Local expert expects special session for Texas Legislature

Updated: May. 30, 2017 at 9:11 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Following a high-tension ending to the 85th legislative session in Austin, lawmakers are now waiting to see if Governor Greg Abbott will call them back for a special session.

Monday night, Governor Abbott made it clear that if he does call a special session, he will be the only one deciding what goes on that agenda.

At Texas Tech, Visiting Professor of Political Science Dr. Jared Perkins, says the only thing that legislators are required to do by law is pass the state budget, which they did.

But there are several bills named as priority by the Governor and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick that did not pass.

So, will Governor Abbott call a special session?

Dr. Perkins says he believes the Governor will.

Governor Abbott is free to call a special session whenever he wants, though he said he'll make a decision later this week.

The special session can last up to 30 days, but Governor Abbott could call more than one special session.

So what exactly is a special session?

"There are still bills that are introduced, they are still debated. But the only bills that can be debated and passed on the floor are bills that are germane to what the governor set on the agenda. So that's the big difference," Dr. Perkins said. "But one interesting and little-known fact about special sessions, is it doesn't prevent members of the Legislature from filing bills that are not on the agenda, just from them being debated and passed."

Dr. Perkins says several members have mentioned plans to file bills to get the Governor's attention, because he can add things to the agenda in the middle of a special session.

There is already some speculation as to what Governor Abbott might include in a special session.

"I think for sure he will focus on the funding for the Texas Medical Board. That was a priority that he said several weeks ago. He was sort of surprised and publicly disappointed that the legislature didn't approve that," Dr. Perkins said.

Other items of interest include the heavily debated "bathroom bill" and property tax reform.

Dr. Perkins says he believes if Governor Abbott calls a special session, it will be a narrow agenda.

"In a special session, because the Governor asked for the Legislature to do something, if the Legislature doesn't do it, it could appear that Governor Abbott is weak or doesn't have the political willpower to accomplish things that are on his agenda. And that's one of the reasons why I don't really see him choosing to go for something controversial like the "bathroom bill" just because if it doesn't pass, then it could appear as if Governor Abbott doesn't have sufficient support for his agenda in Austin," Dr. Perkins said.

Dr. Perkins talked about how some of the bills that did pass could end up in court.

The Texas Tribune reports multiple lawsuits have already been filed over Senate Bill 4, otherwise known as the "Sanctuary Cities" bill.

That bill was authored by Lubbock Senator Charles Perry. He sent us this statement regarding the future of SB 4 on Tuesday night:

"I am confident that Senate Bill 4 will be ruled constitutional. At its core, the bill is about enforcing the laws that are already on the books. I look forward to the courts upholding the rule of law."

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