Just a few days ago, the Texas Legislature concluded its 85th regular session. But while the body is adjourned sine die, lawmakers’ work is anything but over.
While both chambers did pass a mediocre budget (the one thing they’re constitutionally required to do), a ban on sanctuary cities, and some other dink and dunk victories, the more important items for discussion are what items they failed to complete—and how they’ll be coming back to Austin to finish their work.
During the session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Texas Senate led the way on passing Gov. Greg Abbott’s priorities and pushing for conservative reforms such as SB 6 (the Texas Privacy Act), SB 2 (property tax reform), and other conservative priorities. But while they worked, the Texas House dragged their feet and allowed much of the robust agenda to die on the vine.
But it wasn’t just the conservative agenda that was killed. Indeed, House Speaker Joe Straus and his ruling cabal’s abdication of their responsibility to govern 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.
But while the legislation was dead in the House, it was still very much alive in the Texas Senate—an item Patrick used as leverage in an attempt to compel the House to pass two items demanded by citizens; serious property tax reform and legislation to prevent biological men from entering women’s restrooms, showers, and locker rooms.
“Here’s the bottom line—I want to avoid a special session, but I am prepared for one if the House does not pass the Senate version of SB 2 and if the House does not pass SB 6 or amend another bill with language on the Texas Privacy Act,” said Patrick. “I need the House to commit to do both and move quickly in good faith.”
Straus and his ruling coalition of liberal Republicans and Democrats rejected the deal and thumbed their nose at Patrick by passing homeopathic, do-nothing measures instead. True to his word, Patrick refused to advance the Texas Medical Board legislation and Capitol observers believe Abbott will be forced to call a special session.
“Speaker Straus is the one causing the special session. I’m just allowing it to happen,” said Patrick at the time while adding that he will be asking the governor to include both the Privacy Act and property tax reform to lawmakers’ agenda once he calls a special session.
Abbott is expected to make an announcement concerning the timing and issues to be addressed by a special session early next week where lawmakers will get a second chance to complete the work that they couldn’t finish under the normal deadline.
It’s after the clock expires then that Texans will know if their representatives worked for them, or worked for themselves.