Gov. Abbott’s proclamation unleashes bill filings for special session

7:34 p.m Monday, July 10, 2017 Texas News & Politics

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.

Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman
Jeremy Mazur, Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for State Sen. Van Taylor, files SB 20 with Senate Calendar Clerk Tracy Ortiz, at the Capitol on Monday July 10, 2017.

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.

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