As the Texas Legislature prepares to return to Austin for a special session with huge potential for conservative victories, many Texans are wondering if these 30 days will be any different from the 140-day regular session. To conservatives’ delight, Gov. Greg Abbott is showing he’s serious about passing each item on his list and has started announcing a House and Senate sponsor for them.
According to Capitol sources, Abbott has been working closely with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to identify Senate members to carry his legislative agenda in the upper chamber. With 20 Republican senators and roughly 20 items on the docket for the special session, it appears likely that most senators who want to carry a bill will get the opportunity.
But according to those same sources, Abbott has not been working with Speaker Joe Straus to identify House members to carry his agenda. In fact, he’s been working around Straus. A thorough review of the list of House lawmakers chosen so far seems to support that report.
Rather than choosing lawmakers closest to Straus, Abbott has selected members who are a little more mainstream and are a step or two removed from House leadership team—lawmakers such as State Reps. Cecil Bell (R–Magnolia), Craig Goldman (R–Fort Worth), and Drew Springer (R–Muenster).
Both Bell and Springer were on the outs with Straus as recently as February when he moved to marginalize them with his committee appointments. Goldman, meanwhile, has been rumored to be putting together a campaign to unseat Straus and install himself as Speaker.
If the Straus-team is indeed being shut out by Abbott, it’s for good reason.
After all, the vast majority of Abbott’s special session agenda was intentionally killed during the regular session by Straus, Byron Cook (R–Corsicana), and John Zerwas (R–Simonton). And since Abbott announced his intent to call lawmakers back to work, the same trio has been “poo pooing” his agenda – literally in Straus’ case.
But while Abbott can work around House leadership in organizing authors, he won’t be able to control the process once the special session begins. He can only use his bully pulpit to apply public pressure.
Straus and his coalition of liberal Republicans and Democrats have been clear that they are fundamentally opposed to the mainstream conservative agenda supported by Abbott, Patrick, the House Freedom Caucus, and Republican voters. If Abbott is serious about achieving real results, the governor will likely be forced into open conflict with the speaker after the special session begins.