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Texas lawmakers to tackle redistricting, COVID-19 vaccine mandates in third special session

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 6:55 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Texas lawmakers are heading back to Austin today for the third special session. While the idea may seem like old news, legislators are working with an all new agenda.

When the session gavels in, lawmakers will tackle redistricting, distributing federal COVID-19 money, restrictions for transgender athletes, COVID-19 vaccine mandates and the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, which the governor vetoed during the regular session.

Ashley Cruseturner, a history professor at McLennan Community College, said it’s not unusual to have multiple special sessions.

“[The] first special session was wiped out with the lack of quorum, the second special session, the biggest thing obviously was the voting bills,” Cruseturner said. “So I think that was probably the number one priority of the special sessions. Now actually, redistricting, that’s going to be a priority.”

Cruseturner said legislators are required to get the lines redrawn, and if they don’t accomplish it during this session, another special session will have to be called.

“They’ve got to get this done,” Cruseturner said. “So that’s the big burden, the rest are again, just some hot button issues. Again, part of this other stuff is going to be sort of culture wars controversy.”

He said redistricting has the possibility to be controversial, although maybe not as contentious as in the past. Cruseturner said vaccine mandates have the potential to be a hot-button issue.

He said the issue really comes down to local control.

“Do we want local control with the school board, or do we want even more local control with individual parents, and so the governor’s made his position very clear,” Cruseturner said. “The legislature has a chance to weigh in. It doesn’t seem likely that the republican majority in the legislature is going to buck the governor.”

Also on the agenda – restrictions for transgender athletes. Legislators will be able to consider a bill identical to Senate Bill 29, passed during the regular session. The bill would not allow a student to compete in University Interscholastic League athletic competitions “designated for the sex opposite a student’s sex at birth.”

Lawmakers are also tasked with appropriating $16 billion in COVID-19 federal relief funds and addressing concerns related to Senate Bill 474.

The bill, also known as the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, was vetoed by Governor Abbott earlier this year. At the time, Abbott said he had concerns with the specificity of the law and overcriminalization.

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