At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he would be calling a special session of the Texas Legislature starting July 18th to address a bevy of conservative priorities the legislature failed to pass during the 140-day regular session.
“Legislators have six weeks to prepare for this special session,” Abbott said. “If they fail it will not be for a lack of time. It will be because of a lack of will.”
Topping the extensive list is property tax reform, which was passed in the Texas Senate, but scuttled in the Texas House through maneuvering by House Speaker Joe Straus working in collusion with Democrat lawmakers. In the aftermath of that defeat, citizens across the state have flooded Abbott’s office with thousands of letters and phone calls demanding he bring lawmakers back to finish the job.
It appears Abbott heard their call.
“Texans need property tax reform right now. I’m calling on the legislature to pass SB2, with the rate rollback provision, or pass a better law,” said Abbott. “A better law that will reform the spiraling property taxes in Texas. If we are going to come together and work this summer at taxpayers’ expense, then let us work on relieving Texas homeowners from out of control property taxes.”
Conservatives applauded Abbott on his decision to call the legislature back to finish the work they left undone during the regular session.
“Texans insist on substantive property tax reform, and Gov. Abbott has answered their call,” said Empower Texans President Michael Quinn Sullivan. “The Senate fought for taxpayers this spring, but the House leadership refused to listen. Hopefully, for the sake of the state’s economy, if nothing else, the House’s obstructionist leadership will stand down so the property tax reform Texans so desperately need and want can finally be passed.
In his remarks, Abbott also added the Texas Privacy Act and 18 other issues for lawmakers to address. The full list reads like a laundry list of conservative reforms that were killed by the leadership of the Texas House.
Here are the 19 items, as provided by Abbott’s office:
- Prioritizing school spending to give teachers a 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 including voter approval of tax increases
- 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 processes
- Municipal annexation reform including prohibiting forced annexation
- Preemption of the patchwork of texting while driving laws
- Privacy in intimate facilities, particular for school students
- Prohibition of government collection of union dues
- Prohibition of taxpayer funding for abortion providers
- Pro-life insurance reform
- Strengthening abortion reporting requirements when health complications arise
- Strengthening patient protections relating to do-not-resuscitate orders
- Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud
- Extending the maternal mortality task force
Though the decision to call a special session and to set the issues on the call is a power held by the governor, Abbott’s hand was largely forced when lawmakers not only failed to pass conservative priorities, but also failed in their basic responsibility to govern. The obstruction of the Texas House leadership resulted in the demise of “must-pass” legislation extending the life of state agencies such as the Texas Medical Board, which licenses doctors and nurses in the state.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick praised Abbott’s call for a special session in a press release.
“I want to congratulate Governor Abbott for his big and bold special session agenda which solidly reflects the priorities of the people of Texas. Almost every issue he addressed today passed the Senate during the regular session and I am confident the senators are ready to hit the ground running to move these issues forward. The people of Texas have a right to expect that we will finish the job on these critical issues and I am happy to join with the governor in doing the work they elected us to do. I continue to be proud to serve with Gov. Abbot and I look forward to working with him in the upcoming special session.”
Lawmakers will return to Austin for the 30-day special session on July 18. Abbott has announced that their first item of business will be the extension of the Texas Medical Board and only after that legislation has passed the Texas Senate will they be allowed to work on the list of conservative reforms.