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Texas Gov. Abbott Calls Second Special Session With Expanded Agenda

August 6, 2021 by Reece Nations
Protesters march for voting rights at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas. Texas Gov. Greg Greg Abbott on Thursday, Aug. 5 ordered another special legislative session to again try passing a GOP voting bill after Democrats left the state in protest to again prevent Republicans from changing elections laws.(AP Photo/Acacia Coronado File)

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday he would convene another special legislative session beginning on Saturday, Aug. 7.

Attached to the announcement was a full list of prioritized agenda items for the session. Although much of the list is composed of items left over from Texas’ first special session — one thwarted by a quorum-breaking mass exodus by the state’s Democratic Party members — it also includes new appropriations for COVID-19 response.

Abbott’s agenda includes enacting legislation to designate $10.5 billion in funds for COVID-19 response in accordance with the American Rescue Plan. These funds are needed for: health care staffing needs, managing nursing homes, issuing personal protective equipment, vaccine administration, operating COVID-19 testing sites, and managing infusion centers.

Returning agenda items include controversial issues on Republicans’ radar, such as legislation concerning critical race theory in schools, proposed overhauls to the state’s voting systems and disallowing transgender athletes from competitions. Further, legislation “safeguarding freedom of speech” on social media, regulating the delivery of “abortion-inducing drugs,” and issuing additional funding for border security were listed among the governor’s priorities.

“The 87th Legislative Session was a monumental success for the people of Texas, but we have unfinished business to ensure that Texas remains the most exceptional state in America,” Abbott said in a written statement. “Two of my emergency items, along with other important legislation, did not make it to my desk during the regular session, and we have a responsibility to finish the job on behalf of all Texans.”

The previous special session expired without a quorum after 56 House Representatives and nine Senators fled to Washington, D.C., in protest of Republican attempts to pass expansive election reforms in the state, TWN previously reported. In light of the Democrats’ maneuver, Abbott vowed to continuously call special sessions until the agenda is carried out.

The agenda also includes legislation “providing strategies for public-school education in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade during the COVID-19 pandemic,” intended to ensure immunization from the coronavirus and masking remain voluntary, education is available in-person and educational quality is maintained.

Bail system reform, supplemental payments for the state’s teacher retirement system, and public-school education on dating and domestic violence also remained on Abbott’s agenda.

The list also calls for appropriating available funds for property tax relief, foster care enhancement and cybersecurity protections. Additionally, the section of the state budget vetoed by Abbott that funds the salaries of the employees of the legislative branch remains up for consideration.

“These Special Session priority items put the people of Texas first and will keep the Lone Star State on a path to prosperity,” Abbott said in a written statement. “I look forward to working with my partners in the Legislature to pass this legislation as we build a brighter future for all who call Texas home.” 

Along with the other new additions to the agenda, Abbott wants lawmakers to take up legislation amending quorum requirements in order to stifle future walkouts. Currently, Texas House rules state two-thirds of the 150 members must be present to conduct business.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick previously suggested to Abbott to change the requirement to a simple majority plus one, bringing the House quorum threshold to 76 members.

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