New special Session starts with repeated effort to pass bills on voter suppression, ‘critical race theory’

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan.

The Legislature gaveled in Saturday for a new 30-day special session, one which features the same contentious legislation as the last one, with a few additions of new issues that can be addressed.  Notably, there’s a broad category of:

EDUCATION: Legislation providing strategies for public-school education in prekindergarten through twelfth grade during the COVID-19 pandemic, which ensures:

  • students receive a high-quality education and progress in their learning;
  • in-person learning is available for any student whose parent wants it;
  • the wearing of face coverings is not mandatory; and
  • COVID-19 vaccinations are always voluntary.

Returning issues include bills for voter suppression, transgender youth sports, banning “critical race theory” instruction, and a 13th check for retirees.

With at least two dozen Democratic House members intending to stay in Washington, a sporadic return of others, and several missing Republicans, the House was again left without a quorum and gaveled out until today.

The Senate, however, is in full swing with all 31 members and immediately passed new rules for the session that will stymie public participation. The Senate will not have to hold hearings on bills that are of the “same subject” as previous legislation—which Democrats argued is not the same as a longstanding practice of no hearings on identical or similar bills coming from the House. Nixed in the new rules are the requirement to post a hearing at least 24 hours before it is held and the ability for Senators to “tag” a bill, which then requires at least 48 hours notice. The result is very little opportunity for the public to testify on bills.

On Friday, the Legislative Budget Board did direct funding to pay legislative staffers and other operational needs for the session after Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed the legislative budget in June.

This morning, the Senate passed a bill to provide a 13th check to TRS retirees. The Senate State Affairs Committee started a hearing on the voter suppression bill this morning, and a hearing on “critical race” theory legislation will be held tomorrow at 10 a.m. The Senate Education Committee will hear a bill on virtual education tomorrow at 10 a.m.