AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) -Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan told CBS 11, he’s ready to get to work, and will gavel-in the House at 10:00 a.m. Thursday, July 8.
He said they’re going to try to pass all of the Governor’s agenda items in the 30-day time period.READ MORE: Texas Experiencing Another COVID-19 Surge
House Democrats criticized the Governor’s agenda, saying they’re aimed at pleasing Republican primary voters.
In announcing his special session items Wednesday, Governor Greg Abbott said, “These special session priority items put the people of Texas first and will keep the Lone Star State on a path to prosperity.”
In a tweet, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said, “We are ready to pass all of the legislation on Governor Abbott’s special session call starting with SB-1, election security. Hearings will begin Saturday.”
At last check, that bill hasn’t been filed yet.
Elections security is among the Governor’s emergency items from the regular session that didn’t pass after House Democrats effectively killing it, when they walked out of the chamber about an hour before the deadline to pass bills, depriving the House of a quorum.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner of Grand Prairie says walking out is still an option during the special session.
To prevent that, Speaker Phelan could have the chamber doors locked, and he could also send state troopers out to bring lawmakers back.
So would he do that?
“They said everything’s on the table, so as a Speaker, everything’s on the table,” said Speaker Phelan. “I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re going to show up here and talk about many items on the Governor’s call.”
“We know what the Speaker’s powers are under the House rules,” said Rep. Chris Turner, Chair, House Democratic Caucus. “We’re very cognizant of that. We hope we’ll see as I said a minute ago, we’ll see some of the more onerous provisions of what they tried to pass in the regular session abandoned in the special session.”
Speaker Phelan said he wants to standardize voting rules statewide and told me some of the provisions added to the final version of the elections integrity bill during the regular session, won’t be included this time.
Those provisions included early voting on a Sunday to begin no earlier than 1:00 p.m., which Democrats denounced saying it targeted African-Americans voters who vote after attending morning church services.READ MORE: Administrative Court Judge Orders Mask-Wearing To Enter Dallas County Courthouses
“I didn’t agree with the 1 p.m., and now, no one agrees with the 1 p.m. We all agree it should be 11am or the full seven hours, which is what the code allows for in counties over 100,000,” the Speaker said. “The language about overturning elections out of a preponderance of evidence of a judge, that has been agreed to by both chambers not to be in the bills, so I think we’re getting closer and closer to an agreement… When we file this bill here in the House maybe today or tomorrow, you will not see those provisions in there.”
Rep. Turner helped kill the elections integrity bill at the end of the regular session, by leading the walk-out by Democrats and denying Republicans a quorum.
“My hope is they continue to be embarrassed and continue walking back some of the really suppressive components of that bill. We have to see what they file,” said Rep. Turner.
The Governor also wants lawmakers to approve of funding for counties as part of his border security plan, which includes building a wall.
“What the Governor, my understanding is focusing on is actually the local governments, what their needs are internally in the next year or so,” said Speaker Phelan.
“I think this is more fodder for Greg Abbott’s primary campaign,” said Rep. Turner.
Rep. Turner described much of the rest of the Governor’s agenda that way: “It’s a big wish list of far-right extreme policy ideas that are intended to fire-up the Trump base. Clearly, the Governor is worried about his primary election.
But Phelan disagreed. “I hope my Democratic colleagues understand there’s a lot of stuff on this call we need to do.”
At last check, there have already been more than 100 bills filed.
Those that relate to the Governor’s agenda may be referred to committees quickly.
WATCH FULL INTERVIEW WITH SPEAKER DADE PHELAN
WATCH FULL INTERVIEW WITH REP. CHRIS TURNER
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