The Texas House—shutdown for nearly the entire first special session and for the first 12 days of the second with the absence of protesting Democrats—achieved a quorum Thursday with the return of three more Democrats. The House promptly got to business setting hearings for a host of bad bills. Uncertain, however, is whether that quorum will hold with possible absences from illnesses, such as recent lawmakers testing positive for COVID-19.
On Monday, the House Select Committee on Constitutional Rights and Remedies will hear SB 1, an elections bill passed by the Senate that seeks to limit access to voting. Tuesday’s Public Education Committee will hear HB 28 and SB 3 (addressing so-called critical race theory, civics curriculum requirements, and prohibitions), SB 2 (forcing transgender students to compete in sports associated with their biological sex as determined at birth), and SB 15 (virtual instruction). All of these bills have passed the Senate, and Texas AFT has strongly opposed bills that restrict teachers’ free speech or harm children. With regard to near-term virtual instruction, a group of Democratic House members has sent Gov. Greg Abbott a letter urging him to authorize TEA to provide full funding for virtual instruction to address safety concerns. Texas AFT is closely monitoring the virtual education bill to ensure educator concerns are addressed.
The House Appropriations Committee will hear SB 7, which would provide a 13th check supplemental pension payment to TRS retirees. This legislation should have passed in the regular session this spring, but was stymied by lawmakers who were unwilling to fund the bill and later made it part of the political rhetoric surrounding the special session. Texas AFT strongly supports this bill for temporary relief until a full cost-of-living pension increase can be achieved.