AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has announced that he will convene a second special legislative session at 12:00 p.m. on August 7.
Texas Democrats fled the state for Washington, D.C. on July 12 in an effort to block a GOP attempt to pass voting restrictions in the session ending August 6. It was the second time they stopped a vote on the bill after walking out at the end of the regular legislative session in May.
Enough Democrats have vowed to remain in Washington until the special legislative session ends to prevent the lower chamber from having enough members to pass bills. The move marked the first time since 2003 that Texas Democrats, shut out of power in the state Capitol for decades, crossed state lines to break quorum.
With the end of one special session and the start of another at the Texas Capitol, Democrats are calling their weeks-long stay in Washington, D.C., a political triumph.
The chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie said, "The Governor's announcement today is a recognition that the Texas House Democratic caucus is on the verge of a major victory, a historic victory. Tomorrow, we will have killed this entire poisoned special session."
The treasurer of the Texas House Republican Caucus, Rep. Craig Goldman of Fort Worth rejected that. "I don't know how any Texan can declare victory in the first special session when they left on a private plane went to Washington DC, when they're constitutionally required, as elected officials to represent their constituents in Austin."
After announcing the new special session Abbott said, "The Texas Legislature achieved a great deal during the 87th Legislative Session, and they have a responsibility to finish the work that was started. I will continue to call special session after special session to reform our broken bail system, uphold election integrity, and pass other important items that Texans demand and deserve."
The governor has moved all of the agenda items from the first special session over to the second session. They include not only elections integrity but also bail reform, a 13th check for retired teachers, property tax relief and funding for the Legislature.
After Abbott vetoed the entire legislature's budget, Democrats took the governor to court filing a challenge at the Texas Supreme Court.
Abbott added issues such relating to the COVID-19 pandemic including vaccine administration, testing sites, PPE and public education.
He also wants lawmakers to consider legislative quorum requirements. Now, two-thirds of House and Senate members are needed to consider legislation.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued a statement: "During the first special session in July, the Texas Senate maintained a quorum and quickly passed every bill listed on Governor Abbott's call. Unfortunately, a quorum was not maintained in the Texas House of Representatives and all of the bills died."
Patrick said the Texas Senate will have a quorum this weekend and will begin committee hearings this weekend. Bills will be heard on the Senate floor beginning next week.
While in Washington, Texas Democrats have been pressing Congress to act on voting legislation at the federal level and have met with leaders including Vice President Kamala Harris, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and a number of Democratic senators.
Meanwhile back in Texas, Abbott has threatened to arrest the Democrats who broke quorum once they return to the state Capitol.
Rep. Turner wouldn't say if Democrats will return to the Texas Capitol this Saturday for the start of this new session. "That's a decision and discussion we'll have within our group, but you don't have anything for you on that right now."
Rep. Goldman responded, "I don't know how that plays well back in their districts to the roughly 200,000 people they represent in their home districts when there's so many items on this agenda that the governor set forth."
According to the Governor's office, some of the agenda items for the new 30-day special session include:
BAIL REFORM: Legislation reforming the bail system in Texas to protect the public from accused criminals who may be released on bail.
ELECTION INTEGRITY: Legislation strengthening the integrity of elections in Texas.
PRIMARY ELECTIONS: Legislation modifying the filing periods and related election dates, including any runoffs, for primary elections held in Texas in 2022.
FEDERAL RELIEF APPROPRIATIONS: Legislation providing appropriations from unappropriated available revenues for COVID-19-related healthcare expenses.
EDUCATION: Legislation providing strategies for public-school education in prekindergarten through 12th grade during the COVID-19 pandemic.
BORDER SECURITY: Legislation enhancing criminal laws or providing funding from unappropriated available revenues to support law-enforcement agencies, counties, and other strategies as part of Texas' comprehensive border security plan.
FAMILY VIOLENCE PREVENTION: Legislation similar to Senate Bill 1109 from the 87th Legislature, Regular Session, requiring schools to provide appropriate education to middle- and high-school students about dating violence, domestic violence, and child abuse, but that recognizes the right of parents to opt their children out of the instruction.
YOUTH SPORTS: Legislation identical to Senate Bill 29 as passed by the Texas Senate in the 87th Legislature, Regular Session, disallowing a student from competing in University Interscholastic League athletic competitions designated for the sex opposite to the student's sex at birth.
ABORTION-INDUCING DRUGS: Legislation similar to Senate Bill 394 from the 87th Legislature, Regular Session, which prohibits people from providing abortion-inducing drugs by mail or delivery service, strengthens the laws applicable to the reporting of abortions and abortion complications, and ensures that no abortion-inducing drugs arc provided unless there is voluntary and informed consent.
CRITICAL RACE THEORY: Legislation similar to House Bill 3979 concerning critical race theory as originally passed by the Texas Senate in the 87th Legislature, Regular Session.
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