2020 was a year to remember—or maybe forget.
This pandemic year, forever emblazoned with an asterisk, was fodder for standout moments.
Like when President Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice in impeachment proceedings that started in late 2019 and ended in February.
Like when we learned near the start of the year about the novel coronavirus, which would end up claiming the lives of more than 25,000 Texans and infecting more than 1.4 million people in the Lone Star State.
Local, state and national leaders implemented restrictions as the outbreak raged on. Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state disaster in March.
Thousands of businesses went under.
Near the end of May, George Floyd was killed during a confrontation with Minneapolis Police. His death sparked days, sometimes weeks, of protests in cities around America.
It was also an election year with intensely fought battles from the courthouse, to the statehouse, to the White House.
“The big underlying story of 2020, aside from the fact that, that Joe Biden won the presidency, and that in Texas, we saw a very status quo election is, you know, the damage that was done to people’s trust in the system,” Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, said.
As Texas turns the page into 2021, some of those same issues will rise to the top of the agenda as lawmakers formally convene for the first time since May 2019.
Looming large for legislators are COVID-19 response and addressing healthcare needs for a state that has the highest rate of uninsured citizens.
Setting the state’s budget for the next two years is required by the Texas Constitution.
Redrawing of legislative districts happens once every decade. 2021 is the year Texas lawmakers must tackle this task.
“Redistricting has huge implications for the way the political system works in Texas,” Henson said.
Criminal justice reform, an issue bubbling under the surface for years, may have bubbled over after the calls for change in 2020.
“Will lawmakers look at this with fresh eyes in, you know, in light of the depth and the breadth of the crisis we’re facing?” Henson asked rhetorically. “Or will they rely predominantly on more partisan instincts that are likely to lead to less effective solutions and, and too much more, you know, fighting than actual problem solving?”
State health leaders say there’s reason to be hopeful as we try to capitalize on lessons learned— a sentiment that could apply to any one of the issues on the top priorities list.
“This is the ray of hope at the end of the tunnel,” Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt said amid vaccine rollout in December. “But we’re not done yet.”