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Overview of the 2021 Third Special Session

November 1, 2021
The third special session of the Texas Legislature ended early in the morning on October 19th.  Despite the brevity of the session, lawmakers were keen to accomplish several goals outlined by Governor Abbott. Following the end of the special session, several legislators also announced plans for leaving the legislature. Please read for updates on the outcomes of the third special session.

Outcomes of the 2021 Third Special Session:

Legislative Departures
  • Senator Kel Seliger (R Amarillo) will be retiring from the Texas Senate. He has been in office since 2004 and currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, and sits on the Senate Committees for Health & Human Services, Natural Resources & Economic Development, Veteran Affairs & Border Security, and Nominations. Senator Seliger is also a former Chair of Senate Higher Education.
  • Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D – Brownsville) has announced his retirement after 35 years in the Texas Legislature. He served two terms in the Texas House of Representatives before being elected to the Texas Senate in 1991. Lucio served most recently as the Vice-Chair of Senate Education and Senate Finance, as well as a committee member on Natural Resources & Economic Development, State Affairs, Constitutional Issues, Ports, and Redistricting.
  • Representative Dan Huberty (R Kingwood) has also announced his departure from the Texas House of Representatives.  Sworn into office in 2011, Representative Huberty currently serves on the House Committee on Public Education, and Licensing & Administrative Procedures. He worked to pass monumental legislation during the 86th Legislative Session in 2019, specifically HB 3, which reformed public school finance. , which reformed public school finance.
  • Representative Kyler Biedermann (R Fredricksburg) recently announced his intentions to leave the Texas House of Representatives. Elected in 2016, Representative Biedermann serves on the Defense & Veterans’ Affairs Committee as well as Land & Resource Management.
  • Representative John Frullo (R Lubbock) was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2010 and is another member on the list of those ending their time with the Texas Legislature. Frullo currently serves on the Culture, Recreation & Tourism committee as well as on Higher Education.
These announcements follow the adjournment of the 3rd Special Session of the 87th Legislature.
Key Legislation Passed in the 3rd Special Session:

Education -
SCR 3 (Nichols) – Urging Congress to pass legislation that would grant licensing authority for public school bus drivers to the states.
  • The concurrent resolution notes that students rely on school buses for safe transportation, and many school districts have experienced difficulty in keeping up with demand due to federal licensing requirements, which have exacerbated the shortage.
HB 25 (Swanson) – Relating to requiring public school students to compete in interscholastic athletic competitions based on biological sex.
  • As finally passed, this legislation will prohibit interscholastic athletic teams sponsored or authorized by school districts or open-enrollment charter schools from allowing a student to compete in a competition designated for the biological sex opposite to the student’s official birth certificate. If the birth certificate is unobtainable, another government record will be required.
  • The University Interscholastic League (UIL) will have to adopt rules to implement the bill subject to the approval by the education commissioner.
HB 133 (Jetton) – Relating to education benefits at public institutions of higher education for certain survivors of public servants.
  • This bill amends current law to include surviving children of certain public services who may be college students over 18 to receive tuition benefits. Previously, state law did not include children who were over 18 to receive certain tuition benefits.
SB 52 (Creighton) – Relating to the issuance of revenue bonds to fund capital projects at public institutions of higher education, the oversight of certain capital projects at those institutions, and the designation of certain appropriated funds allocated to those institutions.
  • Senator Creighton’s bill authorizes the issuance of $3.3 billion in capital construction revenue bonds for higher education institutions.
  • The House and Senate focused on the need to comprehensively look at capital construction and higher education finance in general during the interim.
  • The House adopted an amendment creating a capital project oversight commission and requirements for institutions to seek approval to use funds in excess of $25 million.
    • Project oversight is no longer referred to as Tuition Revenue Bonds (TRB) and has been renamed Capital Construction Assistance Projects (CCAP).
  • Amounts designated for each institution are listed in SB 52.
Redistricting –
All of the following bills have passed both the House and Senate chambers and have been signed by the Governor. With his signature, the Texas House, Senate, and Congressional maps will go into effect on January 18, 2022. The State Board of Education map went into effect immediately on October 25, 2021.

HB 1 (Hunter) – Relating to the composition of districts for the election of members of the Texas House of Representatives.
  • The House’s redistricting plan passed with a current partisan breakdown of 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats.
  • The plan also pairs many incumbents from both sides of the aisle due to the need to create 85 districts in the new map.
SB 4 (Huffman) – Relating to the composition of districts for the election of members of the Texas Senate.
  • This legislation passed both chambers, with a shift in the partisan makeup from 18 Republican and 13 Democrats to 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats.
SB 6 (Huffman) – Relating to the composition of the districts for the election of members of the United States House of Representatives from the State of Texas.
  • Two new districts were added in Austin and Houston.
SB 7 (Huffman) – Relating to the composition of districts for the election of members of the State Board of Education.
Appropriations -
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) – SB 8 made allocations for ARPA funding, allocated to Texas by the federal government. Here is the full breakdown of this legislation.

SB 8 (Nelson) – Relating to making supplemental appropriations and giving direction regarding appropriations.
SB 8 was the main bill for ARPA funding.

The fiscal note addresses there would be a sot of $13.3 billion to the Coronavirus Relief Fund 325. The bill would appropriate the following funds:

  • $40 million for Texas Epidemic Public Health Institute.
  • $1 million for Disaster Resiliency Institute at Texas A&M University.
  • $325 million for debt service for over $3b in capital construction assistance projects at institutions of higher education.
  • $20 million to establish a performance-based funding for at-risk students at comprehensive regional universities.
  • $15 million to operate the Texas Reskilling and Upskilling (TRUE) program.
  • $100 million in institutional enhancements for Texas Tech University and the University of Houston (split evenly).
  • $286 million to TRS to cover COVID-related healthcare claims, avoids premium increases due to COVID & allows premium holiday for retired teachers.
  • $113 million appropriated to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) for purposes of supporting the operations and expansion of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium. Funding is also included for enhancements and expansion of the Child Psychiatry Access Network, Texas Child Access through Telemedicine program, expansion of the child and adolescent mental health workforce and an additional $3.2m to the Consortium for oversight and evaluation of initiatives.
  • $237 million for constructing the Dallas State Mental Health Hospital.
  • $15 million for expanding capacity at Sunrise Canyon Psychiatric Hospital.
  • $40 million for Permian Basin Behavioral Health Center.
  • $7.2 billion for unemployment compensation fund to pay back outstanding advances and to bring the balance of the fund to the statutory floor.
  • $180 million for tourism & hospitality, to implement a new tourism, travel, and hospitality grant program for a two-year period. Priority will be given to potential grantees that have not received direct federal aid and it is intended that each authorized grant awarded does not exceed $20k.
  • $160 million for crime victims funds and programs.
  • $1.2 million for new IT system for children’s advocacy centers.
  • $500.5 million for broadband infrastructure, $75m of which is to be used for the Texas broadband pole replacement program.
  • $2 billion for reimbursement for hospital surge staffing, purchasing therapeutic drugs, and operation infusion centers; will be available through the end of 2022.
  • $380 million for critical staffing for nursing facilities, assisted living, etc., establishing HHSC to administer one-time grants and report annually on these grants.
  • $21.7 million to DSHS for the purpose of providing funding for emergency medical response service staffing which includes recruiting & training EMS personnel in rural & underserved areas.
  • $75 million for grants from HHSC to support rural hospitals affected by COVID-19.
  • $25 million for creating a consolidated internet portal for CHIP and provide technology upgrades for Medicaid eligibility systems.
  • $16.7 million for medical lab capacity in South Texas.
  • $20 million for use during a two-year period for the Federally Qualified Health Center Incubator Program.
  • $300 million for Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) to acquire land and construct a State Operations Center.
  • $25 million for State Preservation Board facilities.
  • $100 million for the Bob Bullock Museum.
  • $35 million to upgrade ventilation at veteran’s homes.
  • $54 million for the Crime Victim Compensation Fund.
  • $16 million to address court fees revenue shortfall.
  • $52 million to replenish the sexual assault fund.
  • $95 million to provide supplemental funding to foodbanks during a two-year period.
  • $5 million to provide funding for home-delivered meals.
  • $200 million for cybersecurity projects funded through the Department of Information Resources.
  • $150 million for Next Generation 9-1-1 Services.
  • $359 million to the Department of Criminal Justice for the purpose of providing compensation for agency employees; these federal funds replace state funds appropriated for this purpose in the regular session.
The outcomes of the third special session will begin to take effect as legislation is enacted. We will continue to follow legislative departures and election outcomes to maintain a working knowledge of contacts as we continue with our work.

Appointments from the Texas Speaker are anticipated for the Community College Finance Commission which is expected to meet on November 15th. Interim charges are also expected soon to allow members and leadership time to properly research interests in anticipation of the next legislative session in 2023. Philanthropy Advocates is also in the process of commissioning our research for the three policy work groups including College & Career Pathways, Effective Teaching, and Early Grade Success. We expect to have more information on this in the following weeks.

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