Gov. Abbott Calls Special Session on Bathrooms, Abortion, School Finance

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Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Gov. Abbott lays out items for a special session at a press conference on June 6, 2017.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday called a special session of the Texas Legislature starting July 18 and promised to make it a sweeping one if lawmakers cooperate.

Abbott gave legislators an ambitious 19-item agenda to work on – including a so-called “bathroom bill” – after they approve must-pass legislation that they failed to advance during the regular session. An overtime round, Abbott said, was “entirely avoidable.”

“Because of their inability or refusal to pass a simple law that would prevent the medical profession from shutting down, I’m announcing a special session to complete that unfinished business,” Abbott told reporters. “But if I’m going to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for a special session, I intend to make it count.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had been pushing Abbott to call a special session on the bathroom issue, as well as property taxes. Abbott also added the latter item to the call, reiterating his support for legislation that would create automatic rollback elections when a city or county wants to raise property taxes above a certain amount.

In an effort to force the special session, Patrick had held hostage legislation, known as a “sunset bill,” that would keep some state agencies from closing. That “will be the only legislation on the special session [agenda] until they pass out of the Senate in full,” Abbott said.

In a statement, Patrick congratulated Abbott on his “big and bold special session agenda which solidly reflects the priorities of the people of Texas.” Patrick noted that “almost every issue” Abbott mentioned Tuesday has already passed out of the Senate.

The sprawling list of items ranges from unfinished business in the regular session – school finance reform and school choice for special needs students – to longtime conservative priorities, such as anti-abortion measures and a crackdown on mail-in ballot fraud. But the bathroom issue, a priority of Patrick that dominated the regular session, is likely to be among the most controversial charges.

“At a minimum, we need a law that protects the privacy of our children in our public schools,” Abbott said, reiterating his support for a proposal that never made it to his desk, House Bill 2899.

Here are the 19 items, as provided by Abbott’s office:

  • Teacher pay increase of $1,000
  • Administrative flexibility in teacher hiring and retention practices
  • School finance reform commission
  • School choice for special needs students
  • Property tax reform
  • 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
  • Municipal annexation reform
  • Texting while driving preemption
  • Privacy
  • Prohibition of taxpayer dollars to collect union dues
  • Prohibition of taxpayer funding for abortion providers
  • Pro-life insurance reform
  • Strengthening abortion reporting requirements when health complications arise
  • Strengthening patient protections relating to do-not-resuscitate orders
  • Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud
  • Extending maternal mortality task force

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