Governor sets special session agenda
We've known for a while now that the first special session of the 87th Legislature would begin on July 8, but up until this morning any thoughts about what topics would be on the call from the Governor were purely speculation. Today, the Governor officially announced which topics will be on the call and can therefore which bills can be considered and passed. The Legislature can technically discuss and consider any topic they like, but matters that are not on the call issued by the Governor are subject to points of order and ultimately may not pass (never mind the fact that such matters outside the Governor's call would likely be vetoed). So for a special session, the Governor has a great deal of power and influence as he is able to set the agenda and determine which topics will be under consideration.

With that explanation out of the way, there are a total of 11 issues identified on the Governor's proclamation. Here are the items that could affect public education in some form or fashion:

  • Election Integrity. We knew this issue would be included once SB 7 (Hughes/Cain) did not pass during the regular session. That bill didn't really affect schools any more than it would affect all Texans and elections in general. It's still an issue to be carefully watched though, as we don't know what form of this bill may be considered and whether school district and bond elections may be impacted in some way.
  • Appropriations on Property Tax Relief, Foster Care, and Cybersecurity. The issue that let us all know we would have a special session this summer (rather than just waiting for the fall) was when the Governor vetoed Article X appropriations, the funding for the legislative branch of our state government. That topic has not yet been added to the call (presumably because the Governor is waiting until other priority bills are passed). However, he did add these three topics for appropriations to the call, and property tax relief is certainly one that could have a big impact on schools.
  • Critical Race Theory. HB 3979 (Creighton/Toth) was passed during the regular session and signed into law, but it was the House version of the bill (with many amendments from Democrats in the House) rather than the Senate version of the bill, which is preferred by the Governor. Abbott is asking legislators to pass the Senate version of the bill and make that law instead. His proclamation didn't give any further guidance or information on this topic other than that.
  • Family Violence Prevention. Governor Abbott vetoed SB 1109 (West/Anchia) from the regular session, which related to health curriculum on abuse & dating violence for middle and high school students, and the requirement that schools must make age-appropriate materials to students seeking help for dating violence. The Governor has now added the issue to the call so that a form of the bill can be passed and signed into law that recognizes the rights of parents and allows them to opt their children out of this instruction.
  • Youth Sports. SB 29 (Perry/Dutton) failed to pass during the regular session. That bill would have prevented a student from competing in UIL athletic competitions designated for the sex opposite to the student’s sex at birth. Now that issue will be given another chance to pass into law.
  • Thirteenth Check. The issue of providing a "thirteenth check" to TRS retirees was proposed via HB 3507 (Rogers) in the regular session, and it never passed either chamber. Governor Abbott has now given public school retirees another shot at a possible one-time supplemental payment through a 13th check.

For the full list of topics, you can see the Governor's Proclamation here.

Each called special session may last for up to 30 days. Lawmakers may adjourn sooner than 30 days, but they may not meet or pass legislation for more than 30 days. The Governor would have to call another special session, and the legislative process would have to begin again for that new session.
School district budgets, tax rates, and elections
Tis the season for adopting school district budgets and tax rates (and therefore determining whether the adopted tax rate triggers an election). Just in case it is helpful for your district as you navigate all that, we have updated our document on School District Budget, Tax Rate, and Election Procedures with the timeline for 2021.
Senate Finance Chair to retire
On Monday, Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), the longest-serving Republican member of the Texas Senate and Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, announced that she will not seek re-election in 2022. Nelson has served in the Senate since first being elected in 1992, and she has chaired several powerful committees, including Senate Finance for the past four sessions.

While Senator Nelson will still be at the helm during the consideration of appropriations for the upcoming special sessions, we will have a new Chair of the Finance Committee in 2023. Nelson's retirement could also set several other seat changes in motion, as there are likely several members of the Texas House who may run for that seat in the Senate (and you can't run for two seats on the same ballot).

Other announced retirements from legislators (so far) include:
  • Senator Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) (who is seeking another position)
  • Rep. James White (R-Hillister) (who is seeking another position)
  • Rep. John Turner (D-Dallas)
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