AUSTIN (AP) — Governor Rick Perry said Thursday he won’t be adding any more items to the special legislative session, noting that with just 12 days to go, there’s too little time left for lawmakers to handle a larger workload.
The governor recalled the Legislature for 30 extra days immediately after the regular session ended May 27.
Originally, the agenda only included approving new voting maps for congressional and legislative elections. But Perry this week added passing funding for major transportation infrastructure projects, mandatory life sentences for teens convicted of murder and even the thorny issue of further restricting abortion in Texas to the agenda.
Lawmakers can only work on the items Perry authorizes, but many wanted the governor to expand their to-do list even further. Perry, though, said there wasn’t time.
“I think everything that can be added to the call has been added to the call from the standpoint of a timing issue,” he said after signing the so-called “Merry Christmas Bill,” which sailed through the Legislature and protects the rights of students and teachers to use religious greetings and symbols in public schools statewide.
Perry indirectly blamed the time crunch on the House, which met briefly June 3 but then took a two-week recess while members of its redistricting committee traveled the state for public hearings on the new voting maps. When it returns, there will only be eight days left in the special session.
“I guess we could add a lot of things to the call,” he said. “The fact is, the House is out until Monday, so I think from a practical standpoint those last issues that we’ve put on the call are the last practical things that we have done.”
Perry’s dig came a day after House Speaker Joe Straus, a fellow Republican, said reaching consensus on the new voting maps was slower-going than he had anticipated, and that the other issues Perry asked lawmakers to tackle could be even more time-consuming.
“I’m still hoping that our current special session is short and relatively painless,” Straus said Wednesday while addressing a gathering in San Antonio. “But I’ll have to admit that with each passing day I’m a little more doubtful about that.”
Conservatives had welcomed the addition of abortion regulations. It will allow them to consider a bill by Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, that requires abortion facilities to be certified as ambulatory surgical centers. That would mean about 90 percent of such facilities statewide would either have to make expensive upgrades or shut down.
Hegar’s bill would also ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, the point at which anti-abortion advocates say a fetus can feel pain — a claim not supported by credible medical studies.
Still, many Republicans had hoped Perry would add more items important to their conservative base, including a directive to further loosen gun laws.
The governor had also hinted he could task the Legislature with reshaping the troubled Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, a nonprofit, state-supervised insurer of last resort for people who can’t get private property insurance in 14 coastal counties and part of Harris County, which includes Houston.
And a large number of lawmakers from both parties also wanted Perry to add legislation concerning Tuition Revenue Bonds that would allow public universities to raise more money for construction projects at current, low interest rates.
Perry didn’t address any of those issues when suggesting he wouldn’t expand the special session agenda any further. But he also always has the option of calling lawmakers back for another 30-day special session once the first one concludes.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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