Vouchers, border bills advance in special legislative session this week

Plus more inside baseball from the week in Texas politics, with the Texas Tribune’s Matthew Watkins.

By Wells DunbarOctober 13, 2023 10:28 am, , ,

A special session of the Texas Legislature is ending its first week, after Gov. Greg Abbott called lawmakers back to Austin for the third time this year.

The most anticipated aspect of the special session has been Gov. Abbott’s push for a school voucher program, offering families $8,000 in tuition assistance at private schools. Texas Tribune managing editor Matthew Watkins notes that the Senate worked into the night to pass the bill. It’s been a long-standing priority in that chamber, but has historically faced opposition by rural Republicans in the House.

“Many rural Republicans who are worried that there aren’t that many private schools in their areas and that this will be something that will drain funds from public schools,” Watkins said.

Border and migration issues are also on the governor’s agenda. The Senate passed one bill to increase penalties for offenses such as human smuggling and operating stash houses. With bipartisan support, that legislation is expected to easily advance in the coming weeks.

But another border bill approved by the Senate has a less certain future.

Senate Bill 11 “would allow state police to arrest migrants for illegal entry into the country,” Watkins says. “That one also has strong support from Republicans. But there are some real questions about the legality of that bill and whether it infringes on the federal responsibility of enforcing immigration laws. So even if that one passes, we should expect some court challenges.”

For more on the week in Texas politics, including the political ramifications of the Houston Astros/Texas Rangers series starting Sunday, listen to the interview in the audio player above.