Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday lawmakers will be back at the Capitol for a special session starting July 18, and Abbott’s to-do list will bring some of this year’s most controversial issues back to life.
The governor’s 20-item agenda includes property tax reform, a complete overhaul of the state’s school finance system, school choice for students with special needs, and $1,000 pay raises for Texas teachers.
Pro-life initiatives that failed to make it to Abbott’s desk are back up for debate, along with what’s become known as the bathroom bill.
“At a minimum we need a law that protects the privacy of our children in our public schools,” Abbott said.
“This is obviously a win for social conservatives,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican political consultant in Texas. “This is a clear sign from the governor that he wants to make sure that the privacy act passes,” Mackowiak added.
A political consultant for Texas Democrats, David Butts has a different view. Including the so-called bathroom bill on the agenda for the special session, Butts said, “Shows the governor needs to feed red meat to the right-wing base of the Republican Party.”
Abbott said the special session was “entirely avoidable,” but lawmakers failed to pass one key piece of legislation, which forced the governor to send the legislature into overtime.
The sunset bill needs to be approved to prevent a handful of state agencies, like the Texas Medical Board, from shutting down.
Used as a bargaining chip, the sunset bill stalled in the Senate and died during the regular session, putting the TMB and other state agencies at risk of closing Sept. 1, 2017.
“Because of their inability or refusal to pass a simple law that would prevent the medical profession from shutting down, I’m announcing a special session to complete that unfinished business,” Abbott said.
The leader of the Texas Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had been pushing for Abbott to call a special session on bathroom privacy and property tax reform.
Before lawmakers can take up those issues and the rest of the governor’s agenda, legislators have to first approve the “must-pass” sunset bill.
That will be the only item on the agenda for the special session until it’s passed. Lt. Gov. Patrick thinks that will only take a couple of days, according to Abbott.
The governor continued, “But if I’m going to ask the taxpayers to foot the bill for a special session, I intend to make it count.”
The Texas House and Senate will gavel in July 18th and the special session can last up to 30 days and the estimated cost to taxpayers is roughly $1 million for the month.
“If they fail, it’s not for a lack of time, it would be for a lack of will,” Abbott said.
Special session agenda items will include:
· Sunset legislation
· Teacher pay increase of $1,000
· Giving school administrators flexibility in teacher hiring and retention practices
· School finance reform
· School choice for special needs students
· Property tax reform
· Caps on state and local spending
· Preventing cities from regulating what property owners do with trees on private land
· Preventing local governments from changing rules midway through construction projects
· Speeding up local government permitting process
· Municipal annexation reform
· Preventing local laws banning cell phone use while driving
· Prohibiting the use of taxpayer dollars to collect union dues
· Prohibiting the use of taxpayer funding for abortion providers
· Requiring separate insurance policies to cover non-emergency abortions.
· Increasing abortion reporting requirements when health complications arise
· Strengthening patient protections relating to do-not-resuscitate orders
· Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud
· Extending maternal mortality task force