Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott told lawmakers that he would be calling them back for a special session after a number of conservative reforms failed to pass during the regular 140 day session. He announced a bold agenda of 20 items including property tax reform, privacy protections, and strong spending limits for both the state and local governments.
Since then, activists around the state have been calling on the Texas Legislature to support and pass the entire package, using the Twitter hashtag #PassThemAll. However, it appears that Speaker Joe Straus and his lieutenants are moving to thwart the governor’s agenda.
Already rumors are beginning to percolate that the Texas House is preparing to thumb their noses at both Abbott and their constituents by passing only one item on Abbott’s list of twenty issues— the Texas Medical Board sunset bill—and killing the rest by adjourning sine die.
One Republican lawmaker has already said that’s what he wants.
State Rep. Doc Anderson of Waco met in June with a number of citizens and told them he believed the Texas Legislature kill the governor’s agenda, according to one present at the meeting who reached out to Texas Scorecard.
“Despite the Governor’s call he said he thought that they could come back, pass the sunset bill, and go home,” the citizen reported.
Meanwhile House Democrats are openly flirting with the idea of leaving the state – a move they have used in the past to deny a quorum and thus prevent the Texas Legislature from being able to conduct business.
Shortly after Abbott announced he would be calling lawmakers back for a special session, State Rep. Joe Moody (D–El Paso) tweeted a picture of himself in a “Killer D’s” T-shirt, a reference to the House Democrats who fled to Oklahoma for four days at the end of the session in 2003 in order to prevent the consideration of redistricting legislation.
— Joe Moody (@moodyforelpaso) June 13, 2017
To kill the special session agenda without the assistance of Republicans, the Democrats would have to spend 30 days out of the state, not just four.
Now left-wing reporters, lobbyists, and Democrat activists are beginning the drumbeat for lawmakers to simply kill Gov. Abbott’s legislative package under the hashtag #SunsetAndSineDie. One of them even went so far as to have it made into a lapel pin.
That call refers to a plan for the House to pass the sunset bill – considered must-pass legislation in order to keep medical professionals licensed in Texas – and then adjourn sine die and go home, leaving all other bills on the call dead.
If a motion is made to adjourn sine die it would only require a simple majority (76 votes if all members were present). Assuming all Democrats vote for the motion, 21 Republican votes would be required for the motion to pass.
Gov. Abbott can put an end to these games, however, by making clear that he will call legislators back as many times as it takes to pass his agenda. As always, in a state with a Republican governor, a Republican senate, and a Republican House, Democrats will only be able to kill conservative reforms if Republicans assist them.