The 87th legislature of the State of Texas began on January 12, 2021, and concluded on May 31, 2021. Texas lawmakers convened under circumstances that were particularly unique. First, the legislative session began just six days after the historic riot at the nation’s capital in Washington, DC, in which right-leaning protestors stormed the Capitol. Many critics asserted that the actions of protestors were fueled by rhetoric by the outgoing President of the United States. Additionally, the session opened while the State of Texas and most of the nation were under restrictive measures due to the COVID-19 shutdown. The handling of COVID-19 was highly politicized, with conservative and liberal lawmakers taking vastly different approaches in handling the pandemic. It is within this larger context that the Center for Justice Research entered the arena of this legislative session, given current events and with the end goal of providing a deeper understanding and analysis of forthcoming legislative bills to lawmakers across the state.
At the beginning of the 87th Texas legislative session, we identified 60 bills related to criminal justice. The bills identified were divided into the following categories (number of bills):
As the 87th session began, we began prioritizing the 11 bills that we previously highlighted while continuing to monitor the remaining 51 bills. Our policy team met internally on a weekly basis to strategize and guide our discussions with elected officials, as well as shape our evidence-supported talking points and policy briefs for testimony. These frequent meetings were instrumental in determining which new bills to incorporate into our watchlist.