This Week in Texas Politics: Lawsuits, abortion, a looming special session

Threats of lawsuits over abortion restrictions, a federal vaccination mandate, a statewide ban on homeless camping sites, and a looming special session that’s not limited to redrawing voting districts

Those are the big topics that dominated this week in Texas politics.  

The controversial abortion restrictions appear to be the vehicle anti-abortion groups have sought for the past several years in the attempt to overturn Roe-v-Wade. FOX 7’s panel of political journalists agreed the focus of the new abortion law challenge will be on when a heartbeat actually starts in the womb. 

As a result, the legal fight could end up redefining when life begins.

Rudy: Here we are back in the LBJ penthouse, talking this week in Texas politics, and it has been a volatile one and we ended last week saying that things were probably heading to the courtroom and we're in this week and it looks like we're heading to the courtroom. Let's start off with our headlines first. Cassi Pollock, Texas Tribune.

Cassi: The legislature will be back sooner than they probably want to be.

Rudy: Steven Dial FOX 4 your headline, 

Steven: Texas versus the United States 

Neal:  Attorney Palooza  

Rudy: Patrick Svitek. Your headline, Texas Tribune.

Patrick: Yeah, I agree. The headline this week was Texas versus the Feds. 

Rudy: And talking about that, that is the lawsuits with the Texas heartbeat bill and also the coming lawsuits in regards to the federal mandate for vaccinations. Steven, where does this all go other than the courtroom?

Steven: Right. That's where it's ultimately going to play out. But until then, it's going to play out in the court of public opinion. Just more recently, the president's vaccine mandate basically mandating the vaccine in virtually all businesses or weekly testing is something that's going to be hot. But Button, because there are unions that have already spoken out against it saying we weren't included in the decision-making process and then the very divisive issue when it comes to abortion.

Rudy: Neal, from a historical perspective, you and I have been covering the abortion issue for decades now. And it seems like the pro-life side has been looking for that vehicle to take to the courts all the way to the Supreme Court to challenge Roe v. Wade or at least redefine Roe v. Wade. Do you think that this heartbeat, bill, is that vehicle?  

Neal:  I don't think there's any question that it is for several reasons. One, it circumvents Roe v. Wade, yet Roe v. Wade is going to be the ultimate target for what is happening here. But it is an attorney's dream come true.  

Rudy: Cassi and Patrick, the Texas Tribune has touched on this already in regards to the beginning of life. And you'll have the Tribune has interviewed individuals in regards to, well, maybe this isn't a heartbeat, Bill. It's an electrical impulse. Bill, do you think that that's where this fight is going to be in defining what that moment is? 

Cassi: I think it's definitely going to be a talking point for both sides heading into this legal fight. 

Patrick: We're going to see this move from some of the political rhetoric that we've all become familiar with around the issue of abortion to a more scientific arena when it comes to those lawsuits. 

Rudy: Other bills, Steven, that have been signed involving the freedom of speech and social media and also low-cost insulin. How big are those and are they being noticed? 

Steven: The answer one is big. And, you know, I know the governor touted as something that was bipartisan. Democrats quickly came out with a press release saying this was our baby and it's still not perfect.

Rudy: Another big issue earlier this year was the homeless camps that have sprung up across Austin and other cities. The homeless camping ban legislation was signed this week. Patrick, is the issue over or is this just the beginning with this fight?  

Patrick:  He saw state leaders, including the governor, the attorney general, speak out this week urging enforcement of the legislation that was passed. But as far as further legislation is concerned, enforcing, you know, governing this on a statewide level, I think we're we've pretty much reached the point where everyone intended to go. 

Rudy: Cassi, part of the call of this third special session is a legislation in regards to chaining of dogs that the governor vetoed. Are you surprised that he put that in? Was that kind of saying, oops, I messed up because he took so much heat for vetoing it?

Cassi: Right. I think a number of us lawmakers and other folks who follow what happens around the legislature were somewhat surprised by that. There's a number of other items that the governor included that will include doling out over 16 billion dollars in federal covid relief funds. Quite a task for lawmakers to do in 30 days or less, especially when you also have redistricting on the table. And also just to something that we've been talking about throughout this entire discussion, deciding whether state or local governments can mandate masks for masks and vaccines for the for the coronavirus.

Rudy: Neal, redistricting is going to be the big one. Is this a big fight or will this be a whimper?

Neal: Actually. It's always a big fight, but it's more behind the scenes rather than out in the open. I think we're going to see a lot of little congressmen and women come down from Washington to lobby for their districts with these committees here locally. I just don't think the public's going to get caught up in it that much. 

Rudy: All right. Let's wrap up this week with our final word. Stephen, your final word for the week

Steven:  I'm going to break the rule this week. Offensive pass interference Cowboys game.

Rudy: Neal, stop laughing. What's your word? 

Neal: Attorney palooza.

Rudy: Patrick, your word.

Patrick: Rest of it, because we have arrested in between these two special sessions just a couple of weeks and right back at it, 

Rudy: Cassi, your word for the week,

Cassi: Redistricting finally here.

Rudy: And with that, we're wrapping up another week in Texas politics.

This Week in Texas Politics: Second Special Session ends
This Week in Texas Politics: COVID, quorums, uncertainty under the dome
This Week in Texas Politics: Legislative impasse and courtroom battles
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