2021 legislative session ends


The 2021 session of the Texas Legislature ended with some GOP priority bills failing. On Sunday night, Texas Democrats walked out of the House before midnight, blocking passage of a bill that would create new voting restrictions. The walkout also killed a bill that would make changes to the bail system.

Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement that both items – which he had declared emergency items – would be added to the agenda for a special legislative session. Before the events of Sunday night, some Texas Republicans were declaring this session the most conservative in the state’s recent history after they passed bills allowing permitless carry of handguns and restricting abortion. While Democrats successfully blocked bills aimed at transgender children, an attempt to block a ban on teaching critical race theory in schools was thwarted when the bill was revived in the Senate.

The 87th Texas Legislature began on Jan. 12 and concluded on May 31. 

Bills are proposed in the House or Senate and must be approved by both chambers. A conference committee reconciles any differences. Next, bills go to Gov. Greg Abbott, who has until June 20 to decide whether to sign or veto. If Abbott doesn’t sign or veto a bill, it automatically becomes a law. Most new laws take effect Aug. 30. Some measures fail before they get out of the Legislature by missing a key deadline. Abbott can also veto a bill.

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Sent to Abbott

Permitless carry of handguns

HB 1927: Sent to Abbott on May 24

This measure, which has failed in past sessions, would allow people to carry handguns in Texas without a concealed handgun license.

State budget

SB 1: Sent to Abbott on May 27

The one must-pass piece of legislation this session, Senate Bill 1 is the state budget for the 2022-23 biennium. Lawmakers entered the session expecting to make major cuts, but financial forecasts have improved in recent months. 

Winter storm response

SB 3: Sent to Abbott on May 30

Senate Bill 3 is the upper chamber’s sweeping legislation stemming from February’s deadly winter storm. The legislation would create a statewide emergency system to alert Texans if power outages are expected and require power generation companies to better prepare their facilities to withstand extreme weather.

Critical race theory in schools

HB 3979: Sent to Abbott on May 28

This bill would ban the teaching of critical race theory in Texas schools and limit what public school students can be taught about the United States’ history of subjugating people of color.

National anthem bill

SB 4: Sent to Abbott on May 25

This conservative-backed bill would require any professional sports teams with contracts with the state government to play the national anthem before the start of a game.

Broadband expansion

HB 5: Sent to Abbott on May 28

This measure would aim to incentivize the expansion of broadband internet access to areas across the state through the creation of the State Broadband Development Office, which would award grants, low-­interest loans and other incentives to build out broadband access.

Ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned

HB 1280: Sent to Abbott on May 25

This measure would ban abortion in Texas if Roe v. Wade were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Protecting churches from closure during disasters

HB 1239: Sent to Abbott on May 28

This measure would ban public officials from closing churches or other places of worship during a disaster declaration.

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Signed into law

Fetal “heartbeat” bill

SB 8: Signed on May 19

This bill doesn’t specify a time frame but would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which proponents say can be as early as six weeks. The measure would be enforced by private citizens empowered to sue abortion providers and others who help someone get an abortion after six weeks, for example, by driving them to an abortion clinic.

Vetoed or failed

Voting restrictions

SB 7: Missed key deadline on May 30

Senate Bill 7 would touch nearly the entire voting process, including provisions to limit early voting hours, curtail local voting options and further tighten voting-by-mail, among several other provisions. It was negotiated behind closed doors over the last week after the House and Senate passed significantly different versions of the legislation and pulled from each chamber’s version of the bill. The bill also came back with a series of additional voting rule changes, including a new ID requirement for mail-in ballots, that weren’t part of previous debates on the bill.

Transgender students and school sports

SB 29: Missed key deadline on May 26

This bill would prevent transgender Texas children from joining school sports teams that match their gender identity.

Revoke physician’s medical licenses for providing gender-affirming medical care

SB 1311: Missed key deadline on May 23

This measure would prohibit health care providers and physicians from performing gender-confirmation surgery or prescribing, administering or supplying puberty blockers or hormone treatment to anyone younger than 18.

Taxpayer-funded lobbying

SB 10: Missed key deadline on May 26

A conservative priority, this bill would ban local governments from using taxpayer dollars to lobby the state.

Social media expression bill

SB 12: Missed key deadline on May 26

Pushed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in response to the perception that social media companies are discriminating against conservatives, this bill would prohibit social media companies with at least 100 million monthly users from blocking, banning, demonetizing or discriminating against users based on their viewpoint or their location within Texas.

Statewide appeals court

SB 1529: Missed key deadline on May 23

This measure would create a new statewide court of appeals that would hear cases that have statewide significance — including ones that challenge state laws or the Constitution, or when the state or its agencies are sued. Currently, those cases are heard by the 3rd Court of Appeals based in Austin, whose judges are Democrats. 

Changes to bail

HB 20: Missed key deadline on May 30

The House’s priority bail bill was recently overhauled to match the Senate’s version. The legislation would keep more people accused or previously convicted of violent crimes in jail before trial unless they can post cash bonds. It would also bar many charitable organizations — which paid for the release of anti-police brutality protesters last year — from posting bond for those accused or previously convicted of violent crimes.

Governor’s pandemic powers

HB 3: Missed key deadline on May 30

This measure would give lawmakers more oversight of the governor’s emergency powers during a pandemic and carves out future pandemics from how the state responds to other disasters, like hurricanes. It would affirm the governor’s power to suspend state laws and override local orders during a pandemic but would require the Legislature to convene if a governor’s order lasts more than 90 days.

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