87th Legislature – Week 2
It will be a quiet week inside the Capitol … although maybe not so quiet outside. Both the House and the Senate adjourned last week until the afternoon of Tuesday, January 26, deferring any business at all this week. There are likely two reasons for the long pause … the planned protests during inauguration week and the still elevated COVID-19 cases; one legislator tested positive at the end of last week. Some members have opted to self-quarantine for 10-days following the positive test of their colleague.
Both chambers pass updated rules packages; changes to deal with COVID-19 pandemic. Both chambers passed rules packages with the biggest changes outlining protocols in light of the ongoing pandemic. The Texas House will require members to wear masks on the floor unless speaking at the front or back microphone, but are not requiring members or visitors to be tested. Each office will decide whether to see un-tested visitors. The Senate is not requiring masks at individual desks, but is requiring members and guests alike to test in order to enter the chamber or a committee meeting. The House is also allowing some invited virtual testimony, but uninvited testimony from the public will not have a virtual option.
The Texas Senate votes to soften its supermajority requirement to bring a bill to the floor. As noted last week, the Senate did consider whether to soften its traditional supermajority requirement to bring a bill to the floor and opted to do so. The threshold to bring bills to the floor moves from 19 Senators to 18 Senators … the number of current GOP Senators.
The Lt. Governor issues committee assignments. At the end of the week, Lt. Governor Patrick gave committee assignments. Those assignments can be found here.
What to watch …
Governor Abbott travels to Houston for a roundtable discussion and press conference at Houston Methodist hospital midday on Tuesday, January 19, and will discuss legislative priorities for this session, likely related to healthcare. We expect more such travel around the state in the lead-up to the Governor’s state of the state.
Prevailing political winds …
The Capitol and grounds have been closed at least through Wednesday amid the potential for armed protests. Some protests occurred over the weekend, but have been uneventful.
Texas became the first state to vaccinate 1 million people. Texas is also at the head of the class for states in terms of the number of vaccines that have been administered of those that have been allocated to Texas. This efficiency is important as Secretary Azar announced last week that vaccine allocations would prioritize states administering vaccines quickly and efficiently.