The upcoming session of the Texas Legislature begins next week. State Rep. Hugh Shine, R-Temple, expects one thing to dominate it.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty as we begin this session,” Shine told attendees Tuesday during his monthly forum at the Temple Chamber of Commerce. “Unfortunately, we don’t have answers to some questions.”
The legislator — entering his overall fifth term on Jan. 12 after being unopposed in the GOP primary and general election last year — rattled off several reasons for his expectation. Shine, first elected in 1986 to finish an unexpired term, served for two full terms from 1987 to 1991, and returned to the House in 2016 after a three-decade hiatus.
The House will have a new leader, its third in three sessions, Shine said. Beaumont Republican Dade Phelan is likely to succeed current Speaker Dennis Bonnen, an Angleton Republican who is leaving the Legislature after conservative activists released a recording of him encouraging primary challenges for GOP members.
Phelan has the votes necessary to secure the speakership, The Texas Tribune reported. Lawmakers will cast their votes for House speaker on Jan. 12, the first day of the Legislature.
“We’re also coming off of a very contentious election cycle in November that really pitted a lot of members … against each other, in the D and the R case,” Shine said. “Because there was such a strong sense that Democrats were going to control the House.”
That did not happen. Democrats needed to flip nine seats to gain the majority of the House. Despite targeting more than 20 seats — including Shine’s fellow Bell County Republican, Rep. Brad Buckley of Salado — the composition of the 150-member House stayed the same, with 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats.
“That was all focused on redistricting,” Shine said. “What we do in redistricting, folks, is going to impact politics in this state for the next 10 years — and the Republicans have controlled it since 2001 and in 2011 and now we’re going to do it in 2021. So that’s going to be 30 years of impact — that’s huge.”
Redrawing the state’s political maps is among the smorgasbord of top issues — among which include dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, its effects on the state budget and school finance — lawmakers have to tackle this year.
But it might take longer for legislators to delve into redistricting. The Census Bureau missed a Dec. 31 deadline to deliver its population counts to states, Politico reported. That was the first time the bureau has missed the deadline, the Virginia-based publication reported. It is expected to deliver those numbers “in early 2021.”
“I think it’s safe to say redistricting will be a special session this summer,” Shine said, pointing out the Legislature has until Aug. 31, the end of the state’s fiscal year, to complete the mandatory task.
Shine has repeatedly discussed redistricting during his forums in Temple and Belton.
“Because that, right now, is the biggest event outside of trying to do the budget and take care of public education,” the Temple Republican said. “That’s why I list it as the No. 3 item and have for the last year or so because of the impact it has on politics.”