By State Rep. Brooks Landgraf
On September 2nd the Texas Legislature concluded the second special session called by Governor Abbott in 2021. Now we wait for the third “overtime” session to begin on September 20th.
The first two special sessions were chaotic and filled with moments of uncertainty and frustration. But in the end, I was proud to fight for West Texas to make sure our voice continues to be heard loud and clear in the halls and chambers of the Texas Capitol building.
July made for a rocky start when Democratic lawmakers fled the Texas Capitol for Washington, D.C. in an act of political theatre to temporarily keep the Texas House of Representatives from taking any legislative action. After weeks of wasting time, energy and taxpayers’ dollars, enough Democrats returned to establish quorum, allowing the important work of the state to resume.
You might recall that Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) created the House Select Committee on Constitutional Rights and Remedies. I was honored to be among the fifteen members appointed to this committee. Many of the items on the governor’s agenda for the special session, such as election integrity, came through this committee. We held multiple hearings that lasted more than 12 hours and we heard from Texans all across the state.
Despite some unfairly negative press, we ultimately passed Senate Bill 1 to safeguard the integrity of Texas elections by making it easier to vote and harder to cheat. SB 1 standardizes election practices across all Texas counties, increases penalties for fraudulent activity, and actually increases the minimum number of hours polling locations must be open during early voting.
This summer’s accomplishments at the Capitol also included passing legislation to provide property tax relief for many Texas homeowners, shoring up funding for the state’s foster care system to better protect our most vulnerable children, reforming the bail system to keep law enforcement officers and other Texans safe from violent criminals, and securing a well-deserved “13th check” for retired Texas teachers.
To address the concerning situation on the Texas border, and after hearing testimony from border sheriffs on the frontlines, we allocated an additional $1.8 billion for border security operations. This is in addition to the $1.1 billion we already provided for the border during the regular session earlier this year. When the Biden administration fails to secure the border, we’re stepping up here in Texas.
Furthermore, ensuring Texas students receive a high-quality education in our state — especially during a pandemic — was one of the most pressing issues during the special session. The importance of investing in the future of the next generation of Texans through our schools cannot be overstated and we delivered by passing Senate Bill 15 to expand the state’s existing virtual school program.
Lastly, I was proud to file and pass HB 7 to ban high-level radioactive waste from coming to Andrews County and the state of Texas. This is a huge win for the Permian Basin to keep our communities safe.
Notable items on the agenda for the upcoming session include redistricting, distribution of federal COVID relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and legislation to address mask and vaccine mandates.
Thank you to all who have contacted me during the special sessions to share your views on the issues before the Legislature. It’s been a busy few months, but I stand ready to continue to work on your behalf.
God bless Texas!