AUSTIN (CBSDFW) – Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced a special legislative session on Tuesday afternoon.
Governor Abbott says the first order of business when the session begins on July 18 is the sunset bill.
Abbott said last week his biggest disappointment was the fact that lawmakers didn’t pass the bill, that would allow the Texas Medical Board and four other state agencies to continue operating past September.
After the sunset bills pass the Senate, which Abbott said should take about three days, there are 19 other legislative priorities that will be presented to lawmakers, including tax reform, voter fraud and abortion regulation.
“Considering all the successes of the 85th legislative session, we should not be where we are today,” said Governor Abbott. “A special session was entirely avoidable, and there was plenty of time for the legislature to forge compromises to avoid the time and taxpayer expense of a special session. As Governor, if I am going to call a special session, I intend to make it count.”
The Governor also revived a so-called “bathroom bill” targeting transgender people after the last try ended with Republican lawmakers angry and deadlocked.
Abbott on Tuesday recommitted to making Texas the first state since North Carolina to restrict bathroom access for transgender people.
Abbott’s commitment to the bathroom privacy bill comes a week after he received a letter from 14 CEO’s of major companies, including Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon.
While they didn’t mention bathroom privacy legislation, the CEO’s did warn the Governor that any discriminatory legislation would hurt their ability to attract and retain top talent here.
The letter says, “As large employers in the state, we are gravely concerned that any such legislation would deeply tarnish Texas’ reputation as open and friendly to businesses and families. We strongly urge you and the Texas legislature not to further pursue legislation of this kind.”
Abbott said Tuesday that Texas needs a law that “protects the privacy of our children” in public schools.
Similar proposals divided the GOP-controlled Legislature last session and ended with House moderates and social conservatives in the Senate fuming at each other.
State lawmakers from North Texas say they’re surprised by the lengthy list of bills they’ll have to consider during the special session.
“Unprecedented in Texas as far as I can tell. I predicted two, a narrow call. Clearly, that’s going to be more than that. We’ve got our work to do. A lot of forgiveness to ask of our spouses … It’s definitely going to be trying,” said Jason Villalba/State Rep. R-Dallas.
Other special session agenda items will include:
ABORTION: The governor wants to prohibit taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortions and to bar some insurance plans from covering the procedure. He also wants to strengthen regulations mandating that clinics and other health facilities report to state authorities all complications arising after abortions are performed, even though such complications are rare.
SCHOOL VOUCHERS: Abbott revived a voucher proposal offering taxpayer funding so some special education students can attend private school. The bill passed during the regular session in the Senate — which for years has championed school vouchers — but stalled in the House. There, Democrats and rural Republicans, who represent small districts where private schools are scarce and public ones are social and cultural hubs, have long teamed up to oppose vouchers in any form.
OTHER EDUCATION POLICY: Abbott endorsed legislation that would increase teacher pay statewide by $1,000 and proposals giving school administrators more flexibility in hiring and retaining teachers. He also wants Texas to create a commission to study ways to fix its troubled school finance system after a bill that would have begun an actual revamp died during the regular session amid a House-Senate battle over vouchers.
VOTER FRAUD: Abbott wants lawmakers to take another try at cracking down on what he called “mail-in ballot fraud.”
MATERNAL MORTALITY: The governor wants to revive a bill that seeks to extend a special task force on maternal mortality from 2019 to 2023. A recent, University of Maryland-led study found that Texas’ maternal mortality rate doubled between 2010 and 2012 and remains the highest in the nation — though it offered few explanations as to why.
PROPERTY TAX CUTS: The governor wants reductions in property taxes statewide and backed a plan that would require local governments to put proposals for hefty tax increase to voters. That referendum proposal was so bitterly opposed by municipal leaders that it largely derailed a more-comprehensive property tax reform bill during the regular legislative session.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT LIMITS: The Legislature should cap state and local spending, prevent cities from restricting tree-cutting practices on private land and bar local governments from modifying rules on construction projects once they’ve begun, Abbott said. He also wants to speed up local governmental permitting processes, limit cities’ ability to annex surrounding territory and expand an already approved statewide ban on texting while driving to supersede a “patchwork” of existing local prohibitions previously adopted around Texas.
UNION DUES: The governor is reviving an effort stalled during the regular session to end voluntary payroll deductions of union dues from state and public employee paychecks.
END OF LIFE CARE: Abbott wants to bring back a bill that failed to pass during the regular session seeking to restrict when do-not-resuscitate orders can be carried out on terminally ill patients.
AGENCY OPERATION: Abbott said lawmakers can only began working on all the other items he asked for after the Senate has approved a series of logistical bills allowing several state agencies to continue functioning. Those proposals passed the House but died in the Senate during the regular session. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Senate, said as the regular session was ending that he was effectively forcing Abbott to call a special session by not passing them — now he’s gotten his wish.