They won't be gone long.

Gov. Greg Abbott has called members of the Texas Legislature back for a 30-day special session to begin July 18.

The reason is to pass a Sunset "safety net" bill, to continue the existence of five agencies for two years.

They include the Texas Medical Board, which licenses doctors; and the Texas State Boards of Examiners of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, Psychologists, and Professional Counselors.

The Sunset bill got waylaid during the deadline crunch of the regular session that ended May 29 – by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Texas Senate's presiding officer.

Patrick wanted to force a special session to again push his pet bill to regulate transgender bathroom use. The House had watered it down enough that Patrick had the Senate refuse to accept the changes.

Patrick also wanted to resuscitate another pet proposal, to force rollback elections for local property tax increases of more than five percent.

Other than the 140-day regular legislative session the first five months of odd-numbered years, the Legislature can only meet when called into special session by the governor, to consider only subjects of his choosing.

Special sessions are called for 30 days, though many turn out far shorter.

Abbott said he wouldn't have called a session had the Sunset safety net bill passed. Once Abbott decided to call it, he included in the call Patrick's pet bathroom and property tax bills.

But he also loaded in another 17 subjects -- to be considered after the Sunset legislation is passed.

That's more than usual for a special session – probably for strategic reasons.

Had Abbott added only the bathroom and property tax bills to the call, it could have seemed he had completely kowtowed to Patrick's dictates.

However, had he left out the bathroom bill – which Abbott vaguely endorsed late in the regular session – he could have lost points with the Tea Party base, whose flames Patrick continually fans.

Abbott may quietly hope the bathroom bill dies. Passage risks a boycott for discrimination, and the loss of business gains, tourism, conventions and sporting events -- like the 2018 Final Four basketball tournament scheduled for San Antonio, and the Dallas Cowboys' bid to host the 2018 National Football League draft.

There's a reason the Texas Association of Business opposes the bathroom bill.

By the larger legislative load, Abbott sought to demonstrate who's in charge. Appearing before reporters June 6 -- not a press conference; he took no questions -- Abbott blamed the Legislature for the special session.

"We should not be where we are today," he said. "A special session was entirely avoidable. There was plenty of time for the House and the Senate to forge compromises to avoid the time and taxpayer expense of a special session.

"Because of their inability or refusal to pass a simple law that would prevent the medical profession from shutting down, I am going to call a special session to complete that business.

"But if I am going to ask the taxpayers to foot the bill for a special session," Abbott added, "I intend to make it count."

Abbott called for enough state measures overruling local governments to draw the rancor of Texas Municipal League Executive Director Bennett Sandlin.

“The list of proposed topics for a special session represents an all-out assault on the ability of Texas voters to decide what’s best for their communities and their neighborhoods," Sandlin said in a statement.

“From proposed revenue caps, to spending caps, to tree ordinances, to texting while driving, and more, no one has ever proposed such sweeping restrictions on local voters having a voice in shaping the character of their communities."

"Seventy-four percent of Texans live in our 1,215 towns and cities and the decisions they have made at the local level have put Texas cities at the top of the nation in success. Stifling their voices through an all-powerful, overreaching state government is a recipe for disaster.”

If the Legislature indeed passes several of those clamp-downs on local governments, it could spur an echo of the resentment of state officials about the feds telling them what to do -- as expressed by former Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott:

"I go into the office, I sue the federal government and I go home," Abbott described a typical workday to a Tea Party group, according to an April 13, 2013, Associated Press news story.

Soon, city and county attorneys in Texas might describe their workday like this:

"I go into the office, I sue the state government and the governor, and I go home."

Could happen. Stay tuned.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location