process being delayed.
Items that didn’t make it through related to federal appropriations, employment protections, state legislative quorum requirements, and youth sports.
This article was originally posted on 17 of Abbott’s legislative priorities pass with 3rd special session looming