What Might Be On The Agenda For Texas’ First Special Legislative Session

Gov. Abbott will reconvene the Texas Legislature for 30 days starting July 8, likely to revisit the voting bill that died during the regular session.

By Rhonda Fanning & Caroline CovingtonJune 25, 2021 2:01 pm

This week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a special session of the Texas Legislature will convene on July 8 to address priority items left over from the regular session.

Revisiting the voting bill that died after Democrats in the House walked out will likely be Abbott’s top priority. But University of Houston political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus says that probably won’t be the only item on the agenda.

Here’s a look at what could be priority agenda items during the 30-day special session.

Voting Bill

Also know as Senate Bill 7, Rottinghaus says Abbott is sure to make passing this his top priority. Abbott and Texas Republicans are bolstered by a national trend of conservative states clamping down on voting access after Joe Biden won in 2020 following expanded voting access during the pandemic.

Rottinghuas says it will be a challenge for Democrats to prevent SB 7’s passage, but it’s possible Republicans could make some concessions, especially on the most divisive provisions that would disenfranchise Black voters and more.

“There are a couple of issues with respect to when early voting, for instance, would start on a Sunday, called ‘Souls to the Polls’ provision. There are also provisions for requiring voter IDs for mail-in ballots,” he said. “So I think that’s going to be something that may get softened a little bit.”

Legislative Funding

It’s unclear whether Abbott will reconsider his veto of Article 10 of the state’s budget, which pays for lawmakers’ salaries and legislative operations. The veto was punishment for Democrats’ walkout over the voting bill. But Rottinghaus says the veto actually affects more Republicans since they’re the majority at the Capitol.

“Republicans, although, of course, generally in lockstep on most issues, are not going to be happy with how the governor has treated the Legislature. And if there’s one thing that has gotten governors historically in trouble in Texas, it’s picking a fight with the Legislature,” he said.

If the veto stands, funding for legislative operations ends Sept. 1.

Cash Bail

The Democrats’ walkout also led to the failure of a bill reaffirming Texas’ cash bail system, and limiting charitable bail funds, Rottinghaus says. Those were priorities for Abbott as part of the Damon Allen Act, in honor of a police officer who was killed in the line of duty – something he could also revisit it during the special session.

Critical Race Theory

The Legislature already limited the teaching of critical race theory in Texas public schools during the regular legislative session. But Rottinghuas says Abbott could seek more restrictions on teaching the concept that racism has been an integral part of American life, and the economy, since the country’s founding.

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