Governor Calls Special Session Starting July 18 With Up to 20 Wish-List Items

 

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday afternoon that he is calling the Texas Legislature back into session on July 18, first and foremost to enact what he termed a must-pass “sunset” bill continuing the existence of the state medical board, but after that to consider 19 other disparate items on his legislative wish list. A special session can go on for a maximum of 30 days, though the governor could call further special sessions if he chose.

Abbott’s list of additional items mostly recycles unsuccessful proposals he and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pushed during the 140-day regular session of the Legislature that ended May 29. Some of his wish-list items have been rejected for several sessions in a row. Once the “sunset” legislation is out of the way, this agenda would include:

–private-school vouchers for students with disabilities;

–state caps on local property-tax increases;

–a limit on state and local spending growth based on population and inflation;

–overriding local governments’ control and regulations regarding protection of trees, the pace of permitting, and rules for construction projects;

–overruling municipal annexation policies;

–totally preempting local regulation of texting while driving;

–overriding local policy and mandating a statewide policy on which public bathrooms transgender individuals may use;

–prohibiting the “use of taxpayer dollars to collect union dues” at the state and local level (even though the author of the bill Abbott wants to recycle has conceded that no taxpayer expense is involved);

–adding a new array of abortion restrictions to state laws;

–imposing new penalties on mail-ballot voter fraud;

–continuing the work of a task force on maternal mortality.

Two further education-related items on Abbott’s agenda bring to mind the expression “less there than meets the eye.” Abbott announced that he wants the Legislature to pass an increase in teacher pay of $1,000, but in the next breath he said there would be no new money to pay for it—so districts already in a budget squeeze because of lagging state aid would be squeezed some more.  (Another catch would be that Abbott says lawmakers should simultaneously make it easier for school administrators to fire teachers deemed ineffective—even though Texas law already gives districts broad latitude to hire and fire.)

Abbott also said that the Legislature in this 30-day special session should work on an overhaul of school finance. However, the only specific legislation he called for enacting would just punt this issue to an interim study commission.

All in all, Abbott’s wishes for the special session coincide very closely with the agenda pursued by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in the Texas Senate from January through May but largely spurned by the Texas House. Patrick welcomed the Abbott announcement warmly, calling it a “big and bold special session agenda which solidly reflects the priorities of the people of Texas.”  Yet to be heard from as of now on the governor’s announcement is the other key player, House Speaker Joe Straus.

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