Texas Insider Report: AUSTIN, Texas – The 87th Texas Legislature sent 1,073 bills and resolutions to the governor's desk. This 2021 Session covered several important issues to Texas, including addressing health care, increasing funding for public education, and expanding high-speed internet statewide.
Lawmakers also delivered victories on 2nd Amendment protections, banning abortions after a heartbeat is detected in the womb, and protecting Texans' right to worship.
The Texas House Republican Caucus covered a lot of issues this session, and below you will find quick recaps on specific policy areas with infographics providing more details about specific bills that were sent to the Governor's desk.
Texas is tightening its belt in the upcoming budget cycle starting on Sept. 1, 2021. The budget passed this session decreases spending overall – down about $13.5 BILLION – while still upholding our commitment to increasing the state's share on public education funding, infusing more money into health care, and increasing border security funding to more than $1 billion.
- Note: The Governor has until June 20th to veto specific line-items within the budget.
The 87th Texas Legislature passed the Texas Heartbeat Act, marking a significant step since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its controversial Roe v Wade decision in 1973. In addition, the legislature passed a "trigger" law that would enact a ban on abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court chooses to overturn Roe v Wade.
In the state budget, the legislature included $100 million for the state's Alternatives to Abortion Program.
Pro-2nd Amendment Legislation
The 87th Legislature took a strong stance this session after witnessing Texans overwhelmingly express a desire to protect themselves during the pandemic. In response, the Legislature delivered on Constitutional Carry and named Texas a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary State.
Texas will also ban local elected officials from closing gun stores during a disaster, tighten up language regarding holstered weapons, and also named the 1847 Colt Walker pistol the official handgun of Texas.
Right to Worship
Never in the history of our country have we seen elected officials toss aside our rights to religious freedom like we did during the pandemic. Texas lawmakers ensured this session that the right to worship will not be impeded by any elected official.
Taking it a step further, voters in Texas this fall will have the opportunity to amend the state's Constitution by strengthening the religious freedom provision.
The pandemic made clear to lawmakers that we needed permanent solutions to provide Texans with easier access to health care. That's why House Bill 4 – and paired with House Bill 2056 – is a major technological leap forward for Texas to engage telehealth, telemedicine, and teledentistry services.
In addition, policymakers created a prescription cost-saving program to serve 3 million Texans, expanded pricing transparency, and created avenues for new organizations to provide health care plans to its members.
Public Education in Texas
For two consecutive sessions, the Texas Legislature has made School Finance Reform a major priority. Following up on last session's success in passing the monumental House Bill 3, lawmakers made sure to pass a new phase of reform with House Bill 1525, to provide more equity across all Texas school districts and increase the Foundation School Program formula funding.
Lawmakers also followed up last session's promise to retired teachers by continuing to increase its commitment to the Teacher Pension Fund.
Supporting Business in Texas
Many small businesses are still recovering after the pandemic. Lawmakers took steps to pass laws that took effect immediately to protect business owners from excessive taxation and crushing tax bills to replenish the unemployment fund.
The legislature also passed protections for businesses and other organizations that continued to operate during the pandemic. Oh, and let's not forget passing alcohol-to-go into law.
Upon returning after February's winter storm, Texas leaders made strengthening our power grid an emergency item and tackled several reforms. The central focus was the reforming of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which oversees ERCOT.
The result is a package of bills that address organizational leadership, winterization of the power grid, and panels created to oversee future efficiency implementations across the state's system.
The Texas Legislature delivered several key election integrity initiatives this session. Despite tactics by the loyal Democrat opposition, members of the Texas House Republican Caucus fought hard to deliver funding for better voting machines, training for local elected officials, designating poll-watcher status in state law, banning donations from groups like Facebook and Google for elections administration, improving our audits of voter rolls, and strengthening the penalties for committing election fraud.
The period for Texas' governor to veto legislation ends on June 20th, at which point we will have clarity on legislation that has officially become state law.