Abbott left the option of calling a special session open, but in some heated comments he made clear that only he had the power to call the legislature back before the next regular session in two years.
Asked about Patrick’s request for a special session, Abbott said, “that’s pretty goofy.”
“Everybody knows there’s only one person with the authority to call a special session, and that’s the governor. And only I have that ability. And only I will execute that authority,” said Abbott.
As Abbott said at the press conference, he not only has the authority to decide if and when a special session is called, but he also decides what items the legislature can consider while they are convened.
With that authority, Abbott indicated that any special session would be his way or the highway.
“If anybody tries to force this, it’s not going to be like it has been in the past where we’ll have 40 items on a special session,” said the governor. “The only thing I will be putting on there will be things that I want to see passed.”
“Second, we’re gonna go one item at a time. There will be one item placed on the agenda. Not until they pass that item will we move onto another item,” said Abbott.
“So if anybody tries to hold hostage this legislative session to force a special session, that person will be putting their members — in the Senate or the House — potentially into a special session for another two years until the next regular session, because I’m going to make sure that we get things passed — not just open up some debating society.”
Under the state constitution, special sessions called by the governor can last up to 30 days. If the special session lasts that long, it can cost taxpayers upwards of $1 million.
Patrick’s request for more time for lawmakers to pass legislation came after three of his priority bills — one to limit taxpayer-funded lobbying, one to require student athletes to compete within their own sex, and one to allow lawsuits against social media companies for censorship — died after failing to pass before the House deadline this week.
Abbott said that he supports “all three of those,” but added, “none of them got passed.”
“Those could be other items that are put on the agenda. There are a multitude of items that could be placed on the agenda. But whether or not anything gets on the agenda is dependent upon the time that we’ll be allowed to make sure that we will be able to accomplish other items,” said Abbott.
Questioned about the unity of state elected officials, the governor pushed the criticism aside, comparing the recent hostilities with the end of a sports game.
“If you look at the last few days of session and that we’ve seen over decades, this is kind of how it always happens at the end of the session,” said Abbott. “It’s like the last two minutes of a football game or a basketball game. That’s where all the action takes place.”
Though the three bills prioritized by Patrick are all effectively dead, the governor said that “if the leaders in the legislature will stop fighting with each other and start working together, we can get all of this across the finish line.”
Patrick reportedly responded to Abbott’s remarks, stating, “It’s not goofy to ask the Governor for a special session and he said this week ‘well, the two teams they can get together the last few days.’”
“Well, the rules say on Tuesday in the House those bills were dead. They can’t be revived so the only way we can pass them is to request a special session,” said Patrick.
In addition to Patrick, a number of Republican lawmakers have indicated their support for a special session to address the priorities that died in the House, including all members of the Texas Freedom Caucus, Reps. Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City), James White (R-Hillister), Jeff Leach (R-Plano), Scott Sanford (R-McKinney), Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg), Jeff Cason (R-Bedford), Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington), and Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood).
A special session is already expected to be held this fall in order for the legislature to address redistricting, and Abbott has said that he would also ask lawmakers to determine how federal COVID-19 relief funds are used.
Update: This article was updated to include a response from the lieutenant governor.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.