Special Session Update: Senate Treads Water After House Adjourns

Last week, the day after the regular session of the Texas Legislature ended, Gov. Greg Abbott promptly called legislators back for a special session to deal with property tax cuts and border security. The Texas House promptly passed a property tax cut bill and a border security bill, and adjourned that same day. The Senate, however, has refused to accept the House’s property tax proposal. 

The governor’s call for a special session on property taxes specified that he wanted a bill to provide property tax relief “solely” through rate compression. While Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick supports rate compression, he has been adamant about his desire to also increase the flat-dollar homestead exemption, which reduces a home’s taxable value. In last week’s Hotline, we went deeper into what those opposing plans actually mean to Texas homeowners and to Texas public schools.

While the special session is effectively over for the Texas House, the Texas Senate has remained in session. While the House and Senate sit at a stalemate over their opposing property tax plans, the Senate has spent this time passing bills that aren’t on the governor’s call. Somewhat unsurprisingly, these bills do nothing to support public education, and some are actively harmful to public education.

Three such bills would threaten the separation of church and state in our public schools. These bills include SB 9, which failed to pass during the regular session and has been refiled. The three bills are as follows:

  • SB 9 by Sen. Phil King (R-Weatherford) would mandate the display of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms. This bill is a refile of SB 1515 by Sen. King, which was voted out of the House Public Education Committee, but failed to receive a vote on the House floor.
  • SB 17 by Sen. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound) would permit public school employees to talk about religion and engage in prayer with students while on duty.
  • SB 19 by Sen. Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston) would allow school districts to adopt policies that would mandate prayer periods in schools. The bill would amend current law to allow school employees to encourage students to pray.

These three bills are scheduled to receive a public hearing next Monday, June 12, at 1 p.m.

Due to the House’s adjournment and the fact that these bills do not fit the governor’s special session call, these bills are little more than a political statement by the lieutenant governor and his allies. The Senate is seemingly pushing an extreme right-wing agenda to apply political pressure on the Republican-led House and on the governor’s office. 

Regardless of its motivations, it is clear that the Texas Senate would rather spend its time (and the taxpayer dollars funding these special sessions) pushing a politically extreme message instead of taking up bills to fully fund our public schools.

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