Texas Legislature Adjourns, But for How Long?

The Texas House and Senate have ended their 140-day regular session on this Memorial Day with the possibility of a special session very much in play. Gov. Greg Abbott said today that he will announce later this week whether and when to call a special session–a matter that is entirely within his discretion. He noted that all of his emergency priorities had passed: ¬†Child Protective Services reforms, a so-called “sanctuary cities” immigration law, ethics legislation, a call for a federal constitutional convention, and a rewrite of the state’s voter-ID law. However, he lamented the Legislature’s failure to pass a “sunset” bill to continue the state medical board, the licensing agency for physicians.

The impasse engineered by Lt. Gov. ¬†Dan Patrick on that sunset bill would give Gov. Abbott one reason to call a special session, though by law the board would stay in business anyhow until the end of August of next year. The House-Senate deadlock over bills regulating transgender schoolchildren’s bathroom use and capping city and county property taxes–Patrick’s paramount priorities–would give Abbott two more reasons. It’s all up to the governor, and when and if he calls a special session (which would have a 30-day time limit) he could open it to any topics of his choosing. By the way, the governor has until June 18 to veto bills passed in the last 10 days of the session.

For public education, the big hope of this legislative session was presented by a House school-finance bill, HB 21, that would have given school districts a much-needed injection of increased per-pupil funding. But that bill died at the hands of Lt. Gov. Patrick, the Senate’s presiding officer, who held it hostage to the bitter end in his failed attempt to force the House to pass a private-school voucher program.