Monday is the last day of Texas’ 86th legislative session. The session amounted to 140 days and 10,765 filed bills, many of which didn’t advance very far.
Lauren McGaughy, an Austin-based politics reporter for The Dallas Morning News, says one important bill that did pass before the midnight deadline was the state budget, House Bill 1.
“It has to fund the state for two years,” McGaughy says. “We have everything in there from higher education funding, K-12 stuff, funding for all of the state agencies from prisons to the controller’s office to the attorney general. So, it’s really a huge omnibus bill that takes a lot of work.”
Gov. Greg Abbott named five emergency items at the beginning of the session: school finance, teacher pay, school safety, property tax limits and Hurricane Harvey. McGaughy says one bill, Senate Bill 10, which is related to school safety because it would help increase access to mental health services for students who experience a school shooting, almost died in the House after Republican Rep. Jonathan Stickland pointed out a technicality in the bill’s analysis.
“But then it was revived by his Republican colleagues, so that then did end up being passed right there before the deadline,” McGaughy says.
She says this has been the “somnolent” or “sleepy” session, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick even said the session was “almost boring.”
“There has been a lot of work behind the scenes, a lot of collaboration in front of the camera, and very little open disagreement among the top politicians, and even among members of the legislature about these big-ticket items,” McGaughy says.
She says unlike past sessions, when controversial “red meat” issues like so-called bathroom bills or “sanctuary cities” dominated debates and media coverage, this session, lawmakers mainly focused on passing “complex” legislation into law.
As the last day of the session, McGaughy says Monday is mostly about celebration. It even has a special name: sine die, a Latin term that means “to adjourn without setting another day for a meeting,” McGaughy says. But she is watching what lawmakers do over the next two years during the interim, until the next session in 2021.
“That’s when lawmakers will meet to discuss what they want to tackle two years from now,” McGaughy says. “They’ll also meet to see whether they are actually hashing out and implementing the laws that they passed over the last 140 days.”
Written by Caroline Covington.