Special Session Looms For The Texas Legislature
Monday was the final day of the 85th Texas Legislative Session, but that doesn't mean the fireworks are over. When the House and Senate ended their session's on Monday there was animosity and business that had not been finished.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has made it no secret that he wants Governor Abbott to call a special session over two key issues. Both the Bathroom Bill and Property Tax Reform legislation are two key issues for the Lt. Governor that died in the final days of the session. They are also key issues for Governor Abbott though Abbott didn't start speaking out in favor of a bathroom bill until relatively late in the session.
Chances of a special session increased dramatically over the weekend when 'sunset' legislation died. According to KVUE members of the House and Senate took turns blaming each other for the failed legislation.
On Sunday, House members of the Sunset Commission pointed to the Senate’s decision to strip a key amendment from Senate Bill 1929 that would have saved some state agencies from closing their doors. The amendment, added by the House in a last-ditch effort to save those state agencies and avoid the need for a special session, was necessary because the House failed to pass a standalone bill to extend those agencies' lives.
But the Senate removed the language added by the House without offering any reasoning to the conference committee that was appointed to iron out a final bill, said state Rep. Cindy Burkett, the House's lead negotiator on the bill.
“It’s on them. The ball is in their court,” an incensed Gonzales said while flanked by members of the Sunset commission. “They stripped out our language. They can fix this today by concurring with SB 1929.”
At Sunday's Senate news conference, Sen. Van Taylor said the House “created the crisis you see in front of you today,” and argued that while the House’s proposed fix on the pending sunset legislation would continue five agencies at risk of closing, it would not extend chapters of state code, Taylor said.
“The fix the House sent us doesn’t work,” he added.“The only way to fix this is with a special session.”
Back in the House, Gonzales passed out printed copies of the House amendment and underlined language that would nullify Taylor’s claims about the government code.
Only the governor can call a special session, and his office has insisted that lawmakers resolve their issues during what’s left of the regular legislative session. But he could be forced to call lawmakers back to avoid the closure of those agencies.
“Essentially, they’ve got to come back if they don’t pass something by tomorrow,” John Longley, the former director of the Texas Sunset Commission, told The Texas Tribune late Sunday night. “They’ve got to take care of the Texas Medical Board and those other health professions whose boards are also going away.”
Governor Abbott on Memorial Day said that he would have an announcement later this week in regards to a special session.
Only the Governor can call a special session and lawmakers are only allowed to take up the issues that the Governor sets.