Texas Second Special Session
Second verse, same as the first. At least initially.
On Saturday, Texas started our second Special Session when Gov. Abbott announced that the second special session would begin immediately following the 30-day conclusion of the first session. Special sessions run for 30-days, and only items placed on the agenda, or “the call,” by the governor are eligible for passage.
Enough House Democrats left Texas for Washington D.C. during the first session to break the quorum for the House. Without a quorum nothing can pass on the House side. This departure was the result of the Democrats objection to proposed legislation changing some provisions of Texas election and voting laws. Coming out of the gates for this second special session there are still enough Democrats out of the state that the House appears to again be at a standstill. However, there are some reports that enough Democrats may soon return to Austin that could establish numbers needed for a quorum.
Just like in the first session, TMHA’s Lobby Team is actively involved, and currently focused on the Texas Senate, where legislation started moving this past weekend in committees. We will be ready if the House can get enough members to also start moving legislation.
While many of the items on the second session agenda are the same as the first session, Gov. Abbott did also add six new items to the call, which now totals 17 items. Time will tell if this session makes more traction or if another month goes by with continued partisan division and absence in the House.
This second special session, regardless of the outcome, will not be the last of the special sessions as redistricting and disbursement of $17 billion in federal dollars for COVID relief are still expected to drive additional special sessions.
Federal Eviction Moratorium Extended
In another bit of uncertainty and confusing news, the CDC has once again extended its federal eviction moratorium. The extension is limited to areas of the country experience “high or substantial” levels of COVID-19 transmission, which in Texas is currently all but 14-counties out of 254.
In response, the Texas Supreme Court has issued its 39th Emergency Order that renews the Texas Eviction Diversion Program. And various other provisions from previous emergency orders also remain in effect.
Legal challenges to the CDC moratorium are already underway. With the U.S. Supreme Court previously ruling that any extension of a moratorium beyond the end of July would only be legal if Congress passed legislation, which they did not. Thus, the legality and duration of this current order is unknown.
The continued and growing confusion on eviction proceedings with the federal moratorium; federal preemption on notice timelines for certain properties; petition, citation, and notice provisions; local city and county eviction bans (and programs); and even some local courts not being opened, has created a confusing patchwork of constantly changing requirements.
Perhaps the best resource at this point is the Texas Justice Court Training Center that is set up to primarily educate and help justice courts know how to property conduct their business.
If you have an eviction issue, another possible source would be to directly contact the JP clerk’s office where the eviction procedure would take place. Inquire as to their local position, preference and process. Try to obtain guidance in writing and consider adhering to the local steps as it might serve as the path of least resistance depending on the court.
Finally, also available to tenants and landlords is the Texas Rent Relief Program. There have been many media reports of states struggling to disperse rent relief dollars allocated to the states from Congress. The Texas program was allocated $1.2 billion in funds, and today has done a much better job than most states in getting the money out. To date the program has distributed more than $644 million, assisting over 105,000 households.