What to expect when the Texas Legislature shows up for overtime on Tuesday
Posted July 17
Austin, Texas — The Texas Legislature starts their special session on Tuesday and for many political observers, special sessions are starting to become the norm. Texas does not have a full time legislature and here in Austin, legislators generally meet for 140 days every two years. During the regular session, Texas Governor Greg Abbott indicated that Texans do not want a full time legislature, and that maybe so, but due to a sunset bill that was held hostage by lawmakers in the regular session, an overtime period, known as a special session was truly unavoidable as Abbott indicated back in June when he announced the special session.
During a regular session things in Austin tend to move fairly slowly. For the first 60 days no bill can be voted on or passed by the bodies. Here in the 30 days special session, the governor sets the agenda for the legislature. Unlike in the regular session, where the lieutenant governor basically chooses the bills that are heard by the chambers.
In this case, Gov. Abbott has said that once the Sunset Bill gets passed, the chambers can move onto work on 20 other items of business that he has chosen.
Any member can file a bill and hope that the governor will add his or her bill to the agenda. In theory, a bill can be authored, sent to committee and voted on all in one day, if the member can suspend that many rules at one time.
The special session can, and most likely will get fairly complex. Governor Abbott has stopped short of suggesting that he will have them take up the same "bathroom bill" that was presented in the regular session. He has however said that he does want to protect the privacy of children using the restroom in public schools. Legislative observers will just have to wait and see how that plays out.
A special session is difficult in the best of years in Texas and this one will prove even more complex. The reason for that is that during the regular session, there was no "kumbaya moment" where republicans and democrats came together as one. There were times where they worked together, but in the end the two sides could not get together and with the tension between social and fiscal conservatives the environment is still caustic.
The halls of history will entirely judge this crazy and unavoidable special session. But once it is all over, the debate bells in Texas will continue to toll.