Regular Session Ends With Harsh Words, And Talk Of Unfinished Business

The governor says he’ll decide later this week whether or not to call a special session of the legislature.

By Rhonda FanningMay 30, 2017 11:26 am|

It’s the first day after the close of the 85th Texas Legislative session, and observers are still sorting through the aftermath. Yesterday’s final hours were punctuated by protests and threats of violence among lawmakers.

For now, legislators are taking a break. But whether they’ll be back for a special session has yet to be decided. Gov. Greg Abbott will make that call, and he wasn’t showing his hand on the matter – telling reporters he’ll make his decision sometime this week.

On the session’s last day, tensions boiled over between lawmakers, as protesters in the House gallery chanted their opposition to SB4, the so-called “sanctuary cities” bill.

Peggy Fikac, Austin Bureau chief and columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, says a confrontation began after some Democratic lawmakers on the House floor acknowledged and supported the protesters.

“A Tea Party lawmaker, Matt Rinaldi, who supported the ban, wandered by and… told them that he had called ICE on the protesters,” Fikac says. “And that led to a rather heated discussion.”

Rep. Rinaldi (R-Irving) and Rep. Pancho Nevárez (D-Eagle Pass) exchanged threats, Fikac says.

“Rinaldi was overheard by a lawmaker I know from San Antonio, Justin Rodriguez, saying he was going to put a bullet in [Nevárez’] head,” she says.

Rinaldi later denied making the statement.

Though SB4 is now law, Democrats are promising “a summer of resistance,” Fikac says.

Ben Philpott, senior editor for KUT News in Austin, says Lt. Governor Dan Patrick remained committed to passing the so-called “bathroom bill,” and accused the House of obstruction right through the end of the session.

“[Patrick] will continue to ride that bill,” Philpott says. “He’s very good at figuring out what is going to get his base going, and sticking with it.”

Philpott says that in addition to unpassed bills related to the ‘sunsetting’ of state agencies, that are likely to be the heart of any special session called, Patrick wants the “bathroom bill” and property tax reform to be addressed too.

Gov. Abbott, however, has the sole authority to determine what issues would be considered during a special session.

“As the governor was signing the ride-hailing bill yesterday, he made a point of telling all the reporters there, and anyone else listening that he alone can call the special session, and that he alone can name the topics,” Philpott says.

Abbott has 20 days to act on bills that reached his desk during the final 10 days of the session. Philpott and Ficak say the governor could use his line-item veto authority to remove individual items in the budget that was passed over the weekend.

 

Written by Shelly Brisbin.