On Wednesday, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick took to Twitter to urge Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to call yet another special legislative session.
He specifically requested that re-increasing the penalty for illegal voting and election forensic audit legislation be added to an agenda for consideration.
TX Senate just finished a strong conservative session. But more needs to be done. Senate added felony penalties for illegal voting, but the House cut to a misdemeanor. House needs to pass an election forensic audit bill. I support @GovAbbott calling us back to pass both. #txlege
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) October 20, 2021
In the recently concluded special legislative session, the Legislature failed to address some of the items on Abbott’s agenda. These included things like a re-increase of the penalty for illegal voting and a prohibition on employer vaccine mandates, items later added to the agenda while the special session was already underway.
Re-Increase of the Penalty for Illegal Voting
Shortly after the third special session began, conservative grassroots activists highlighted an amendment that was accepted onto the election integrity legislation that passed in the second special session. The amendment lowered the penalty for illegal voting offenses from second-degree felonies to Class A misdemeanors.
A short time thereafter, Abbott added the issue to the already ongoing special legislative session, calling for the Legislature to consider “legislation increasing penalties for illegal voting that were reduced in Senate Bill 1, that passed in the 87th Legislature, Second Called Session.”
Patrick was quick to endorse the addition; however, House Speaker Dade Phelan took to Twitter to indicate that he did not intend to “re-litigate” the issue. As such, the Senate quickly considered and approved Senate Bill 10, authored by State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola), which passed on October 5. The House referred the bill to the Select Committee on Constitutional Rights and Remedies on October 6, but it was never granted a hearing and was never considered.
Though the No. 1 legislative priority of the Republican Party of Texas was passed in the second special legislative session, it did so with lessened penalties for the very thing they were trying to fix, and the Legislature concluded the third special legislative session without fixing the issue.
Election Forensic Audit
Abbott never added the consideration of election forensic audit legislation to the last special legislative session agenda, even though former President Donald Trump issued a public letter urging him to do so right as the session began.
Shortly after Trump’s public request, the Texas secretary of state’s office announced it was conducting a “full and comprehensive forensic audit” of the 2020 general election in four Texas counties. They later gave additional details as to what their audit would contain, leaving many people to speculate that Abbott was attempting to suggest an audit was happening at his direction and that there was no reason to pass legislation to that affect.
Even without the item being on the agenda, the Texas Senate passed legislation to address the issue, causing Trump to laud their efforts. Trump then went on to accuse Speaker Phelan of blocking efforts a little over a week later when the legislation never progressed in the House.
As such, the recent special session concluded without the issue being addressed, and it remained excluded from the agenda.
Patrick has a history of goading Abbott into addressing specific items.
At the conclusion of the 87th regular legislative session in May, Patrick publicly requested that Abbott add the consideration of three of Patrick’s own legislative priorities to a future special session, as they all had their legislative prospects cut short in the House. Abbott later included them on his agenda for the first special legislative session, which began in July.
In the recently concluded special session, Patrick publicly requested that Abbott add the consideration of tuition revenue bonds to the agenda, with less than one week remaining in the session. A few days later, Abbott obliged the request and added the TRBs to the agenda for consideration.
Others Calling for a Fourth Special Session to Address Employer Vaccine Mandates
Mere hours after the third special session concluded on Tuesday, the Texas Freedom Coalition—aided by Republican lawmakers like State Sen. Bob Hall and State Reps. Jeff Cason (Bedford), Brian Harrison (Waxahachie), and James White—held a press conference requesting that Abbott call another special session to specifically address employer vaccine mandates.
This issue was added to the recently concluded special session with slightly more than one week left to address it, and it coincided with an executive order issued by Abbott in an attempt to prohibit such activity.
Despite the order, employers all across the state have continued to mandate COVID vaccinations for their employees.
The prohibition of employer vaccine mandates was notably absent from Patrick’s request on Wednesday.
A short time after Patrick requested that another special session be called, an Abbott spokesperson said:
Texans tasked the Legislature with delivering key priorities for the state in the most recent special session, including property tax relief, redistricting, and the nearly $16 billion American Rescue Plan Act funding, and we went above and beyond to deliver on these priorities as well as solve other critical issues for Texas. Because of the Texas House and Senate’s efforts to get these priorities across the finish line, there is no need for another special session at this time.
What Does it All Mean?
Abbott is the only one who can call a special legislative session. He is also the only one who can set the agenda for the items to be considered.
Any call for a future special session would also have to consider political timing. With Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, as well as the 2022 primary elections, timing would have to be at the forefront of planning.