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3rd Special Legislative Session Faces Challenges

The 87th Texas Legislature will go into a third special session on Sept. 20 to address redistricting led by Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), among other items.

Redistricting, mask mandates, and transgender sports on the list for third special session

Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott has called a third special session of the 87th Legislature, to begin on Monday, Sept. 20. The first issue on the proclamation is redistricting, which is mandated every 10 years based on the results of the latest census. State Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) is chairman of the House redistricting committee.

“Redistricting is an important issue,” Hunter said. “I’m honored to be the chairman of the Texas House Redistricting Committee. I will be working with many folks and look forward to communicating about the issue.”

The redistricting legislation relates to the apportionment of the state of Texas into districts used to elect members of the House, the Senate, the State Board of Education, and the U.S. House of Representatives.

Redistricting is historically a contentious partisan issue. Where those lines are drawn can determine how many of each party are most likely to be elected to serve, affecting the balance of power in the state House and U.S. Congress.

Hunter will face extra pressure this year as the process is months behind schedule due to delays in receiving the needed information from the U.S. Census Bureau. Normally, the census data would be available by January for redistricting during the regular legislative session. This year, due to delays in the count last year, the information was not available until late August.

The battles have already begun. A lawsuit drawn up by two Texas senators and a political organization, the Tejano Democrats, states that lawmakers cannot legally redraw voting lines this fall. Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) and Sen. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) are asking an outside organization, a federal district court, to draw up the new political maps.

The Texas Constitution states that the Legislature “shall” redraw the state’s legislative maps “at its first regular session after the publication” of each decennial census. They charge that the work cannot be done in a special session.

Other legislation slated for the special session includes mask mandates, limiting transgender students in University Interscholastic League athletic competitions, and appropriating American Rescue Plan Act money.

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