May is the neck of the funnel, where demand outstrips supply for space on daily calendars and far more legislation quietly dies than goes to the governor’s desk for action. To date, and with only 30 days remaining, just a half dozen bills have been sent to the governor for his signature or veto. None have yet been acted on. You read that correctly -- of the roughly 7,000 bills filed, just six have made their way through the legislative process.
This means ever longer days for the many stakeholders, lawmakers, and staff working to see their priorities advance in this final stretch. Tensions inevitably rise in this environment. This week in the House we saw more amendments and increased use of points of order. Legislators can challenge procedural errors in bills by raising a point of order. When sustained, the author or sponsor is forced to return the bill to committee, retarding progress at a time when any delay can prove fatal.
Next week will be critical as all House bills must be reported from committee by the following Monday, May 10. Other deadlines follow swiftly thereafter. For a detailed look at important upcoming dates, see this calendar.
American Rescue Plan Pre-Award Requirement Reminder
To receive direct funding under the American Rescue Plan (ARP), counties must have a valid Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number and an active registration with the System for Award Management (SAM) database. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has put together an overview covering what you need to know about SAM and getting a DUNS number if your county doesn't have one already. Registration can take several weeks, so time is of the essence. ARP funds are slated to be direct deposited to county accounts by mid-May and must be spent by Dec. 31, 2024.
The House Elections Committee heard 12 bills Thursday, including Senate Bill 331 by Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas). SB 331 allows a voter to select an interpreter to provide assistance to speak to election officials and interpret the ballot. The interpreter must be a registered voter in the same county as the voter. Rep. Angie Chen Button (R-Garland) has the companion, House Bill 3285.
Another bill, Senate Bill 598 by Sen. Lois Kolkorst (R-Brenham), requires electronic voting systems to have a voter-verifiable paper audit trail. The bill calls for the Texas Secretary of State to implement a pilot program and select five counties to participate during the Nov. 8, 2022, election using the paper ballot-producing voting systems and to perform risk-limiting audits for accuracy of the outcome of elections. In addition, House Bill 32 by Rep. Art Fierro (D-El Paso) would expand eligibility for curbside voting to include a parent or legal guardian accompanied by a child or a legal guardian child.
House Bill 2860 by Rep. John Bucy (D-Austin), expands posting requirements for county public websites with regard to specific election information. The bill includes time frames for counties to report this information. Senate Bill 1116 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) is the companion.
Senate State Affairs
The Senate State Affairs Committee took up Senate Bill 2232 by Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), which removes the four-day gap between the early voting period and election day. The bill defines “election period” to begin on the first day of voting by personal appearance and ends when the polls close on election day. It also requires a feasibility study for a single voting period to be conducted before Sept. 1, 2022. SB 2232 would become effective Sept. 1, 2023.
Texas Gains Two Congressional Seats
On Monday, the U.S. Census Bureau released its long-delayed 2020 apportionment results, and Texas gained more population than any other state. There are now 29,145,505 Texans, almost 4 million more than in the 2010 Census, representing an increase of 15.9%. For comparison, Oklahoma has 4 million residents; therefore, Texas grew over the past 10 years by one Oklahoma. Texas’s rate of growth, 7.4%, more than doubled the national growth rate. While Texas was the state that gained the most congressional seats, some experts believe that Texas would have gained a third seat had more state resources gone into ensuring a correct count — the state was about 190,000 persons shy of gaining the additional seat. The 38 congressional seats, combined with two U.S. Senate seats, guarantees Texas 40 Electoral College votes in presidential elections for the next decade.
In total, seven of the 435 congressional seats were affected by the results. California, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia all lost one seat, while Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Montana and Oregon each gained one seat.
Due to the delayed delivery of redistricting data, due by Sept. 30, the Texas Legislature is expecting a special session to redraw the state’s congressional, legislative and State Board of Education boundaries.
For more data, visit the Census Bureau’s apportionment results site.
Bills on the Move