The Texas Legislature began meeting yesterday in a special session called by Governor Greg Abbott to consider twenty items, resulting in one of the busiest agendas for a special session in recent history. Abbott announced the date of the special session last month.
A special session was necessitated by the failure of the Texas Legislature to pass Sunset legislation to continue the operations of five healthcare licensure agencies, including the Texas Medical Board. Absent action by the legislature in a special session, those five agencies would be required to cease issuing new licenses and begin winding down operations on September 1.
Conservatives in the legislature purposefully killed the Sunset legislation in question to force a special session. They did so after the Texas House failed to pass two measures pushed by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick during the regular session, a measure relating to local government property taxes and another targeting transgender bathroom use.
Gov. Abbott announced that only the Sunset legislation will be eligible for immediate consideration, but that once all bills relating to the healthcare licensure agencies are sent to the governor, he will add an additional 19 items to the call, including the bathroom bill and property tax legislation.
The differences in philosophies between the Texas House and Texas Senate are quite stark. The Texas House elects its leader from amongst its own, and is aligned with pro-business groups. The Texas Senate is more conservative, with its leaders effectively being chosen in a statewide Republican primary. Even before the session convened, the leaders of each chamber are already openly critical of one another. The frayed relations are a carryover from the regular session, when it is reported that communications between the two leaders was non-existent.
Legislators may file bills that are not among the 20 topics indicated by the governor, but any legislation not on the call would be subject to a procedural point of order that would likely kill the bill. The special session will last up to 30 days, at which time Gov. Abbott would have to call a subsequent special session if he deemed additional work necessary.