87th LegislatureEducationHealthcareIssuesState HouseState SenateTexas Legislature to Adjourn Sine Die After Abbott Balks at Calls for a June Special Session

Lawmakers are headed home for the summer after a 140-day session, unless Abbott decides to call them back to Austin for a special session soon.
May 31, 2021
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As Americans honor the sacrifices of fallen members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families, Texas lawmakers are wrapping up their work for the summer. Memorial Day is the 140th day of the 87th Texas legislature’s regular session — the day the Texas Constitution requires state legislators to adjourn sine die.

But they may be back soon.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has expressed disappointment that the Texas House did not pass certain conservative priorities such as a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying, a requirement that public school athletes compete based on their biological gender, and a bill that would have prohibited social media companies from engaging in content-based censorship.

In fact, Patrick wants the legislature to go into extra innings sooner rather than later.

There is a tool in Texas policies that only one person wields. That tool is the ability to call and set the agenda for a special session, also known as an extraordinary session, and as he recently reminded the public, Gov. Greg Abbott is the only one who has that authority.

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“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,” Abbott asserted, after calling Patrick’s comments “goofy.”

“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,” Abbott warned. “The only thing I will be putting on there will be things that I want to see passed.”

The governor cautioned lawmakers against taking agenda items “hostage” to influence him to call a special session, and made clear that even if he did take that course of action, it would not be a free-for-all.

“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,” Abbott explained, adding that he would “make sure that we get things passed” and would not allow the legislature to become “some debating society.”

Abbott has called a special session only once since he was sworn in as governor in 2015. In 2017, during the 85th legislature, Abbott called lawmakers back to Austin and tasked them with 21 items of business that included abortion restrictions and the “bathroom bill.”

Even if Abbott does not call a special session this summer, he is widely expected to call one in the fall for the purpose of redrawing legislative districts. Redistricting bills were stymied due to the U.S. Census Bureau’s delayed release of population data.

Abbott has also vowed to add election integrity legislation and bail reform to the special session agenda. The Republicans’ signature elections bill failed on Sunday, the last day for the House to pass conference committee reports, after Democrats walked out of the chamber and broke a quorum.

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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan. He has coached high school competitive speech and debate and has also been involved in community theater and politics. A native Texan, Hayden served as a delegate at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in 2016. He is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Liberty University. In his free time, Hayden is known to take walks around the neighborhood while listening to random music on Spotify.