The battle between the House and Senate is heating up, and we could be headed for a special session if Lt. Governor Dan Patrick gets what he wants.
“If it doesn’t pass, once again this is one of two bill bills that must pass, then I am prepared to go to a special session to get it passed,” Patrick said at a press conference Wednesday. “If the bills don’t pass in the special (session), the property tax relief and privacy do not pass in that special and they’re blocked again, I will ask the governor to call us back again and again and again.”
House Speaker Joe Straus came out against those statements, calling Patrick’s words “regrettable.” While Patrick doesn’t actually have the power to call a special session – that rests with Gov. Greg Abbott – he can try to force one. Patrick could do that by holding up must-pass items like the budget.
“[Patrick] is in position to force [a special session], if the budget does not pass the senate, or if this ‘sunset safety net’ bill doesn’t pass the Senate, then they have to come back,” says Ross Ramsey, executive editor of the Texas Tribune. “The question is whether Abbott would then put Patrick’s other priority bills on the agenda for a special session.”
That’s because the governor sets the agenda in special sessions, and it’s unclear whether Abbott favors those bills enough to make it happen. One of those bills is the contentious, so-called ‘bathroom bill’, SB 6.
“Early on he said, ‘Let’s see how this develops,’ he was not committed to it for a long time,” Ramsey says. “Now he has said he would like to see it pass, but he hasn’t said this is one one of my priorities, and dug his fingernails into this one.”
On the House side of things, there are no real sticking point bills like there are in the Senate, Ramsey says.
“The House has some bills they said they would like to pass,” he says, “but they didn’t put the same kind of line-in-the-sand priority on them that Dan Patrick put on the first thirty bills introduced in the Senate. Those kind of have Dan Patrick pixie dust on those, and he’s keeping score on those bills.”
Ramsey says special sessions aren’t all that rare – there have been 119 in the state’s history – and that the two reasons for calling them are “emergencies and screw-ups.” Will we have a screw-up leading us into a special session?
“They have time to do this,” Ramsey says. “One of the things that Gov. Abbott said when reporters caught him was they have time to finish. I think Straus and Patrick both agree with that, they just want different things at the finish line.”
Written by Alexandra hart.