Home Headlines - featured After progress on “sunset” legislation, lawmakers move on to the full agenda

After progress on “sunset” legislation, lawmakers move on to the full agenda

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Photo by Bri Watkins

As the Texas Senate passes prioritized “sunset legislation,” Gov. Greg Abbott gives the lawmakers the go-ahead to address the 19 items on his special session agenda. Here is all you need to know about the first week of the special session:

What is “sunset legislation” and why was it first?

Sunset legislation refers to bills that support government agencies under the jurisdiction of The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. The commission has five senators, five representatives and two members of the public, appointed by the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House.

The 12-person panel is involved in about 130 agencies and other governmental entities. The purpose of the commission is to evaluate the need for a state agency or program to exist.  Most agencies undergo review once every 12 years, and over 30 agencies go through the Sunset process each legislative session. When the agencies aren’t reviewed, they expire.

In this last legislative session, the bills regarding those government agencies, including Texas Medical Board, did not make it to the governor’s desk. Therefore, the special session was called to keep these governmental agencies operating past the Sept. 1 expiration date.

Just two days into the 30-day session, the Senate unanimously voted passage on both bills. Senate Bill 20 and Senate Bill 60 were written by Vice Chairman of the Commission Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano.

“I am again very proud of my colleagues in the Senate for recognizing the importance of the Sunset process and coming together to do the people’s work,” Taylor said in a news release.

The bills now sit in the House of Representatives, awaiting to be voted on before being sent to the governor’s desk.

Now what?

After the sunset bills were passed by the Senate in a midnight vote Thursday morning, Abbott issued a proclamation allowing the lawmakers to begin work on the 19 other priorities listed under the special session agenda.

Lawmakers are now submitting bills to be referred to committees, and the legislation will undergo its cores. Nearly 30 bills were introduced after the passage of the sunset bills.

Among these bills are topics including property tax reform, spending caps on state and local governments, school choice for special needs students, pro-life initiatives, privacy and cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud.

The Senate held committee hearings on these bills Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There were 12 meetings scheduled last weekend.

What is the Texas House of Representatives doing?

The House is working on its own version of the bill, House Bill 1, by Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock. The bill was approved in committee and placed on the calendar for July 24.

To keep the governmental agencies alive, the House must pass both House Bill 1 and House Bill 2. House Bill 2 is still in the Appropriations Committee, scheduled for a public hearing on July 25.

The House is required to move on the “sunset” legislation before continuing with other legislation.

How are people reacting to the special session?

Civilian involvement has been seen both inside and outside of the Capitol building.

Community members have participated in public hearings to discuss bills such as the popular “bathroom bill.”

For the third time this year, the State Affairs Committee is hearing constituents from all over the state testifying on Senate Bill 3 and Senate Bill 91, authored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. The public hearing lasted 10 hours.

According to Senate Bill 91 analysis, the bill would require “multiple-occupancy restroom, shower and changing facility of a political subdivision, including a public school, or a charter school to be designated for use by persons of the same sex as stated on their birth certificate.”

Members have also engaged in protests along the steps of the Capitol and the surrounding streets.

Among the protesters were teacher groups marching in opposition of the governor’s educational theme bills and teenage activists who participated in a quinceañera-themed protest of Senate Bill 4, the so-called sanctuary cities ban.

What to watch this next week

The House of Representatives will act on its version of the sunset bills, as well as address the bill Senate passed.

The Senate will host committee meetings throughout the weekend and begin to act on more bills during the week.

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