The Texas Legislature and State Leadership During the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Ty Embrey
The Texas Legislature and State Leadership are living, working, and leading in a new and difficult reality like all of us and are trying to find solutions to help all of Texas through this historic time. The normal rhythm to the legislative process and preparation for the next regular session of the Texas Legislature has been significantly altered as legislative leaders attempt to deal with the current issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Governor Abbott has issued seven (7) Executive Orders since March 14 to lead the response to the pandemic at the state level. Governor Abbott’s Executive Orders include Executive Order GA-14 published on March 31 that addressed the statewide continuity of essential services and activities through April 30, 2020, including social distancing guidelines.
Governor Abbott has typically held press conferences with state agency officials and legislative leaders every other day to update the citizens of Texas on the State’s efforts to deal with the pandemic.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has created a task force to work on strategies for restarting the Texas economy when the time is right. The task force will “work on a set of recommendations for re-starting the economy, once President Trump and Governor Abbott announce that businesses can begin the re-opening process and Texans can go back to work,” per Lt. Governor Patrick’s office. Dallas businessman Brint Ryan, owner of tax advisor company Ryan LLC, will be the chairman of the task force.
Texas Senate staff members and Lt. Governor Patrick’s staff members have begun training to help answer phone calls received by the Texas Workforce Commission related to unemployment claims. Speaker of the Texas House Dennis Bonnen has made a similar request of House staff members to help the Texas Workforce Commission to address the unemployment claims they are receiving. The Texas Workforce Commission has received an unprecedented number of phone calls and umemployment claims over the last month.
As far as preparation for the next regular session of the Texas Legislature that is scheduled to begin in January 2021, the Texas Senate and Texas House have stopped holding committee hearings to hear testimony and receive information on the various subjects, issues, and charges that the committees were assigned by Lt. Governor Patrick and Speaker Bonnen as part of the Legislature’s social distancing effort. With the U.S. Census occurring in 2020, legislators were anticipating addressing redistricting matters during the 2021 Regular Session as the Legislature typically does in the Regular Sessions immediately following the Federal Government conducting the U.S. Census. The Legislature is also usually holding hearings and working on the state budget at this time in preparation for the upcoming Regular Session, but that work has been reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The state budget that legislators will be working on in the coming months and during the Regular Session will be particularly challenging with the economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the drop in oil and gas prices in 2020.
Those prices impact the amount of tax revenue the State of Texas receives from the production and sale of oil and gas.
This summary was prepared by Ty Embrey, Chair of the Firm’s Governmental Relations Practice Group. If you would like additional information or have questions related to this article or other matters, please contact Ty at 512.322.5829 or firstname.lastname@example.org.