Texas Special Session 2017: What You Need to Know

The Texas Legislature goes into special session on July 18th, but what does that mean to your average Texan? Let’s take a look at the details.

First, what is a special session?

In Texas, the legislators only meet for a few months every two years. If they don’t finish all their important business, the governor can call the legislature back to meet again for up to 30 days, and he gets to tell them which items they must limit their deliberation to. So if the governor calls a special session to deal with A, B, and C subjects, the legislators can’t really try to deal with D or E during the special session, unless they convince the governor to add them.

What items are on this year’s special session agenda?

Governor Abbott’s statement calling for a special session includes twenty items, in several broad categories:

Sunset legislation

Education

  •     Teacher pay increase of $1,000
  •     Administrative flexibility in teacher hiring and retention practices
  •     School finance reform commission
  •     School choice for special needs students

Property tax reform

Limiting local governments

  •     Caps on state and local spending
  •     Preventing cities from regulating what property owners do with trees on private land
  •     Preventing local governments from changing rules midway through construction projects
  •     Speeding up local government permitting process
  •     Municipal annexation reform

Texting while driving preemption

Privacy

Taxpayer protections

  •     Prohibition of taxpayer dollars to collect union dues
  •     Prohibition of taxpayer funding for abortion providers

Medical, pro-life legislation

  •     Pro-life insurance reform
  •     Strengthening abortion reporting requirements when health complications arise
  •     Strengthening patient protections relating to do-not-resuscitate orders
  •     Extending maternal mortality task force

Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud

 

Why did the governor call the special session?

Governor Abbott said that a special session was ‘entirely avoidable’, but that legislators were unable or unwilling to finish the required business in the regular session, business like keeping state agencies such as the Texas Medical Board open. In his announcement, Abbott said that Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick informed him that the legislature should be able to get through the necessary sunset legislation to keep the agencies going in just a few days.

He also said that if he was going to ask Texas taxpayers to pay for a special session, that he was going to make it count. Therefore he added the additional nineteen items to the agenda, in the hopes that these agenda items will also be deliberated and passed during the session.

I thought the ‘Bathroom Bill’ was on the agenda, but I don’t see it.

The ‘bathroom bill’ legislation is in the ‘Privacy’ item, even though the related legislation from the regular session doesn’t mention privacy at all.

Instead, the legislation is about what municipalities and cities may do about discrimination. The language of the bill the governor referenced states that cities must uphold the state’s established definitions and classes of discrimination. No city could create new classes of people to protect from discrimination, or deviate from the state policies and definitions regarding discrimination. Additionally, if the bill is taken up again and passed, all current ordinances in Texas cities that do differ from the state laws would become void.

How can I keep track of the special session?

  • Follow all the bills filed for the special session at Texas Legislature Online using Bill Lookup.
  • See video from the Texas House and committees on their Audio Video page.
  • See video from the Texas Senate and committees on their Video page.

How do I get involved in supporting an item on the special session agenda?

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