Published Jan 15, 2021 by Sophia Guevara
Legislative Session Update
The Texas Legislature gaveled into session this week, marking the beginning of the 87th Texas Legislative Session. In response to the ongoing pandemic, the House and Senate will not be in session next week and will reconvene January 26. Each week during the session, the Legislative Session Update will highlight key moments from the week’s events and discuss the Partnership’s Executive Priorities.
Biennial Revenue Estimate Released
On Monday, the stage was set for the legislative session when Comptroller Glenn Hegar released his Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE), projecting that the state will have $112.5 billion in revenue available for general-purpose spending during the 2022-23 biennium. While many expected the state to face dramatic revenue shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Comptroller painted a much more manageable picture. State budget writers will need to make up a shortfall of $950 million; well short of the dire $4.8 billion prediction forecasted last summer. In addition to the favorable budget estimate, the 2021 total ending balance of the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) is $8.9 billion. Absent any appropriations by the Legislature, the Comptroller's Office projects that the ESF will reach $11.55 billion at the end of the 2022-2023 biennium. The practical impact of a more favorable budget environment is that drastic cuts to items like public education may be averted.
Dade Phelan Elected Speaker of the Texas House
Representative Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) was sworn in as the Speaker of the Texas House. His election capped off a rapid ascent for the Speaker, who was first elected to the Texas House in 2012. In his first remarks to the chamber, Phelan urged collaboration, stating, "We must all do our part — not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Texans and Americans. Let us unite in one common purpose to do what is right for the people of Texas."
Senate Approves New Floor Vote Threshold
In a party-line vote, the Senate changed their rules to allow a bill to come to the floor with only 18 votes — the same number of seats held by Republican Senators — rather than the previous 19 votes. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick had urged the move publicly in the weeks leading up to the session. With the rule, Republicans may bring bills to the floor for consideration without the need to secure Democratic support.