When It Comes To The Special Session, Greg Abbott’s Calling The Shots

Gov. Greg Abbott has 20 items on his special session agenda, including so-called ‘bathroom bill’ legislation, which also happens to be a top priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

By Jill AmentJuly 11, 2017 1:05 pm, ,

When Texas legislators convene for the special session on July 18, the clock will start on Katy Rep. Mike Schofield’s bill, which seeks to change how the state calculates the constitutional spending limit. He’ll have to get in line: Gov. Greg Abbott has an ambitious 20-item legislation agenda of his own, and only 30 days to pass it.

Dallas Morning News’ Austin Bureau Chief Brandi Grissom has been covering the lead up to the special session and says the governor has more authority during that time than any other during his leadership.

“He’s the only one who can determine what is on the agenda for the special session and he is the only one who can call a special session,” she says.

In alignment with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Gov. Abbott put the so-called bathroom bill on his special session agenda. Grissom says the bill failed in the regular session mainly because of opposition from House Speaker Joe Straus.

“[Speaker Straus] worries about it damaging the Texas economy and also targeting an already vulnerable community in Texas,” Grissom says.

There are actually two bathroom bills: One limits transgender access in all public restrooms. Another seeks to roll back the Obama-era rule that allows transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their gender identity, only in schools. Grissom says it remains to be seen whether Lt. Gov. Patrick would be satisfied with only a ban in schools.

“The lieutenant governor has been really forceful in saying that he wants a ban that keeps men out of ladies rooms. …It seems unlikely that he would settle for that during a special session, however in politics, sometimes it comes down to compromises,” she says.

Legislators, like Rep. Schofield have been filing other bills addressing issues outside Abbott’s list of priorities, but Grissom says the fate of those bills is largely up to the governor.

“Lawmakers, they’re free to file whatever piece of legislation they’d like to see discussed…but they can’t actually vote on them if they’re not on the agenda,” she says.

Written by Caroline Covington.