For all intents and purposes, we are already in a "special session."
Every 10 years, the Texas Legislature takes census figures from the federal government to re-apportion congressional districts and other political jurisdictions based on new data. Typically, the Legislature would take up redistricting in regular session, but this has been no ordinary year due to COVID-19.
We are already past the halfway point of the 87th Session, which will adjourn by the end of May. The census numbers are unlikely to arrive from Washington by that time. So, there is the expectation that the governor must formally call a special session to address redistricting later this year.
But, for all intents and purposes, we are already in a “special session.” Extraordinary really. The pandemic has changed the way Austin and our lawmakers conduct business. It is historic.
This is clear simply by how we must now access the Capitol building. There are yellow ropes and signage indicating where you can and cannot go. There is an increased presence of DPS officers (by the way, they are some of the most courteous and professional men and women you will ever meet).
To gain access on the Senate side, a COVID-19 test is necessary unless you can prove you have been fully vaccinated. Two tents staffed by National Guard personnel have been positioned on the north side of the Capitol where citizens and lobbyists line up daily to have their noses swabbed before receiving access.
In the hearing rooms and chambers, you will see plexiglass screens and, of course, plenty of masks. There are still some handshakes, but a lot more fist-bumps and elbow taps — along with hand sanitizer.
In many ways, it is strange.
But what is special is that the wheels of the Texas government are continuing to turn.
Scaled back? Imperfect? Sometimes messy? Yes, on all three counts. But they are in motion, nonetheless.
There are serious COVID-19-related issues and the contentious politics of ERCOT that have taken center-stage. But, despite predictions that these would be the only matters addressed this year, business is getting done. And whether in this “special” regular session or in a formal special session, your TBA advocacy team is proud to be there on your behalf, telling the incredible story of Texas bankers and fighting for your issues.