Gov. Greg Abbott – Special Session – 20 items on Agenda

Amid squabbles that escalated in the final weeks of the regular legislative session, lawmakers failed to approve a must-pass bill to reauthorize several state agencies, including the one that licenses and oversees doctors, the Texas Medical Board. Those agencies will stop functioning in September without legislation to keep them up and running.  Abbott said once the Senate approves a measure to reauthorize agencies that were not reauthorized in the general session, he will immediately add to the special session agenda 19 items championed by Republican lawmakers, including Patrick’s top priorities.

One of the 20 “issues” that Governor Abbott has called the Special Session to work on, is eradicating local tree ordinances. Representative Paul Workman (R-West Lake Hills) has filed HB 70, which prohibits local entities from passing or enforcing ordinances that ban residents from removing trees they think poses a risk. -TX League of Conservation Voters

Among the other issues Abbott said he would ask lawmakers to address: approving a $1,000 pay raise for public school teachers, prohibiting local ordinances that restrict homeowners and businesses, cutting off local money to abortion providers, restricting cities’ ability to annex property and studying the causes of maternal deaths in Texas.

The bathroom and tax proposals died amid bitter feuding between Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus, a more moderate Republican. Straus, along with other moderate Republicans, business groups and Democrats, argued that the so-called bathroom bill would cost the Texas economy millions and encourage discrimination against a vulnerable population.

Abbott said he wants, at minimum, a bill that will keep transgender children in schools from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. He specifically pointed to a bill by Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, that would have eliminated city ordinances and school district rules that allow transgender people to use the restrooms that match their gender identity. Simmons said he plans to file the measure again next week. He said Abbott sent a strong message by making the measure a priority for the special session. “If it doesn’t get done, it will be because the leaders of the House or Senate didn’t get it done,” Simmons said.

During the regular session, House Republican leaders also rejected Patrick’s property tax proposal, which would trigger automatic rollback elections if local property taxes grow by more than 5 percent. Under current law, residents can petition for a rollback election if the tax rate grows more than 8 percent. Local officials said the proposed change would hamstring their ability to provide important public safety services. Abbott said he wants lawmakers to pass legislation that includes a rollback election provision. Angleton GOP Rep. Dennis Bonnen, who heads the tax-writing House Ways and Means panel, said he welcomes another chance to tighten revenue caps on cities, counties and other nonschool taxing districts.

As Gov Greg Abbott mulled the special session question, far-right Republicans, aligned with former talk show host and current Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, had implored him to expand the agenda of any such session to include other conservative priorities lawmakers failed to pass.

The Texas Republican Party executive committee on Tuesday sent Abbott a letter with an even bigger proposed agenda. In addition to the bathroom and tax measures, the nearly 60 GOP authors said they want lawmakers to vote on bills that would allow Texans to carry guns without licenses; abolish abortion and refuse to follow federal rules and court orders that allow the procedure; and allow parents to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools.

Abbott acquiesced on nearly all of their requests, plus added a few more agenda items.

Here is a complete list of the 20 items that will be on the special session agenda:

* Measures that will continue the operations of the Texas Medical Board and four other agencies are scheduled to shutter Sept. 1.
* Teacher pay increase of $1,000.
* Administrative flexibility in teacher hiring and retention practices.
* A commission to study ways to fix public school financing.
* Allowing parents of special needs children to use public school dollars for private schools.
* Limiting growth of local property taxes.
* Caps on state and local spending.
* Preventing cities from regulating what property owners do with trees on private land.
* Preventing local governments from changing rules midway through construction projects.
* Speeding up local government permitting process.
* Restrict cities’ ability to annex property.
* Abbott signed a ban on texting while driving Tuesday, but he wants lawmakers to pass a bill preempting local restrictions on mobile devices in automobiles.
* Restricting transgender Texans from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.
* Prohibiting public employers from collecting union dues.
* Prohibiting local governments from sending tax dollars to abortion providers.
* Prohibiting abortion coverage under primary health insurance plans.
* Increasing reporting requirements when health complications arise from abortions.
* Strengthening patient protections relating to do-not-resuscitate orders.
* Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud.
* Extending a study of the causes of maternal mortality.

Gov. Greg Abbott announces July 18 special session  | Texas Legislature | Dallas News