The Lege is coming back for a third 30-day special session on Monday, September 20, 2021. We will be in Galveston all of next week for our 2021 Annual Conference, so there won’t be any legislative updates from us next Friday. Consider this your primer until we can get caught up in two weeks.
After a two week break to allow the participants to retreat to their respective sides and get fixed up by their corner teams, legislators will answer the bell and return to Austin to take up a new slate of issues put on their plates by the governor. Those are:
- state and federal redistricting;
- how to spend ~$16 billion in one-time federal pandemic relief funds;
- weighing in on whether state or local governments can impose COVID-19 vaccine mandates; and
- re-considering past bills on dog tethering and transgender school athletes.
While several of these issues are controversial, none of the heat they bring is likely to match that of redistricting, that decennial exercise of political muscle in which legislators get to pick their voters. Redistricting happens at both a micro (by district) and macro (state and federal delegation) level. While the latter gets much of the ink, that big picture battle is decided by a relatively small group of chamber, committee, and caucus leaders. It’s at the micro level where the real hand-to-hand nastiness occurs among individual members who are fighting for their political lives. Bring your popcorn.
New House committee
The Speaker has created a new House Select Committee on Youth Health & Safety to address issues like coordination between the state’s child protective services, youth mental health services, and juvenile justice system. The committee will be chaired by State Rep. J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville), vice-chaired by Rep. Ann Johnson (D-Houston), and will include as members Reps. Steve Allison (R-San Antonio), David Cook (R-Mansfield), Harold Dutton (D-Houston), James Frank (R-Wichita Falls), Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth), Jeff Leach (R-Plano), Eddie Morales (D-Eagle Pass), Victoria Neave (D-Dallas), and Toni Rose (D-Dallas). No word yet on how this committee work will mesh with that of other committees that traditionally address those issues.
Hurricane Ida relief effort
In the wake of Hurricane Ida, Louisiana has once again been dealt a hard hand. To help support Louisiana prosecutors and their families who have been adversely affected, our good neighbors at the Louisiana District Attorneys Association are partnering with their training foundation (LDATF) to raise funds for their benefit. Anyone interested in helping can CLICK HERE to donate. Any contribution—no matter the amount—will make a difference and is greatly appreciated. All donations are TAX DEDUCTIBLE under existing IRS rules.
Some articles that you might find interesting (including a few from earlier this year that we are only just getting to read now that the legislature has left town):
- “Who killed criminal justice reform in Texas?” (Texas Monthly)
- “Life without parole is replacing the death penalty—but the legal defense system hasn’t kept up” (The Marshall Project)
- “CSI Houston: How a Texas lab has remade the science of forensics” (Christian Science Monitor)
- “How Elizabeth Loftus Changed the Meaning of Memory” (The New Yorker)
Quotes of the Week
“It’s the most personal thing that a legislator will do. … There will be some votes that probably look partisan and probably are partisan, but there’s going to be a lot of votes that are really personal.”
—Former State Rep. Burt Solomons (R-Carrollton), who chaired the House Redistricting Committee in 2011, as quoted in an article on the impending drama facing legislators next week.
“Merrick Garland has an interesting job. He gets up, goes to the office, sues the state of Texas and then goes home.”
—Ross Ramsey, executive editor of the Texas Tribune, in a column on the new nature of national litigation on several hot-button political issues.
“In any other location with permitless carry, we have no idea whether people have had a background check and if they are legally carrying. There are legitimate questions why you and I on the street, out in public, don’t have that same protection, and we would support having the same protection because permitless carry is dangerous.”
—Gyl Switzer, executive director of Texas Gun Sense, questioning why non-LTC visitors who enter the state capitol with a handgun are being detained for the purposes of running a criminal history check to determine their eligibility to carry without a license in the wake of the new constitutional carry law.
“It felt like a scene out of ‘Scooby-Doo’ after they handcuffed me and pulled the mask off, like, ‘I would have gotten away with it if wasn’t for those meddling Karens,’ you know?”
—Mark Metzger, criminal defense attorney in Galveston, as quoted in a story about his recent arrest for disorderly conduct after he was filmed walking the beaches during Tropical Storm Nicholas in a Michael Myers costume and (fake) bloody knife.
[Our next special session update will be in two weeks.
We’re looking forward to seeing many of you in Galveston!]