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June 7, 2017

85th Special Session - Details

Yesterday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a total of 20 items that will be on the call. He argued there was sufficient time during the special session to address the issues on the call after they pass sunset legislation by concluding with the following remarks:
“The day that sunset legislation passes out of the Senate, all of these other items will be added to the special session. Legislators have six weeks to prepare for the special session and then another 30 days to pass these proposals. If they fail, it’s not for lack of time, it would be because of a lack of will. I expect legislators to return with a calm demeanor and with a firm commitment to make Texas even better.”  
During Gov. Abbott’s press conference, several of the items he listed on the call he also tied to examples of legislation that did not survive the 85th Regular Session such as:  

  • SB 2144 (L. Taylor) establishing a Texas Commission on Public School Finance
  • HB 1335 (Simmons) establishing an education savings account (ESA) for certain children with special needs and other educational disadvantages.
  • SB 2 (Bettencourt) – property tax reform legislation with a rate rollback provision
  • SB 715 (Campbell) – relating to municipal annexation
  • HB 2899 (Simmons) – (Privacy/Bathroom) relating to regulation of discrimination by political subdivisions
  • SB 13 (Huffman) - relating to payroll deductions for state and local government employee organizations
  • SB 20 (L. Taylor) - relating to health plan and health benefit plan coverage for abortions,
  • HB 2962 (Capriglione) - requirements for reports by certain physicians and health care facilities for abortion complications including the Hughes amendment
  • HB 2063 (Bonnen) – relating to general procedures and requirements for do-not-resuscitate orders
  • SB 1929 (Kolkhorst) - Relating to a report on maternal mortality and the continuation of the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force.

Both House Speaker Straus and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued statements following Abbott's announcement. 
Speaker Straus’ statement:
"I hope that Members will take advantage of the next six weeks to spend with their families after a long 140-day legislative session. The Members of the House will return to the Capitol next month ready to put their constituents and the best interest of the state first. The House looks forward to resuming our work on school finance and other challenges facing this state."
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's statement:
“I want to congratulate Governor Abbott for his big and bold special session agenda which solidly reflects the priorities of the people of Texas. Almost every issue he addressed today passed the Senate during the regular session and I am confident the senators are ready to hit the ground running to move these issues forward. The people of Texas have a right to expect that we will finish the job on these critical issues and I am happy to join with the governor in doing the work they elected us to do. I continue to be proud to serve with Gov. Abbott and look forward to working with him in the upcoming special session.”
Details on the Call
The Governor may expand his Call to include additional topics at any time (Texas Constitution Article 3, section 40).
Other than the Governor opening the Call, any bills that were vetoed during the 85th Session or other legislation that could be filed outside the bounds of the Governor’s Call are subject to the Texas Constitution & both the House and Senate rules.
Article 3, section 40 of the Texas Constitution states: “When the Legislature shall be convened in special session, there shall be no legislation upon subjects other than those designated in the proclamation of the Governor calling such session, or presented to them by the Governor.”
The House and Senate rules note traditionally that only legislation put forth in the Governor’s call will be considered. The rules appear to not limit what is filed but, rather, limit what legislation progresses.
Under the explanatory notes in the Texas House rules (Rule 8, Section 21), it is noted that traditionally the legislature has broad discretion within the boundaries of the subjects submitted by the Governor during a called session. The notes also indicate there are two distinct plans of procedure for how the speaker may determine if the legislation is within the parameters of the governor’s call. One scenario is that the speaker reviews bills filed to determine if their subject matter was in the call and then will admit only those that are covered. The other scenario, and also most current practice, is where the speaker gives all introduced bills a first reading and then refers them to appropriate committees without regard as to whether they fit within the stated purposes of the called session. This procedure does not diminish the right of a member to later challenge a measure on the grounds that it does not relate to a subject submitted by the governor. In the past, using this scenario, it has proven to be a way to expedite significantly the consideration of subjects that the governor may later add to a called session.
In regards to Senate rules, the Senate may not grant by vote or by unanimous consent permission to a member to introduce a bill not within Governor's call. (43 S.J. 1 C.S. 24 (1933)).
Furthermore, a point of order, made and sustained at a special session, that a bill is not within the Governor’s call, prevents any further consideration of it at that session (4 3 S .J. 2 C. S. 27 (1934)).
Length of Time for a Special Session:
Although special sessions are limited to a maximum of thirty days, the Texas Constitution does not impose a minimum (Texas Constitution Article 3, section 40). The 1st called Special Session of the 38th Legislature met for only one hour. No legislation was enacted (Legislative Reference Library).
Veto Time Period:
The Texas Constitution, which grants the Governor the power to veto bills and delimits the period of time he/she has to exercise that power, draws no distinction between regular and special sessions (Texas Constitution, Article 4, section 14).

The 85th Called Special Session will begin July 18, 2017.  

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