As the first called special session began on Thursday, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller (R) submitted a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, calling him to expand his special session agenda.
Special Session Agenda
Abbott announced the official items that would be considered during the special session on Wednesday, one day before the session began. Included in that agenda is the consideration of:
- Bail reform
- Election integrity
- Border security
- Social media censorship
- Article X funding
- Family violence prevention
- Youth sports
- Abortion-inducing drugs
- 13th check
- Critical race theory
- Property tax relief
- Enhanced protection for the safety of children in Texas’ foster-care system
- Better safeguards from potential cybersecurity threats
Commissioner Miller’s Request
After lauding Abbott’s inclusion of election integrity to the agenda, Miller specifically requested that he also include a call for four additional items.
The first item is to include “the limitation of property tax increases into our Texas Constitution to ensure that property taxes could not raise more than 3 percent annually.” Miller indicated that the intent would be “that no future legislature change this without a vote of the people.”
Second is the issue of protecting children from “gender mutilation.” This is an issue Miller has opined on previously when it was proposed during the 87th regular session and died in the House of Representatives. In his letter to Abbott, he said:
If Texas cannot pass a bill that prevents the gender mutilation or reassignment of children, then that will send a signal across the country that traditional family values have no defender. Texas is the last bastion of common-sense, family value protections and I encourage you to lead on this issue. Failure to add this to the call for this special session is a failure to stand up for Texas families.
The third issue was a call for a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying.
“When a government entity uses taxpayer money to pass for lobbyists to lobby legislators in Austin, sometimes on behalf of issues for which there is no consensus within the constituency of that governmental entity, is just plain wrong,” Miller said, “Taxpayers expect their money to be used for roads, public safety, and other services, not to promote some issue or legislation they may not support.”
In the regular session, there were a few bills that banned the practice at different levels of government. The bill seeking to ban the practice statewide was heard in the House State Affairs Committee, but it was never voted on. The bill seeking to ban the practice at the city and county level passed the Senate, but it was later changed in the House to include almost all local jurisdictions. Loopholes were also added to the bill before it was ultimately killed on the House floor after the House sponsor, State Rep. Chris Paddie (R–Marshall), postponed the bill beyond an impending deadline for consideration. This issue was later one of the bills Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick requested Abbott add to his special session agenda.
The final item Miller included in his letter was that of school choice. He said, “Given the fact that it has now been revealed that national teacher’s unions are driving controversies such as critical race theory and forcing the acceptance of “gender reassignment” on young minds, Texas must have school choice in order to allow Texas parents the right to decide who educates their children and how.”
The topic of school or educational choice was not something widely discussed during the regular session. The House resoundingly accepted an amendment onto the budget, precluding any appropriation from being used for such purposes. The Senate was the only chamber to even hear a bill related to the subject. After passing the Senate Education Committee, it was never considered by the overall Senate.
Can Abbott Add to His Agenda?
The special session began Thursday, July 8, and can last up to 30 days. It is thus far unclear whether Abbott will add to his agenda as the session continues. He has the ability to add to the agenda at any time, including calling for future special sessions.
Bills related to the items listed by Miller have already been filed. State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R–Wallisville) filed a bill seeking to ban the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying statewide, as well as another bill related to educational choice. Republican State Reps. Bryan Slaton (Royse City), Steve Toth (The Woodlands), and Matt Krause (Haslet) and Republican State Sen. Bob Hall (Edgewood) have all filed bills related to gender modification.