Right off the top, the Texas Food & Fuel Association had a very successful Legislative Session.
But oh boy, was the 87th Texas Legislative Session one for the history books! It was the strangest, quietest, loudest, meanest, laziest, most topsy-turvy, roller coaster of a session anyone has ever seen. And in the end that is what everyone should have expected following 2020. Coming out of a year of a global pandemic, a summer of marches and protests, an incredibly divisive and contentious 2020 election cycle culminating in a scary and bizarre march on the US Capitol in Washington, why should we have expected the 2021 Texas legislature to have been anything other than a completely off the rails crazy train?
The Texas House had a new Speaker, Dade Phelan (R – Beaumont), and a new leadership team that had to learn on the fly while navigating the trials of in person committee hearings during a pandemic. The Texas Senate was once again led by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R – Houston) which similarly had to write new meeting rules and covid related attendance rules. Republican Governor Greg Abbott came into session having managed the state almost single handedly through the many unprecedented pandemic challenges. All of session was also severely limited by the lack of interim hearings to prepare for session, again due to covid pandemic restrictions. Oh, and then right as the wheels began turning in the legislative process, a once in a generation ice storm blanketed the state and brought everything grinding to an absolute frozen standstill.
Thankfully for our Association, following an extremely successful 2019 Legislative program, the TFFA Legislative Council did not have specific legislative needs that would have necessitated a standalone TFFA bill. Instead, the TFFA lobby team focused on a package of business friendly legislation that was being pursued by similar trade associations and business groups. TFFA's top priority issues this session were trucking liability reform, Covid liability assistance for businesses, city labor ordinance reform, and skimmer regulation.
In all TFFA tracked ~400 bills and worked about forty bills as they made their way through the legislative process. There were overall fewer bills filed, fewer bills heard, and fewer bills passed than in a typical session. This is mostly due to the slow committee process in January and February due to covid and then compounded by the lost time from the February ice storm. TFFA had four priority bills, three of which passed to Governor Abbotts desk and into law. TFFA can report victories on trucking liability reform, Covid liability assistance for businesses, and a much improved second skimmer bill. Our defeat came on Senate Bill 14 on statewide pre-emption of local city labor ordinances. The bill was caught in the fallout of the Democrats leaving the Capitol on the second to last day of session in protest of the Election integrity bill. The Governor has said that he will be bringing the Legislature back later this summer to address priorities of his that were left undone. TFFA is working with our business coalition partners to have pre-emptions of city labor ordinances included on the call for a special session.
One final note is that the Legislature did not complete the once every ten year task of redrawing the electoral district lines, also known as redistricting. The Governor will call the legislature back into special session around mid-September or October to complete redistricting. That will be a very contentious, ugly, and drawn out fight that will undoubtedly bleed into the 2022 election cycle.
The TFFA Legislative Council met once a month via Zoom webinar to review bills and strategy. Thank you to everyone who attended and participated in those meetings and a special thank you to Dan Baker, TFFA Chairman, Jake Marsico, TFFA Legislative Council Chari, and Fred Sloan, TFFA PAC Chair for their leadership during these turbulent times.