Local lawmakers expect COVID-19 to be main priority this legislative session

COVID-19 protocols have changed how some things operate at the Capitol
Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 10:59 PM CST
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AUSTIN, Texas (KBTX) - There are some noticeable changes during the 87th Texas Legislative Session thanks to COVID-19.

When arriving, people who want to enter the Capitol must take a rapid COVID-19 test outside the building.

Both the House and Senate chambers have lawmakers socially distanced, with open chairs in between each other and plexiglass barriers installed.

KBTX asked local legislators which COVID-19 topics they thought would be up for discussion during this year’s session.

Representative Trent Ashby, whose district covers Madison and Leon Counties, says he’d like to touch on telemedicine and internet access.

“The importance of no longer being a luxury but a necessity of having connectivity to the internet. I think those issues have certainly risen to the top of the list of priorities for me,” said Ashby.

Senator Charles Schwertner says a bill he proposed in 2014 might still be worth looking at this session.

“It would have actually stockpiled personal protection equipment and put in place a clear chain of command. Some of the issues that we actually saw with COVID would have been better addressed had that bill been passed,” said Schwertner.

Brazos Valley Representatives John Raney and Ben Leman are interested in how COVID-19 will affect the economy.

“The two groups I think are the most concerned about what’s going on with COVID are small retailers, restaurants, and bars and it’s a concern to me that we put many of those businesses at risk of survival,” said Raney.

“Emergency power, things of that nature but also from the reality of people that are fearful of getting the virus themselves. That affects the economy as well,” said Leman. “Those two components combined certainly affect our environment in Texas and economy which affects our state budget, so certainly those types of issues will get talked about.”

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