The Second Called Session of the Texas Legislature convened today (Saturday) at noon. A quorum could not be established in the House, as 55 Democratic members remained absent, many of them still out of state, and around 10 Republican members were absent, many of whom are in some form of quarantine after a positive Covid-19 test or recent exposure to someone with Covid-19.

At least 26 Democrats said they intended to remain in Washington, D.C. to advocate for federal voting rights legislation. Others could return “as early as this week.”

Meanwhile, an error-ridden federal lawsuit filed on behalf of 22 House Democrats claims that their rights have been violated by actions taken by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) – misspelled Abbot on page 1 – Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) and Rep. James White (R-Hilister) to force their return to Austin. It is unclear why White was singled out as a defendant. At least three of the plaintiffs said they did not authorize the lawsuit, which was filed by former legislator and U.S. Rep. Craig Washington (D-Houston).

“The Texas House remains committed to fulfilling its responsibilities as soon as our Democratic colleagues return from Washington or from their vacations abroad,” Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) said in a statement issued yesterday (Friday) as the first special session adjourned sine die.

Election Legislation: Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) will be heard in committee on Monday morning. The bill appears to be identical to the version passed by the Senate to engrossment during the First Called Session and is highly similar to election legislation considered during the regular session.

Election Dates: The Senate Jurisprudence Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 13 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), which would readjust the filing period and election dates for the 2022 primary based on when a redistricting plan “becomes law.” If a plan becomes law on or before:

  • November 15, then the primary election would be March 1, the runoff would be May 24 and the filing period would be November 29 to December 13
  • December 28, then the primary would be April 5, the runoff would be June 21 and the filing period would be January 10-24
  • February 7, 2022, then the primary would be May 24, the runoff would be July 26 and the filing period would be February 21 to March 7, 2022.

If a plan does not become law until after February 7, then the Secretary of State will set the election dates and filing period in “the same interval of time” as provided by law “to the extent practicable.”

In all cases, the filing period would be shortened from four weeks to two weeks. If the November 15 scenario is not used, then the new dates could squeeze minor party and independent candidates’ timeframes for obtaining signatures to be placed on the general election ballot. The bill permits the Secretary of State to “adjust” other administrative dates and deadlines, but it is not clear whether these candidates would have the same length of time to obtain signatures as they normally would.

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