City officials in Richardson are scrambling to prepare a set of priorities ahead of the state’s 87th legislative session.

Very little is known about how the event will be hosted or managed, Richardson Deputy City Attorney Don Magner told City Council at an Oct. 26 meeting. The session could be fully or partially virtual, and members of the public may or may not be allowed to provide in-person testimony. This will make advocating for Richardson’s priorities difficult, Magner said.

“This will be one of the most challenging sessions in recent memory,” he said.

The lead-up to the session will also look different this year, Magner said. Normally, officials in Richardson meet with representatives to familiarize them with the city’s agenda and, hopefully, to influence the early stages of legislation being developed, but those meetings are also in question due to COVID-19.

Some of the key topics expected to be tackled by legislators this session include COVID-19 response, the redrawing of congressional maps based on the results of the 2020 U.S. Census, public and higher education, health care and public safety, particularly as it relates to racial justice.

Richardson currently has three state representatives, one state senator and two U.S. House representatives. Results of the census could shift district lines and cause the city to gain or lose legislators, Magner said.

A formal set of priorities for Richardson is still under development, Magner said. The overarching theme of the city’s agenda is to promote and protect its interests by supporting legislation that enforces home rule authority, or the ability of municipalities to manage their own affairs without interference by the state. The last legislative session saw a slew of bills passed that undermined local control, Magner said.

Staff has asked council to review and provide feedback on a draft list of priorities, which will be adopted at an upcoming meeting. The outcome of races in the Nov. 3 election may also cause the city to have to pivot based on whether incumbent representatives are re-elected, Magner said.

Legislators can begin filing bills for consideration in the session Nov. 9. The session begins Jan. 12 and ends May 31.