Texas Standard For January 1, 2021

It promises to be a New Year like few others – if any in Texas history. What’s on the docket as state lawmakers get back to work at the capitol? This much seems certain: it’ll be a legislative session like few others in modern Texas history. From budget shortfalls, to an ongoing fight against a COVID-19 and political redistricting, much is at stake in the 87th Lege. Coming up, we’ll talk to the person who’s been doing the numbers about where we stand financially. And: The possibility of whether changes in drug laws in other states will spark change in Texas. Also: Transparency of government during a pandemic. These stories and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:

By Texas StandardJanuary 1, 2021 10:00 am

Here’s what’s coming up on Texas Standard for Monday, December 28, 2020. Listen on your Texas public radio station, or ask your smart speaker to play Texas Standard. We’ll have full posts for each story, including audio, a little later today.

A Texas Lege Look-Ahead Roundtable

As an eventful year comes to a close, one of the first highlights of 2021 to attract the notice of Texans will be the opening of the Legislature in January for its 87th biannual regular session. Texas Standard invited two longtime observers of the Lone Star Lege to take a look at what’s likely to happen at the Capitol between January and May. And perhaps beyond, if a special session is needed to complete tasks like redsitricting. Rebecca Deen is chair of the political science department at the University of Texas in Arlington and Ross Ramsey is executive editor and co-founder of the Texas Tribune. They spoke with the Standard. 

Major issues on the Legislative docket:

– A budget picture strained by the pandemic’s economic toll on the state

– Whether to draw on the rainy day fund to cover a revenue shortfall

– Redrawing electoral maps

– Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s efforts to shape his Senate majority

– How a new House Speaker will lead the chamber

– What the pandemic means for how the Legislature will operate

– How likely it is that a special session will send the Legislature into overtime

Dade Phelan Profile

State Rep. Dade Phelan, a Republican from Beaumont, has effectively locked up the race to become the next Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. Houston Public Media reporter Andrew Schneider spoke with a number of Phelan’s current and former colleagues about the person projected by many to be one of the three most powerful people in Texas politics starting in 2021.

Texas Drug Policy and Public Opinion

Shortly after the November election, Texas Standard spoke with Katharine Neill Harris. She’s a drug policy fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for public policy. We asked her where she saw Texas fitting in with other states when it comes to current drug policies.

SD 30 Runoff Election Results

It was a runoff election that many Texans may not have noticed, yet it may well set a certain tone as lawmakers return to the capitol. The seat was for Senate District 30 in North Texas. It was a fight between two Republicans: one a political insider who’s been serving in the house, and another a populist outsider who made headlines during the pandemic. Bret Jaspers of KERA North Texas has more.  (Today’s radio story contains updates to the online version. Listen to learn more.)

 Legislature Access

During a normal year at the Texas Legislature, the Capitol would be crawling with people. Of course, this session, starting in just 11 days, will *not be normal. The legislature will convene at the state capitol at a time when coronavirus cases are high in Texas. And that will have major implications for just how the people’s business gets done in 2021. Texas Standard’s Michael Marks has more.

The State of the Texas Economy

As members of the Texas Legislature take their places under the pink dome this month, they will see that the pandemic has severely eroded the amount of financial flexibility they have. The person who must deliver the hard news to lawmakers did so back in December. Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar also spoke with the Standard.

Texas Legislature Bill Filing

Back in November, we caught up with the Texas Tribune’s Cassandra Pollock. She’s been covering some of the current legislation being filed ahead of the session.

Redistricting in Texas

When the Census results are released next spring, Texas is expected to gain as many as three new congressional seats. Redrawing the district maps for Congress – as well as for the State Legislature and the State Board of Education – will be one of the major tasks Texas lawmakers face in the next session. And to do that, they’ll be using a computer tool that is unique to Texas, as we hear from Houston Public Media’s Andrew Schneider.

Happy New Year from all of us at the Texas Standard!

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