When the Texas legislature gavels in on January 12, it will kick off a frenzied six month legislative process that crafts the budget and public policy in Texas for at least the next two years.
We’ll be covering the legislative session as it evolves, and have our eyes on a few key policy areas where we may see movement this session.
As vaccine distribution continues, serious questions are being raised about the nature of the vaccine distribution and the criteria being used to select which health care providers are receiving doses of the vaccine.
That confusion is compounded by Governor Greg Abbott’s continued insistence that the state won’t take additional public health measures in the face of intensified transmission across Texas.
How the state chooses to act next in it’s response to COVID-19 will be a critical issue this session.
Abbott’s Big Government Ambitions
Greg Abbott is a man who has one eye on the White House in 2024 and the other on how to lay the groundwork to get him there by serving up red meat for his base this session.
Nowhere is Abbott’s desire clearer than in his stated intent to take over the Austin Police Department. In a textbook case of blind ambition foreshadowing unintended consequences, state law prevents the legislature from taking action directed at an individual, named municipality.
That would require any take over attempt of APD to be written broadly, potentially in a way that could expose police departments in other jurisdictions to the same overreach Abbott is attempting with Austin.
The Democratic caucus is pushing hard to give voters a say in whether or not the state finally expands Medicaid, a badly needed step in one of the most underinsured states in the nation.
The COVID-19 pandemic only made the need for Medicaid expansion more pronounced, as thousands of working class Texans lost their jobs or saw their wages or hours reduced due to the pandemic.
Republicans are expected to fight tooth and nail to stop expansion, but we’re hearing rumblings from some rural offices that they may be willing to work with Democrats to find a path forward for expansion.
Lines in the Sand
This will also be the session of redistricting, with the legislature tasked with drawing new maps for the next decade. Texas is expected to receive at least one new congressional district due to population growth, which adds more drama to what was already poised to be a Shakespearean struggle.
Texas Republicans, fresh off protecting their majority in the 2020 elections, are expected to deploy a number of creative techniques to shore up their members and keep their grasp on power in the legislature.
Their efforts are almost certain to face extensive legal scrutiny, as they have for much of the last twenty years. Democrats are hopeful that a new map will make the Texas House a little more purple, but continue to draw a firm line for the Texas GOP, pledging to battle the GOP on any effort to pull of racial or political gerrymandering.
Some Texas Republicans just won’t quit: they’re now advancing a dangerous bill that would ban abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy.
Every session Texas Republicans go back to the well, hoping to pass medically dubious legislation infringing on a woman’s right to make safe and informed health care decisions on their own terms.
Democrats are poised for the fight, and with more suburban voters tiring of the Texas GOP’s culture wars by the day, this renewed push by Republicans is largely expected to either fail or backfire at the ballot box in 2022.
Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call