WTFTxLege: Special Session #1

Oh, you thought you were done screaming “WTF TX Lege?!” into the void? Well, think again. The regularly scheduled biennial session may have concluded, but Gov. Greg Abbott has called a special session scheduled to start July 8

*screaming intensifies*

art by Graciela Blandon

Yeah, yeah, we are not thrilled about it as we know it will be dedicated to passing anti-voter legislation that didn’t pass in the regular session. We know this special session was called because Gov. Abbott and his cronies will do anything to make voting harder for Black, Brown, disabled and young voters. But, as always, the fight continues and we are here to prepare you for everything you need to know about this rapid fire legislative session and what to expect.

WTF is so Special?

A special session is a session with a designated agenda. It is intended to pass specific legislation that didn’t get through the legislature in the regular session that the Governor deems necessary. The legislature can’t really take up any other legislation other than what the session has been specified for. It acts similar to a regular session, but on a much faster timeline of 30 days. With a special session comes special rules such as: the Governor can call as many of these as he wants, on whatever he wants, with no time restraints and no warning between regular sessions. If the legislation doesn’t pass this special session, Gov. Abbott could keep calling them until he gets what he wants. They can be back-to-back, and even the same day as one ends because there ain’t no rest for the wicked. Sessions could even continue popping up until the next regular session two years from now. Not that this is likely, but we just want to put emphasis on the power the Governor holds to ensure his priority legislation passes. Considering how the election legislation played out in the 11th-hour of the regular session, we know this could be a means for controversial back-and-forth on party lines. 

Gov. Abbott intends to call two special sessions, the one set for July 8 to pass the anti-voter legislation, and bail system legislation that also died when the Democrats broke quorum; and then another session predicted for the Fall when census data is official to redraw our district lines (also, very important!!)

 What TF Happened? Why TF Are We Having this Special Session?

Trust, if we could answer the overarching question here we would. Alas, we are having a special session – not to fix our electrical grid that left millions of Texans cold and several hundreds to die in February – no, not that. This special session is not to roll out vaccination plans and COVID relief in a state with less than 50 percent of adults vaccinated and with least insured people in the nation. And, it’s definitely not to pass pro-voter legislation like online or automatic voter registration in 1 of the 10 states left without this system, nope. It’s all so Gov. Abbott can pass legislation that makes it stricter, scarier, and less accessible to vote in what is already the hardest state to vote in. Doesn’t seem like this should be our state’s priority legislation, but we digress. 

The biggest reason this session is being held is because of the last ditch effort from House Democrats to not let Senate Bill 7 pass. Quick recap: During the last day of the regular session, SB 7 needed the full-house vote to officially turn the bill into legislation. It was obvious party-line votes were going to result in this legislation, so House Democrats broke quorum –  left the chamber –  so no vote could be held and the bill would die with the session. 

Fun fact: Breaking quorum to kill a bill has only happened three times in Texas history. Put us in the books, baby!

After breaking quorum, pro-voter lawmakers took to Washington to address the U.S. congress in hopes of passing the For The People act to enact national standards so these attacks will cease. 

This Special Session

The official agenda for the July 8 special session was released Wednesday morning. Gov. Abbott makes it clear that he will use this special session to threaten the basic rights of all Texans and undermine our freedom to vote.

We can’t be exactly sure how everything will play out, but we know the situation can be expected to be hairy as legislators on both sides are strategizing to get their desired result. 

The state budget will even be taken up due to Gov. Abbott who vetoed the part that pays legislative staff and agencies to make a statement. He said funding should be cut for those who “leave early” in reference to those who broke quorum. 

This gross abuse of power disguised as teaching legislators a lesson hardly affects legislators whose payment is guaranteed in the Texas constitution. Who this really hurts is their employees and the folks who make the capitol run,  amounting to over 2,000 state employees – from staffers, to cafeteria workers and custodians. 

It now goes beyond passing legislation into the ethics of potentially risking pay to their staffers if anyone threatens to stop this legislation. Just normal, Texas dystopian bullshit though. 

Precautions could be taken, but Speaker of the House, Dade Phelan says he will not lock doors or bring police to keep Democrats from breaking quorum again. But, he did say, “If it takes a hundred special sessions, the Texas Legislature will pass an election integrity bill that instills further confidence in the accuracy of our elections.” It’s like a time loop horror movie!

Moreover, it is unclear how the election legislation will look this time around. It could be a whole new proposal or look the same as it did when it failed just under a new bill number. For reference, Senate Bill 7 threatened to limit early voting hours, local voting options, mail ballots, ban drive-through voting and increase the scope of poll watchers. And, that was AFTER we vouched for the worst parts to be gutted! 

You Made This Possible

With the power the Governor holds in special sessions and the measures being taken to push this legislation, not much of this feels like a win. But, the fact that we were able to kill the last bill in a regular session where the majority wanted it passed, was no easy feat. Sure, it was House Democrats that broke quorum, but it was grassroots organizations like MOVE Texas, our partners, allies and supporters who enabled this reality. It was everyday voters, business leaders, artists and advocates making their voices heard for the first time that created the space to kill this big, bad bill.  It was our late night testimonies, staying at the Capitol for 24-hours to make sure we were heard, the huge rallies we attended, and making this a moral issue of right and wrong that empowered the quorum break. We did that. 

Even before the quorum break, there was serious work that went into doing damage control to reduce the scope and harm of this election bill. 

People power made all this possible and now Gov. Abbott is scared and taking all precautions to block us. While there’s many shitty things happening/could happen to ensure Gov. Abbott passes his racist, voter suppression bill, it’s kinda cute that we got him shaking in his boots. 

Our role in this special session is to continue to make noise and keep telling the legislators that this bill is racist, ableist, ageist, and their actions to pass it are unethical. Silence and darkness is truly where democracy dies, and we aren’t letting up. It’s in our nature; we showed up for each other through this pandemic, through Winter Storm Uri, and we will continue to be there for each other when our leaders abandon us.  No one can ever say Texans do not show up. We out here, tx lege, where are you? 

WTFTxLege?!: The state that cried election integrity est. 1861

Looking at the history of voter suppression in Texas is like watching reboots of the same tired tale. The story never changes, but people’s reactions have. As the 87th Texas Legislature nears sine die, Texans are waiting for someone to put an end to the running gag that is our voting ‘rights’.

Art by MOVE Texas Artists Fellow Jenna Luecke

Yet, here we are again watching racist bills get forced through the lege attempting to stifle our rising electorate. This year, we saw countless Texans, advocates, and Texas companies like American Airlines, Dell, Microsoft and more condemn these bullsh*t bills these past few months. And what we really know about tx lege at this point in our state’s track record is that we everyday people may not be able to truly control the outcome of a bill, but we can speak the truth about it and uncover the boldfaced lies legislators tell to make decisions that hurt Black, Brown, and young Texans. 

Even so, the lege is 140 days every two years of all of us collectively trying to protect and speak up for ourselves for countless good and bad bills, but also never actually truly knowing what is happening with the bills. “Wait, how did it get there? Wasn’t it just over here?.” Trust us, we know it’s too much. But we are just a voting rights organization, standing in front of voters asking you to read our blog and tell you WTF just happened in the effin’ Texas Legislature. Thank you kindly. 

WTF Just Happened?

This legislative session, legislators introduced 49 anti-voter laws – the most out of any state in the country. This new legislation is threatening to impose even greater anti-voter restrictions in what is already the most restrictive state in the country. Among the heavyweight bills in this session have been House Bill 6 and Senate Bill 7. These bills directly targeted several pro-voter measures implemented across Texas to vote during the global pandemic – measures such as drive-thru voting, 24-hour voting and multiple drop off boxes for mail-in ballots. The bills would also increase criminal penalties for small clerical errors, assisting non-English speakers and disabled voters, and would further the scope of poll watchers to report “suspicious” voters. 

HB 6 was voted out of the House elections committee, but it’s in a weird kind of limbo. No one knows what the final version of this bill will look like as it’s being written in a back room. So, we wait. 🧍🏻‍♀️

Further along, we have SB 7 which has been voted out of the Senate and out of the House and is now back in the Senate where we are waiting for the final amendments before approval into law. A lot happened these past few months from initial hearings of the bills that did not allow virtual testimony to in-person testimony lasting well into the early hours of the next day. Two weeks ago in the House vote, the floor debate went to 3 a.m. Many advocates were able to get the worst parts gutted.

Art by MOVE Texas Artists Fellow Leila Charur

With such a restrictive voting process in Texas already, the passing of this bill makes our fragile elections even more so. And as we know, these anti-voter bills and its siblings across the country are a part of nationally backed efforts from dark money groups like the Heritage Foundation. The founder of Heritage Foundation, Paul Weyrich once said “I don’t want everybody to vote[…]Our leverage in the election goes up as the voting populace goes down.” 

He is also a part of the infamous American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC helped create the Texas 2011 voter ID law. These organizations are funneled money by politicians to keep the vote reserved for everyone but us young and BIPOC eligible voters.

The History of Voter Suppression in Texas

You may not be spending an arm and a leg to live in Texas compared to other states, but you may be forfeiting your voting rights in return. Hey, that’s just the Texas way. Texas was ranked worst in ‘cost-of-voting’ study this past year, up from number 5 in 2016. Doing it big since 1861: the land, the pride, the skies, and the voter suppression. 🤠

It’s hard to not joke about the voting laws here because we are still waiting for this loooong prank to be over. (You can come out now, haha.) And what else do we have left if not the funnies? 

To understand this current cost-of-voting ranking we need to talk about how none of these restrictions are new. They are just repackaged, rebranded and recasted. Texas and voter suppression grew up together; they’re tight. Childhood besties and for lifers, to Texans dismay. Like, grow up, ma’ams this isn’t 1870. Please see our timeline of Texas voter suppression that could also easily be turned into a cycle flow chart. Also, check out the League of Women Voters timeline of voting in Texas for more. 

Art by MOVE Texas Artists Fellow Graciela Blandon


1836: Texas secedes from Mexico

1861: Texas secedes from the United States

1870-1880s: White Man’s Union/Primary Associations during Reconstruction era to maintain White control in county elections in areas that had large Black or Hispanic populations by using voter and candidate intimidation and only allowing BIPOC populations to vote in Fall elections (not primaries).

1902: Texas politicians implement poll tax because of voter fraud charging Black and Mexican-American laborers nearly a whole day’s pay to cast a ballot.

1922: Texas law outright banned Black voters from Texas primaries. (following the lead of White Man’s Primary Associations.)

1927: Supreme Court declared the 1922 law unconstitutional. Although lawmakers allowed political parties to decide who could participate in primaries, so it happened again.

1944: Smith v. Allwright case, the United States Supreme Court found the White Primary to be unconstitutional.

1964: Operation Eagle Eye – National partisan poll watch campaign for “ballot security”. Following Johnson’s questionable presidential win. 10,000 poll watchers in Texas. 

1964: Voter intimidation – flyers authored by the nonexistent “Harris County Negro Protective Association” warned Black voters they could be arrested for voting if they had even been questioned by the police.

1964: Travis and Harris county claim to find hundreds of phantom voters. Later proven to be just clerical errors on paperwork.

1964 (wild year): 24th amendment banned the poll tax. 

1965: Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawing the discriminatory voting practices including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting.

1966: Texas implemented annual re-registration policy. 

1971: Re-registration policy ruled unconstitutional. Texas enacts a voter purge law that requires the entire electorate to re-register. The Justice Department stopped it from being implemented. Phew! 

2008: King Street Patriots in Harris county poll intimidation group formed in response to Obama’s presidential win. They scoured voter rolls in predominantly Black parts of Houston and came up with a list of what they called fraudulent registration forms. Group praised by Harris Tax Assessor at the time.

2010: Voting rights Grim Reaper himself, Greg Abbott, then attorney general, had armed agents raid the headquarters of Houston Votes and seized everything funded by a federal grant disbursed by Gov. Rick Perry. During this period they targeted dozens of groups that assist marginalized voters.

2011: The Texas Legislature enacts Senate Bill 14 and what Gov. Rick Perry deemed ‘emergency legislation’ (eye roll) requiring a voter to present 1 of 7 acceptable forms of identification to vote in person. 

2012: Shelby v. Holder overturns provisions in Voting Rights Act

2019: The Texas Legislature prohibits temporary voting sites during early voting, which were usually used on college campuses and in rural areas.

2019: Almost 100,000 voters were attempted to be purged from the voter rolls after Gov. Abbott’s appointed Sec. of State sent a list of names across the state that were mostly recently naturalized citizens eligible to vote.

2019: 750 polling locations close in Texas since Shelby v. Holder ruling.

2020: Federal Judge says Texas is once again violating The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 also known as “Motor Voter” and orders DPS to allow online voter registration when updating driver’s license by Sept. 2020.

2020: In October, Abbott ordered Texas counties to limit themselves to one drop-off location for mail-in ballots during the global COVID-19 pandemic.Texas Supreme Court sides with him.

2021: Current Texas Legislative session introduces 49 anti-voter laws, the most in the country. This is a part of a nationally backed effort from dark money organizations drafting legislation across the country such as the Heritage Foundation. 

And now we’re here. 🙂

WTF now?

Again, we reiterate that SB 7 and HB 6 are not shocking pieces of legislation, just tired ones. And as Rep. Rafael Anchia pointed out to Chairmen Briscoe Cain on the House floor debate of SB 7, the term “purity of the ballot box” has already been used. During the Reconstruction era this term stopped Black Texans from voting. Get new material! 
At this point in our state’s history it makes sense to be defeated by the reoccurring suppression. Legislators have kept up the jig for decades. Although hoping through this can feel out of touch in a reality where legislators and dark money coordinate and overrule the people’s will, we at WTFTxLege and the greater MOVE Texas community are grateful to be in this fight with you. The protests and rallies we have been in together have gotten national attention. The thing is, they won’t feel shame passing these bills under our microscope. But, the country is watching closely as Texas legislators have been warned, educated, and enlightened on the racist, ableist and ageist tones of the bills. CAUGHT. IN. 4K. LEGE.

WTFTxLege?!: Cash Sh*t

During TX lege sessions, many bills come and go, try and die, but the one thing you can always count on biennially is the passing of the state budget. They gotta, it’s in the Texas Constitution! Just because it has to pass doesn’t mean it is without woes and upsets just as many bills in the capitol corridors. And if you’re like me, you’re probably just like, “Why this so hard? Aren’t we like the 10th largest economy in the world?”

There’s meticulous deliberation, consideration, fine tooth-combing, and slashing for this hefty state and its budget accordingly. Alas, with the economy comes a large set of rules and regulations to keep it alive, and that onus and its pitfalls usually come down on working Texans. 

Budgets can be a sore subject, especially as many of us were like “unhand my stimmy, Joe.” And the Texas budget is a monster that unfortunately everyday Texans rarely get to be a part of. Here at WTFTxLege, we want everyone to see where the money goes, who follows it, and what things we can advocate for within it. 

Today’s mantra comes from fellow Texan and Grammy winner Megan Thee Stallion: 

I’m on that cash shit. I’m in my bag, bitch.”

Process of the budget

Here’s a couple definitions to describe stupid economics words from ballotpedia.

  • Revenues come mainly from tax collections, licensing fees, federal aid, and returns on investments.
  • Expenditures generally include spending on government salaries, infrastructure, education, public pensions, public assistance, corrections, Medicaid, and transportation.

State budgets are forward-thinking. They depend on predicted revenues and planned expenditures.

 So, just imagine all of TX Lege trying to handle a budget in a world where an unpredicted and unplanned pandemic is happening. That’s not to skirt accountability, but to just point out the considerations this budget is taking. Texas’ budget mostly comes from sales tax revenue aka businesses being open and operating. Revenues were obviously going to be down as the pandemic pushed people inside.

And when revenue does not meet expectations, Texas has to make cuts, raise taxes, borrow money, or take money from the Rainy Day Fund – none of which Texas legislators really like to do.

The lifespan of the budget includes many steps. The background stuff happens for a majority of the timeline, but we are approaching the thick of it where floor action begins. Here’s a great example of the state budget process provided by the Texas Association of Counties. 

Hegar Heeds

When it comes to the budget and whose analysis we are looking for, it’s the state comptroller. Texas’ Comptroller is Glenn Hegar and for months he rang alarms, provided thoughts on where revenue would stand, and suggestions for when the lege would start drafting the budget. Hegar is our very own Paul Revere heeding warnings to be ready for and the lege is able to act accordingly. Since the pandemic started, we have seen a handful of heeds all changing as the circumstances and days do. Here’s a timeline of what the budget has been staring down:

April 2020 – Early into the pandemic, Hegar named the recession and said about the budget: “It’s probably going to be a revised downward adjustment of several billion dollars.”  He suggested legislators be ready to cut spending or find some new source of money.

July 2020 – While sales tax revenues were down, the reopening of the economy in the summer helped only a bit. Rising cases forced Gov. Abbott to move capacity levels at restaurants down. Despite this, Hegar said sales taxes from takeout, delivery, and online shopping helped buoy revenue. He projected the state’s current two-year budget to be roughly $11.5 billion less than originally estimated.

November 2020 – Hegar presented virtually to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who co-chair the budget board and said although revenue was still significantly down, it wasn’t as bad as he initially projected in the summer, once again due to takeout, delivery, and online shopping. 

January 2021 – Hegar’s official revenue estimate concluded that $112.5 billion would be available for the two-year budget. The current budget would be under $1 billion down from past budgets, but still much less than anticipated from the summer, the Texas Tribune outlines.

March 2021 – With the economy improving and Hegar’s new optimistic estimate, the budget was looking up. At the federal level, the new 1.9 trillion COVID relief bill was signed which includes about $17 billion for Texas making the budget this session look even better.


There are three committees that deal with the budget. Overall, there is a good chunk of the lege focusing on the big bucks.

  1. Texas House: Appropriations Committee 
  2. Texas Senate: Finance Committee 
  3. Texas House: Ways & Means Committee 

Rainy Day Fund

There’s always lots of talk about the economic stabilization fund – or rainy day fund. This is essentially our state’s savings and what many legislators see as an emergency only – one time use – fund. But this fund currently sits at $10 billion worth of unused money. And to many advocates, issue areas are emergencies. Climate justice is an emergency. Education is an emergency. Here’s a few bills and areas advocates and progressive legislators are looking at to use the rainy day fund.

The winter storm, snowpocalypse 2021 that hit Texas and caused widespread power outages resulting in some Texans receiving sky high electricity bills that should not be their responsibility to pay. The POWER Act, HB 3460, written by Rep. Ana Hernandez is a bill calling on the state to provide direct financial assistance to residents of this state who were affected by the winter disaster.

Many elected officials  have called for similar things such as Senator Jose Menendez and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Gov. Abbott told state agencies to reduce budgets by 5 percent and shifts like that usually mean we will see cuts to big programs like public education, higher education, and healthcare. Even though he promised education would not be slashed in his State of the State address, this is usually the area it happens to, sadly. The senate’s proposed budget does protect teacher’s pay raises, but cuts costs to technology and materials which are incongruent to distant learning. 

Many advocates consistently push for the rainy day fund to be used on education to make up for past cuts and more investment in our future. The pandemic also exacerbated gaps in education as distant learning took hold. Higher education officials are asking for an investment in colleges and universities because of this.


Progress in the budget is underway, but with a lot of work to go. Gov. Abbott has released his proposed budget as has the Senate and House, both of which look similar and are $7 billion over what Comptroller Hegar said the chambers had to spend. 

We are looking at budget cuts unless we dip into the rainy day fund or find another source of money. The COVID relief bill may have helped this, but we have yet to know by how much and what will continue to go down as the budget progresses. We should see floor action begin within the next few weeks. Until then, stay in your bag, friends.


WTFTxLege: The Senate


The Texas Senate is the yin to the House’s yang. Referred to as the upper half, while the House is the lower half, together these chambers make the tx lege. The point of having two chambers is to moderate out the legislative process and  make it more difficult for the whole legislative branch to coordinate efforts for any agenda.

 But, once again, we reiterate: LOL. We live in a trifecta state where our governorship, senate and house are controlled by one party. Although, the Texas Senate is controlled by Republicans only 18-13 (Dems got so close, yet so far). The Texas Senate differs from the House pretty obviously through the amount of members in each chamber. The Senate has 31 seats for 31 districts in our big ass state compared to the House’s resounding 150 representatives. Texas Senators are repping way more area in comparison for 4-year terms and no term limits. 16 seats out of the chamber’s 31 seats were up for election in 2020.

Remember, the people who represent our regions and make legislation on our behalf have names and numbers 👀. 

Need to know who you need to bully? Find your senator here.

Role in Legislative Session:

Similar to the Texas House, the Senate can introduce legislation in their chamber. A senator/sponsor of the bill will propose legislation, and the Lieutenant Governor will then assign it to a committee accordingly. The committees form research, collect opinions on the bill, and edit the bill before approving or denying it to go to the other side – the House. Many bills die in the committees once the committees conclude that the bill is similar to another, or, it’s just like, shitty. 

If the bill does make it out of its committee and the House it goes to the second boss: The Floor. Bills have three major touchpoints on its way to becoming legislation. First reading is in the respective chamber, the second reading is on the floor with the full Senate, and the third reading is on the floor of both chambers. 

Floor action includes amendments and debates and the Texas Senate floor action is notorious for it. The Senate permits members to speak for as long as they wish (or otherwise can physically sustain). You may have heard of a filibuster, or “talking a bill to death”. Yeah, that’s where this happens. Former State Sen. Wendy Davis is famous for her 2013, 13-hour, anti-abortion legislation filibuster.

Foot on the throats of Senators with those pink running shoes, as she should.  

Lieutenant Governor:

The Lieutenant Governor is weirdly referred to as the “President of the Texas Senate.” This position has a very unique type of power being both a part of the legislative branch and the executive branch. The Lt. Gov. is the basically most powerful elected in the state, and if the Governor kicks the bucket, they assume his position. 

Out of the 50 states, Texas is one of few states that puts so much power in lieutenant governor title. Texas’ Lt. Gov. is Dan Patrick (R) and has been since 2015. If his name seems familiar it could be from an array of things from the Dan Patrick show, or maybe the piece of legislation he filed last week in protest of the Dallas Mavericks not playing the National Anthem at their games. We could go on, but we can be petty on our own time. Let’s talk about Mr. Dirty Dan and what he does in this position.

✨Dan Does✨

  • Establishes all special and standing committees,
  • Appoints all chairpersons and members to said committees, 
  • Assigns all Senate legislation to the committee of his choice,
  • Decides all questions of parliamentary procedure in the Senate,
  • Takes over if the Governor dies, resigns, is removed from office, or is absent from the state

In conclusion – Dan do too much. This only scratches the surface, but the extent of these powers is worth diving into. While many committees may have intersecting interests, it’s ultimately Patrick’s decision and preference as to what committee it ends up in. 


Because the Senate only has 31 members, they serve on four or five committees at a time in comparison to the House’s usual two or three. Once again, committee membership is determined entirely by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. 

Unlike the House’s committee jurisdiction, the Senate’s committees do not specify jurisdiction, meaning there is no rule about what the committee’s assigned territory is and what bills go there, but the bills are most likely still going to the unofficial committee jurisdiction, or, ya know, we hope. 

Senate committees and subcommittees must post notice of their meetings 24 hours in advance. That’s not a lot of heads up, but it’s a heads up nonetheless? Make sure to check which meetings are open to the public and able to hear testimony because the Senate is kind of a mess and it needs you to tell it what to do. You’re really gonna let DAN handle all this?! Nah-uh. Look alive.

Okay, so, did you get all that?

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