On Wednesday, Patrick seemed hopeful that the governor would call state legislators back to Austin to continue working on conservative priorities.
“[The Texas Senate] just finished a strong conservative session. But more needs to be done,” Patrick tweeted. “[The] Senate added felony penalties for illegal voting, but the House cut [it] to a misdemeanor. [The] House needs to pass an election forensic audit bill. I support [Abbott] calling us back to pass both.”
A few hours later, the Republican Party of Texas followed suit, listing the unfinished items the party hoped Abbott would place on the agenda.
“We commend the Texas Legislature and Governor for delivering numerous significant and substantive conservative victories this year,” Chairman Matt Rinaldi said in a press release. “But more needs to be done. We support Governor Abbott calling the legislature back to address these issues.”
The party advocated four agenda items for a potential special session — increasing the penalty for illegal voting back to a felony, “a full forensic audit of Texas elections to ensure illegal voting is rooted out and prosecuted,” a total prohibition on vaccine mandates, and outlawing gender transition surgeries and other transgender procedures on children.
Earlier this year, as part of the Election Integrity Protection Act, Republicans reduced the penalty for illegal voting from a felony to a misdemeanor. Only weeks after he signed the election integrity bill into law, Abbott added reversing the downgrade to the agenda for the third special session.
Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) disagreed, contending the matter was settled and lawmakers should not rehash their work on the election integrity law. While the Senate made some movement on a proposal to change the penalty back to a felony, the House did not consider it.
The provision in question has not even taken effect. The penalty for illegal voting will be a felony until the election integrity law takes effect on December 2.
When the third special session adjourned sine die earlier this week, Phelan seemed satisfied with the legislature’s work and did not signal an inclination toward another session.
“For some of you, this marks the end of your experience in the Texas legislature, and for some of you this is the beginning of your experience in the Texas legislature,” Phelan commented before gaveling out. “I want to thank each of you for your hard work and your dedication and commitment to the Texas House.”
There has been some executive action on the other items. In August, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services took the position that gender modification surgeries on children is child abuse.
After former President Trump, who could be a presidential contender in 2024, called for an audit of the 2020 election, the Texas Secretary of State ordered a limited review of the election in some Texas counties.
Trump also pressured Abbott, who he has endorsed for reelection, to place it on the special session agenda. While Abbott did not do so, the former president preferred to spar with Phelan, criticizing his “weak RINO leadership in the State House.”
Facing the specter of running in the Republican gubernatorial primary next year without a law banning vaccine mandates and other grassroots priorities to run on, Abbott may call lawmakers back to thicken his conservative record.
On the other hand, Abbott may take the same posture as Phelan and let sleeping dogs lie.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.
Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."