Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday issued his first proclamation for the special session that will begin July 18, setting in motion a rush of legislative filings related to the 20 items that the governor has told lawmakers he’d like them to address, as well as a range of other issues that legislators hope to persuade the governor to add to the summer session agenda.
By evening, 83 bills and resolutions had been filed — 72 in the House and 11 in the Senate.
The first order of business — and the subject of Monday’s proclamation — is passage of sunset legislation, left undone at the end of the regular session on Memorial Day, to extend the life of the Texas Medical Board, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors, and the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners.
As soon as the Senate passes legislation to extend the expiration dates of these agencies, the governor will issue a supplemental proclamation with all 20 items on his agenda.
“With today’s proclamation, and with bill authors already lined up for all special session items, I look forward to working with the House and Senate to finish the people’s business,” Abbott said in a statement. “The day that all Sunset legislation passes out of the Senate, all of the remaining items will be formally added to the special session call. From reining in skyrocketing property taxes to extending the Maternal Mortality Task Force, there are important issues on the agenda for the special session that Texans deserve to see passed, and that I expect to sign into law.”
Throughout the day, Abbott tweeted photos of himself working with legislators on his agenda items.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who forced the special session by withholding Senate support for the must-pass sunset bills, said in a statement, “The Senate is prepared to hit the ground running to pass the conservative agenda that both Gov. Abbott and I share for the call.”
“Much of this conservative legislation has already passed the Texas Senate and all polling continues to make clear that this agenda has strong support from the people of Texas,” Patrick said.
Among the most contentious issues are legislation intended to crack down on transgender-friendly bathroom policies and to provide so-called school choice — public dollars for private school tuition — for special needs children. The Legislature didn’t pass bills related to either issue during the regular session after Senate leaders deemed House proposals not conservative enough.
Reprising his role in the regular session, Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, filed bills on both issues.
Among Abbott’s priorities was a $1,000 pay raise for Texas teachers, though he didn’t call for any new funding to pay for it.
Rep. Richard Raymond, the Laredo Democrat who chairs the House Human Services Committee and who has a good relationship with Abbott, filed two bills, one that would pay for the salary increases with a $1 billion appropriation from general revenue and another using the economic stabilization fund — known as the rainy day fund —which both Abbott and Patrick have been loath to tap into.
Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, a senior Republican close to Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, filed House Bill 79, which would increase state aid to schools to pay for the salary increase; HB 80, which would provide a cost of living increase for retired teachers; and most dramatically, House Joint Resolution 21, proposing an amendment to the Texas Constitution that abolishes the use of property taxes to pay for the operation and maintenance of public schools beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, “in order that the Legislature may enact a fairer system of fully funding public education.”
The Texas Republican Party platform calls for doing away with property taxes.
If HJR 21 were to become law, Texas voters would be asked to approve the constitutional amendment in November.
Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, filed HJR 18, proposing a constitutional amendment requiring the state to pay at least half the cost of maintaining and operating the public school system.
Among the bills that did not relate to Abbott’s agenda was Senate Concurrent Resolution 1, filed by Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, requesting a joint interim committee to study the security of the Texas electric grid, an issue that Hall hopes the governor will add to the agenda.
Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for the special session is as follows:
1. Legislation to increase the average salary and benefits of Texas teachers, and legislation to provide a more flexible and rewarding salary and benefit system for Texas teachers.
2. Legislation establishing a statewide commission to study and recommend improvements to the current public school finance system.
3. Legislation to empower parents of children with special needs or educational disadvantages to choose an educational provider that is best for their child.
4. Legislation reforming the laws governing ad valorem property taxes.
5. Legislation using population growth and inflation to establish a spending limit for state government.
6. Legislation using population growth and inflation to establish a spending limit for political subdivisions.
7. Legislation protecting the private property rights of landowners from political subdivision rules, regulations or ordinances that interfere with, delay or restrict private property owners’ ability to use or enjoy their property.
8. Legislation expediting the issuance of permits by political subdivisions and reforming the laws governing the issuance of permits by political subdivisions.
9. Legislation preventing political subdivisions from imposing on private property additional or enhanced regulations that did not exist at the time the property was acquired.
10. Legislation reforming the authority of municipalities to annex territory, to exert control over territory, or to regulate the use of annexed land or land in a municipality’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.
11. Legislation pre-empting local regulation of the use of hand-held mobile communication devices while driving.
12. Legislation regarding the use of multioccupancy showers, locker rooms, restrooms and changing rooms.
13. Legislation prohibiting state or local government entities from deducting labor union or employee organization membership fees or dues from the wages of public employees.
14. Legislation prohibiting financial transactions between a governmental entity and an abortion provider or affiliate of the abortion provider.
15. Legislation restricting health plan and health benefit plan coverage for abortions.
16. Legislation strengthening the laws applicable to the reporting of abortions and abortion complications to the Department of State Health Services.
17. Legislation enhancing patient protections contained in the procedures and requirements for do-not-resuscitate orders.
18. Legislation enhancing the detection, prosecution and elimination of mail-in ballot fraud.
19. Legislation continuing the operation and expanding the duties of the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force to ensure action is taken to reduce the maternal mortality rate in Texas.
20. Legislation adjusting the scheduling of Sunset Commission review of state agencies.
The Legislature will convene on July 18 for a special session. Gov. Greg Abbott has asked lawmakers to address 20 issues, including several contentious items on which they did not reach consensus during the 140-day regular session. By law, lawmakers must finish business in 30 days, but Abbott can call them back again.