The Back MicThe Back Mic: Abbott Names Three Items for July Session, Sid Miller Opts for Re-Election, GOP Lawmaker Joins Democrats in Medicaid Push

This week — a special session agenda update, Sid Miller announces his re-election run, and legislators renew calls for Medicaid expansion.
June 25, 2021
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Abbott Confirms at Least Three Issues for First Special Session

Earlier this week, Governor Greg Abbott announced a July 8 start date for the first of at least two special sessions this year — but did not specify the topics for its agenda.

But in a campaign tele-town hall on Tuesday night, Abbott confirmed at least three agenda items for the legislature when it convenes next month: election reform, social media censorship, and a ban on critical race theory.

The election reform bill died a high-profile death on the last night of the session as House Democrats walked out of the chamber, breaking quorum and killing all remaining bills on the calendar. The social media censorship bill aimed at “Big Tech” also perished at an earlier midnight deadline after a concerted effort to waste time.

As for the prospective critical race theory ban, the legislature passed a version purporting to have accomplished the objective but Abbott wants another shot. “Even though we passed it, and it’s the most comprehensive version in the country,” Abbott said on the call, “I don’t think it went far enough.”

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Which other topics will accompany those three remains unclear, but Abbott has previously indicated that his priority bail reform legislation would be paired with election reform.

Sid Miller Will Seek Re-Election as Agriculture Commissioner

Forgoing higher office for the moment, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller announced this week he will seek a third term in his current position.

“I have worked hard to meet the needs created by these challenges while expanding agriculture markets for Texas goods, protecting consumers, and making sure that our students have the healthy foods they need to thrive,” he said in an email announcement.

“I really have the best and most rewarding job in the world. That’s why, after listening to the advice of supporters, friends, and my team, I have decided that I can best serve Texas by continuing this important work.”

Speculation that Miller was mulling a run for higher office, including a potential primary challenge to Governor Greg Abbott whom he’s said “can’t win the general election,” circulated for much of 2021 — which Miller didn’t exactly quell.

Looking forward, Miller said he aims to continue the work he’s done since he assumed the role in 2015.

“Beyond my official capacity, I feel a special obligation to use the bully pulpit afforded me to stand up for our shared values and hold other elected officials accountable. This is how we move Texas forward,” he added.

“I hope I can continue to count on your support as we embark on this next chapter. Together, we will keep Texas growing. We will keep Texas prosperous. We will keep Texas great.”

Miller won the 2014 GOP primary and general handily and then faced tougher opposition in 2018 by Democrat Kim Olson.

House Democrats, One Republican Call for Special Session Medicaid Expansion

The Texas legislature declined multiple opportunities to expand Medicaid, as it has done since Obamacare was first implemented a decade ago. But Texas Democrats, and one Republican, are continuing to beat that drum.

In a letter sent to Governor Greg Abbott, 55 Democrats and one Republican requested that Medicaid expansion be added to the list of items for one of the two looming special sessions.

“With over 5 million Texans already uninsured before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and an additional 1.7 million Texans having lost health insurance since March 2020, we cannot delay ay longer in expanding Medicaid,” the appeal reads.

The lone Republican joining the Democrats was Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) — rated the most liberal Republican House member by Rice University’s Mark P. Jones.

Larson was the first Republican to come out in favor of expansion this year in a February editorial. Legislation by Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Carrollton) to expand Medicaid in Texas had 76 coauthors, a majority in the House, after nine Republicans, including Larson, signed on.

While that bill went nowhere, a backdoor effort to expand Medicaid failed on the House floor during the budget debate with only one of those nine coauthors voting for the proposed amendment: Larson.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.