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Texas lawmakers are back in Austin for a special session of Congress

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State lawmakers will meet at the Capitol for the Special Legislative Session July 18.
Photo by Bri Watkins

Gov. Greg Abbott is calling lawmakers back for a special legislative session July 18. The special session is a product of political stalemate between the Texas House of Representatives and Senate and will last for 30 days.

“A special session was entirely avoidable, and there was plenty of time for the legislature to forge compromises to avoid the time and taxpayer expense of a special session,” Abbott said when he announced the session June 6. “As Governor, if I am going to call a special session, I intend to make it count.”

What’s a special session?

A special session works similarly to a regular session. However, the governor sets the agenda, from how many days lawmakers are back, to what legislation can be voted on.

The regular session is called for in the Texas Constitution. The legislative branch meets every two years. Lawmakers have 140 days to propose, debate and vote on bills.

“For at least the last two, maybe three or four weeks of the session, for pretty much the entirety of the month of May I was doing shuttle diplomacy between both the House and Senate leaders to cut a deal to get this done,” Abbott stated in an interview with Chad Hasty, radio host.

Abbott may call multiple special sessions, or until the legislation is finally passed.

If he deems the work of The House and Senate as satisfactory, lawmakers will be able to return home until the next regular session beginning in Jan. 2019.

However, if Abbott is not satisfied, he can continue to keep congress in Austin.

What’s the difference between a normal and special session?

 A special session works similarly to a regular session. However, the governor sets the agenda, from how many days lawmakers are back, to what legislation can be voted on.

In a regular session, lawmakers would be able to file any kind of legislation they may find appropriate in the 140-day window. However, in a special session, they are restricted to legislation the governor has chosen.

What is this special session about?

Abbott has laid out 20 signature items to address this session and  has selected members of both chambers to introduce specific legislation on each topic.

Topics include abortion, voter fraud, school finance reform and privacy in public bathrooms in relation to gender identity.

How does the leadership feel about it?

The special session has received both criticism and praise from both chambers of Republican leadership.

Joe Straus, speaker of the House, disagrees with the governor’s decision.

“After one of the most divisive sessions in recent memory, it’s sad to see Gov. Greg Abbott call lawmakers back to Austin,” Straus stated in a press conference May 26 .

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has showed support on Abbott’s decision to call legislators back.

“I’m glad we’re having a special session,” Patrick stated in a press conference, in reaction to Straus’s Conference. “The governor and I are linked shoulder-to-shoulder on these issues.”

Although from the same party, Straus and Patrick have been known to differ in policy.

For more information regarding the special session, visit the Capitol’s website.

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