AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Amid a bitter fight over redistricting, the third special session of the Texas Legislature ended early Tuesday morning, Oct. 19 after lawmakers approved a variety of bills with bipartisan support.
Lawmakers voted to increase the homestead exemption on school property taxes from $25,000 to $40,000.READ MORE: Mesquite Police Identify Officer Killed In Shooting, Vigil To Be Held Sunday
That would save an average homeowner about $175.
State Representative Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, who serves as the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus praised the bill, SB 1.
“I was glad to see that and this is a priority that Democrats have championed for years, every session, Democratic members of the State House have filed measures to increase the homestead exemption, Republicans have generally resisted those efforts.”
State Senator Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills pointed out that Republicans proposed this bill and others like it in the past.
“I guess some of the Democrats need to recognize that that’s doable. And it’s not that uncommon. In fact, I would guess, that if you looked at the legislation that we passed, this time, probably 97% of what we passed was in a bipartisan manner, this session.”
Lawmakers also agreed on how to spend $13 billion in federal Covid-19 relief funds.
Money will go toward replenishing the unemployment compensation fund, Covid-19 therapeutic drugs and surge staffing if there’s another wave of the virus, and improving broadband access among other items.
Rep. Turner said, “That’s why they had bipartisan support passed in the House and Senate. I want to thank President Biden and the Democrats in Congress to pass this funding and made it possible for the Texas Legislature to fund these priorities.”
Senator Hancock said, “I think it’s beneficial that we utilize those funds that really everybody across the state is going to be able to benefit from, and then of course, addressing several of the healthcare areas with that legislation as well.”
In another controversial bill that passed, transgender public school athletes will be required to compete on teams that match their birth gender, not their gender identity.
Lawmakers also approved capitol construction projects at Texas universities and colleges and revised requirements for restraining dogs.READ MORE: 1 Killed, 3 Injured In Arlington Car Accident
The third special session was dominated by the controversial redistricting maps.
The Republican majority drew the maps of Congressional, State House and Senate, and Board of Education districts for the next ten years.
Democrats accuse Republicans of illegal racial gerrymandering by violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
One lawsuit has already been filed, and Turner said more may be filed.
They say the state’s two new Congressional districts should have reflected the population growth by Latinos, Asian-Americans, and African-Americans in North Texas and in Houston.
Rep. Turner said, “Republicans passed maps and in each instance, they denied, ignored the fact that 95% of Texans growth over this last decade is attributable to people of color.”
When asked to respond, Senator Hancock said, “It actually is impossible to respond. There’s litigation going on now therefore, responses, but I can I can assure you that there was a lot of working together They’re in a bipartisan fashion on several aspects of those maps.”
Two of Governor Abbott’s priorities did not pass: bills that would have increased penalties for those who vote illegally and that would have banned Covid-19 vaccine mandates.
The Governor’s Executive Order that bans the Covid-19 vaccine mandates remains in effect.
On Tuesday, Governor Abbott praised the results of the third legislative session.
“Texans tasked the Legislature with delivering on these priorities, and I am proud to say not only did we deliver on these priorities, but the Legislature went above and beyond to solve other critical issues to ensure an even brighter future for the Lone Star State.”
Abbott didn’t mention a fourth special session in his statement.MORE NEWS: No. 3 Cincinnati Claims AAC Crown, Possible Playoff Spot
But his press secretary said Tuesday afternoon there are no plans for a fourth special session at this time.