Passing Voting Bill Priority In Last Days Of Second Special Session

Other priorities could be revisited in an October special session.

By Jill Ament & Caroline CovingtonAugust 31, 2021 4:34 pm

As the second special session of the Texas Legislature winds down, Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican lawmakers are looking to finally pass measures that died in previous sessions.

James Riddlesperger, political science professor at Texas Christian University, told Texas Standard that Abbott’s priority this session was passing voting legislation. But other items were also on his priority list. Here’s where they all stand today, less than a week before the session ends on Sept. 6:

Voting Bill

The Texas House of Representatives is likely to “fall in line” with the Senate’s latest version of Senate Bill 1.  The bill was the impetus for Democrats’ walkout during the regular legislative session in May, and for their decampment to Washington this summer to break quorum and prevent a vote.

Riddlesperger says House Democrats’ efforts were mostly “futile” since the bill is likely to become law. They did, however, bring greater attention to Republicans’ efforts to clamp down on voting practices that came about during the pandemic, including 24-hour and drive-thru voting.

“The Democrats retreated to Washington, in part, to bring symbolic coverage to the movement, not just in Texas, but nationwide,” he said. “Everyone knew that it was a futile effort except for the public relations exposure that it got.”

Border Wall Funding

Texas is likely to approve some money for border wall construction. However, Riddlesperger says it won’t be near enough to build wall – that would cost billions, he says. Instead, he expects the Legislature to approve funding for “strategic” border fencing in certain areas. Abbott has begun promoting his border wall project in the months ahead of his reelection campaign for governor. The border wall is an issue popular with his supporters.

Transgender Athlete Bill

One bill still being considered would require athletes in Texas public schools to compete on teams that match the biological sex listed on their original birth certificate. Riddlesperger says this bill has become less of a priority this session since lawmakers became focused on passing SB 1. But he expects Abbott to make it a priority again in the October special session. It’s an indicator, he says, of the more conservative stance of the 87th Legislature compared to years past.

“This is part of what has been one of the most conservative legislative sessions and special sessions in Texas history,” Riddlesperger said. “The Republican majority has really succeeded this time in getting conservative bills passed that in previous years [they] were not able to.”

Looking Ahead To October

Political redistricting will be the priority for the October special session. Abbott has not yet announced what day that will start, but committees begin meeting about redistricting on Sept. 8. Riddlesperger says the third special session will also be an opportunity for Abbott to address priority legislation that fell by the wayside this summer, including, possibly, the transgender athlete bill.

“I think that it’s quite possible that any of the leftover items that do not get addressed this time … might very well be kicked to October,” he said.

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