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Texas special legislative session begins: Bond reform, election law changes on the agenda

The special session will resume Friday morning in Austin.

AUSTIN, Texas — Bail reform, changes to election law, and border security are some of the controversial issues on the agenda during Texas's 2021 special legislative session.

It officially convened Thursday morning but quickly adjourned until 10 a.m. Friday.

RELATED: Bail reform, election bills set for public hearings after first day of special session

Governor Greg Abbott announced his agenda Wednesday, calling the 11 items “unfinished business” from the regular session.

The 11 items include:

  • Bail overhaul
  • Elections
  • Border security
  • Social media censorship
  • Legislative branch funding
  • Family violence prevention
  • Limiting access to school sports teams for transgender students
  • Abortion-inducing drugs
  • An additional payment for retired Texas teachers
  • Critical race theory
  • Other budgetary issues

According to Gov. Abbott, those items are: bail reform, election integrity, border security, social media censorship, Article X funding, family violence prevention, youth sports, abortion-inducing drugs, thirteenth check, critical race theory and appropriations.

The special session comes more than a month after the walkout by Texas House Democrats to stop a controversial voting bill and end the regular legislative session.

That bill, Senate Bill 7, would have banned drive-thru voting and 24-hour voting, two methods Harris County launched in the fall 2020 election that drew more than 130,000 voters.

“I don’t think the Democrats have any what I call ‘failsafe strategies’ like the walkout,” said Bob Stein, KHOU 11 political analyst. “They’re not likely to pull that off.”

However, Stein says his survey with Rice University, where he is a political science professor, found drive-thru voting and extended poll hours were popular with voters both parties.

“I think what you’re going to see, and you’re hearing it more and more, are conversations among legislators,” Stein said. “A few Democrats are approaching Republicans and saying, ‘Do you really want to do these changes?’”

Stein also believes there’s increasing bipartisan support on felony bond reform, an issue that’s drawn increased attention in the Houston area in recent months.

In late June, Zacchaeus Gaston was out on seven felony bonds when prosecutors say he shot and killed his child’s mother, Layla Steele, and wounded their 1-year-old son, who Steele was holding.

Andy Kahan, a victims' advocate with Crime Stoppers of Houston, tweeted Wednesday more than 85 people have been killed by defendants released on multiple felony bonds since 2020.

“(Reform) is so desperately needed right now,” said Kahan, during a June 28 interview with KHOU 11.

During that interview, Kahan said he’s hopeful law enforcement, elected officials, and people living in Harris County will support felony bond reform.

“It’s imperative that we get a grip on the revolving door at the courthouse,” Kahan said.

Mayor Sylvester Turner reacted Wednesday to news that Gov. Abbott placed reform on the special session agenda.

“People shouldn’t be out on three and four, five felony bonds,” said Mayor Turner, answering a question during an unrelated news conference. “That doesn’t make any rational sense, and it makes our streets even unsafe. Quite frankly, I don’t think we need the state legislature to step in to try to do more. The state legislature’s already done too much, quite frankly, and made the situation worse.”

Mayor Turner said lawmakers should undo constitutional carry, which passed during the regular session.

“There are already way too many guns on the street,” Mayor Turner said. “I would like to hear people talk about the guns that are on the street, and how the state has made it possible for there to be more guns on the street.” 

The special session starts at 10 a.m. Thursday in Austin.

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