With deadlines looming, we are entering the mad dash to the finish line … this week will see several major deadlines in the House of Representatives; House Bills must be reported out of committee by today and must have finally passed the full chamber by Friday.
Comptroller revises Biennial Revenue Estimate upwards as conference committee begins on Budget. Last Monday, the Comptroller updated his Biennial Revenue Estimate. As we suspected, the update came immediately on the heels of April’s revenue collections and the revision was to the upside. In total, the Comptroller told appropriators they had $3.12 billion in additional revenue. This includes an increase in the remaining available balance of $1.67 billion. The announcement came on the heels of April’s revenue collections, which show the Texas economy is running red hot. Sales tax collections – the primary revenue for the state – broke records and represented a whopping 31% increase over April 2020 collections and a 19% increase over April 2019 collections.
Core GOP bills are making substantial progress. Key bills to the GOP platform are moving towards the finish line. These include the bill known as “constitutional carry,” a bill that would ban elective abortion once a heartbeat can be detected in the fetus, the well-known efforts to reform some of Texas’ election laws, and a bill that would require high-schoolers to participate in leagues that correspond to their biological sex.
The “constitutional carry” bill, once considered dead in the Senate, passed the senate floor last week. The bill was heavily amended. The House will have the choice to concur on the amendments, which would send the bill directly to the Governor’s office or reject the changes and go to a conference committee. We believe the latter scenario is more likely – leaving the bill’s fate still in question.
The House passed Senate Bill 8, with amendments last week, after a very contentious and charged debate. At a high level, the bill would ban elective abortions after a heartbeat is detected. Or, as early as 6 weeks. Thus, the Senate will need to either accept the changes or the bill will head to a conference committee as well. Regardless, we expect to the bill – like nearly every other bill that touches abortion rights – to be heavily litigated.
The House also passed Senate Bill 6, the Texas election law reform bill. But, the House removed some of the more controversial components – including a proposed ban on drive-thru voting and limits on polling hours. The bill does include a prohibition against sending out mail-in ballots unless they have been requested – a measure in response to Harris County’s decision to send out mail-in ballots to every voter.
The House committee on Public Education revived Senate Bill 29 late last week, after initially failing to do so earlier in the week. The bill, which requires high school athletes to compete in leagues that correspond to their biological sex, largely codifies existing UIL rules in Texas.
Austin voters reinstate camping ban. In perhaps one of the most interesting legislative side-shows inside the Austin bubble, Austin voters voted overwhelmingly (57% - 43%) to reinstate the city’s ban on camping on public property. The city had removed the ordinance in 2019 without much of a plan to combat the growing homelessness problem in Austin. Despite the response from Austin voters, the House moved forward with a statewide ban on camping in public places.
Texas picks up two more congressional seats; electoral college votes. The Census Bureau released is apportionment from the 2020 Census. Texas will receive 2 additional congressional seats and electoral college votes. The news surprised some who expected Texas to possibly receive three additional seats. Somewhat symbolic of the in-migration experienced by Texas in recent years, Texas is receiving two seats while California and New York both lose a seat. The more detailed data required to redraw districts is still not expected for several months. We expect a special session for redistricting to occur in the October timeframe.