The Texas House of Representatives adopted its operating procedures Thursday after more than four hours of debate. Most substantive changes to the rules were made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, though the House’s requirements will be different from those approved by the Senate the day before.

Most notably, despite a call from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for the House to follow the Senate’s lead in requiring a negative COVID-19 test for access to the chamber and committee hearings, the House will not require testing. Individual House members may choose to require visitors to test negative before being admitted into their offices. Rule author Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) specifically noted that testing is not required for access to Texas schools, and the House should not be afforded a greater level of protection than public schools.

While the Senate will only allow “invited” witnesses to testify virtually at committee meetings, House committees will be able to determine for themselves whether and to what extent virtual testimony will be allowed, though anyone wishing to appear in person to testify may do so.

Masks will be required at all times on the House floor, except when a member is speaking at the front or back microphone.

The House and Senate are both adjourned until Jan. 26. In the meantime, our Capitol Updates will focus on some of the bills of interest that have been filed so far.