SAN ANTONIO – Texas lawmakers will return to Austin to begin the 87th legislative session next Tuesday, and so far, more than 1,248 bills have already been introduced.
Henry Flores, a professor emeritus of political science at St. Mary’s University, says redistricting will likely be the most important topic lawmakers handle this session. He said there’s a lot at stake in the redrawing of congressional and statehouse districts, including community and school funding and who votes for whom. The redistricting process happens once a decade in the Legislature followed by the Census.
“Democrats and the Republicans are going to be lobbying, as well. It’s going to be a lot of money spent on just that process before the districts are finally drawn. The governor may have to call a special session just to get that part of the whole thing done,” Flores said.
The coronavirus pandemic is blamed for the delay in the 2020 U.S. Census data results, which are needed to draw up the redistricting maps. The data was expected by December 2020 but is now expected in early 2021 and will complicate the process, Flores said.
Lawmakers will also have to face bills dealing with public safety as the national outcry for police reform grows.
“Police reform is one of (the issues) and talked about a lot, particularly over the last four or five years, and the public wants something done about that,” Flores explained.
State Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) said the pandemic has highlighted the importance of health care and having primary care access for all Texans. He thinks bills dealing with health will draw attention, particularly in a state with about a quarter of its population without health insurance.
“Now, all of the people who lost their work and through that lost their health insurance — what can we do to expand health insurance in Texas with the help of the federal government and our tax dollars that we’re sending to Washington?” Menendez said.
State lawmakers will meet from Jan. 12 to May 31 for the regular session. However, only items on the governor’s emergency agenda, set in the first week or so of session, are able to be fully considered by each chamber until a March deadline triggers all bills to be eligible for full consideration.
Flores says from his experience, bills move or die quickly. People with interest in those topics must get in touch with their representatives early on in the session.
The pandemic may make it more challenging to have your voice heard face-to-face, so get in touch with your representative as soon as possible.
Menendez says he’s using technology to get in touch with his constituents daily.
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