The Texas legislative session wraps up today. Here’s where major bills stand.

As of Monday morning, lawmakers still had not reached a deal on property tax relief.

By Sarah Asch & Glorie MartinezMay 29, 2023 11:41 am,

Monday marks the last day of Texas’ 88th legislative session – also called Sine Die.

By midnight, we will know which bills will be passed by both chambers and sent to the governor. It’s the culmination of months of committee meetings, floor debates and compromise.

Sherri Greenberg, professor of practice and fellow of the Max Sherman chair in state and local government at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said it’s hard to pass any bills today that haven’t already been approved.

“The last day of the session is very different from the rest of the session,” she said. Lawmakers “are rushing to tie up any loose ends, and with rare exceptions, anything that didn’t pass last night is going to be very difficult to see any action at all today.”

Aarón Torres, who covers politics for The Dallas Morning News, said legislators were at the Capitol late Sunday night but still were not able to reach a deal on one of Republicans’ main priorities this session: property tax relief.

“There still aren’t any property tax cuts, which was a priority for the speaker, Lt. Gov. [Dan] Patrick and Greg Abbott,” he said. “I was in the House chamber last night until about 11 p.m. and there was still some negotiating going on between both chambers, and unfortunately they were not able to make a deal.”

Torres said of the seven emergency items Gov. Greg Abbott named as priorities, only three were passed into law during the regular session.

“I believe the No. 1 item was cutting property taxes. A few others were school choice, school safety, ending revolving door bail, securing the border, fighting the fentanyl crisis, and ending COVID restrictions forever,” Torres said. “By my count, right now, the only ones that have really come to fruition are fentanyl, school safety and ending COVID restrictions forever.”

Some other notable priorities of Republican leaders did pass, Torres said, including a bill that would ban diversity equity and inclusion offices at public Texas universities.

“That one was a bill that was a Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick priority bill,” Torres said. “I believe Texas is only the second state, other than Florida, to ban diversity, equity and inclusion offices or training in public universities. So it’s a fairly rare thing and also a new thing that’s happening right now in many conservative states, or conservative-led states.”

Torres said the rest of the governor’s emergency items could be taken up in a special session – or multiple special sessions. This includes education savings accounts, sometimes called school vouchers, which failed to pass this session.

“This has been very contentious for many, many years in the Texas Legislature. You have a situation where Democrats and many rural Republicans have not been in favor of any type of school choice or school voucher because they believe that it will take money from their public schools,” Greenberg said. “The Senate’s overhaul of what was House Bill 100 would have set up state-funded education savings accounts through which parents would get $8,000 per student per year to pay for costs related to private education. … The Senate’s amended version could not get the votes that were needed.”

Greenberg said legislators also tied teacher raises to the school voucher program – so as of now, neither school vouchers or teacher pay raises are in the budget bill.

If Abbott does call a special session, Greenberg said he can do it at any time and set the issues that will be called up during that session, which will last 30 days.

“I think a special session is imminent,” she said. “Governor Abbott could say ‘we’re having a special session, and in that special session I want you to address property taxes, I want you to address vouchers, and I want you to address border security.’”

However, Torres said there is still a chance that property tax relief could pass on the last day of the session – it would just take a vote to suspend the rules in the House.

“There would have to be two-thirds vote in the House to suspend the rules if both chambers actually do come to a deal” on property tax relief, he said. “And from speaking to several lawmakers yesterday, they think that if there is a deal, they will suspend the rules because they don’t want to come back for a special session immediately.”

Torres said it has been more or less understood that if school vouchers didn’t pass, lawmakers would return for a special session to take up that issue in September.

“But all day yesterday, there were rumors that the governor would call a special session immediately for Tuesday” for property tax relief, Torres said. “And lawmakers just did not want to have to deal with that. The Senate is already having to deal with the trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton, so that’s going to have them be in Austin for all of June, maybe July. Who knows how long that trial will last. So the House and lawmakers, they kind of wanted a break.”

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