By Jack Fink

AUSTIN (CBS11) – Governor Greg Abbott scolded Texas lawmakers Tuesday for having to call them back for a special session on July 18.

“A special session was entirely avoidable,” Abbott said.

But he still asked them to pass nearly two dozen bills.  “If I’m going to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for a special session, I intend to make it count,” he said.

Among them, a bill to limit rising property tax assessments that he and others say have forced Texans out of their homes.

The Governor said, “Texans need property tax reform right now.”

He also proposed legislation that would not only limit state government spending, but local government spending to population and inflation growth.

During his news conference at the Capitol, the Governor announced he signed into law a statewide ban on texting while driving.

But he said he wants lawmakers to pass another bill that would pre-empt local ordinances that go any further.

In Texas, 44 cities, including Denton and Little Elm, have ordinances that require all cell-phone use in motor vehicles to be hands-free.

The Governor said, “We don’t need a patchwork quilt of regulations that dictate driving practices in Texas.”

Mr. Abbott also called for bills to toughen penalties against voter fraud.

He cited the criminal investigation into voter fraud allegations in Dallas.

The Governor also called for giving Texas teachers a $1,000 raise, and start the process of reforming how public schools are paid for in the state.

In what some lawmakers said is the most controversial request, Governor Abbott also called for a bathroom privacy bill that would keep local governments and school districts from passing ordinances regulating bathroom usage.

He praised a bill that died in the House from Representative Ron Simmons of Carrollton, HB 2899.

But the Governor also seemed open to compromise.  “At a minimum, we need a law that protects the privacy of our children in our public schools.”

Republican State Representative Jason Villalba of Dallas said, “I think there’ll be a big battle ahead, one to watch.  I’m not in favor of the bathroom bill, and I don’t believe my constituents are.”

Villalba said he was surprised by the Governor’s lengthy request of bills.  “Unprecedented in Texas as far as I can tell.”

Some state lawmakers say passing 20 different bills in just 30 days is a lot to ask in a short period of time.

Other lawmakers say it’s unnecessary.

Governor Abbott said the State Senate must first pass bills to keep the Texas Medical Board and four other state agencies operating past September 1.

According to a news release from the Governor’s Officer, the special session agenda items will include:

1. Sunset legislation
2. Teacher pay increase of $1,000
3. Administrative flexibility in teacher hiring and retention practices
4. School finance reform commission
5. School choice for special needs students
6. Property tax reform
7. Caps on state and local spending
8. Preventing cities from regulating what property owners do with trees on private land
9. Preventing local governments from changing rules midway through construction projects
10. Speeding up local government permitting process
11. Municipal annexation reform
12. Texting while driving preemption
13. Privacy
14. Prohibition of taxpayer dollars to collect union dues
15. Prohibition of taxpayer funding for abortion providers
16. Pro-life insurance reform
17. Strengthening abortion reporting requirements when health complications arise
18. Strengthening patient protections relating to do-not-resuscitate orders
19. Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud
20. Extending maternal mortality task force

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