Texas Governor Greg Abbott revealed the agenda for the month-long special session that kicks off Thursday, and it contains 11 items which appeal largely to conservatives. What’s notable about the session is what isn’t on the agenda — namely, anything about the state’s much-maligned electrical grid.
As expected, “Election Intregity” is on the list. It concerns the voting bill known as Senate Bill 7, an expansive elections bill that would be a massive overhaul of the Texas voting process, with many changes seen as making voting much more difficult.
Abbott boasted about the priorities of the special session on Twitter, which reads like a wish list of Republican Party campaign issues.
State Democrats immediately pointed out how the agenda for the special legislative session makes no mention of the state’s power grid, which failed spectacularly earlier this year, or about the recovery from COVID-19.
Funding for the legislative branch is also on the agenda. Abbott vetoed the funding last month in response to the Democrats pulling a dramatic 11th-hour move to paralyze the GOP’s elections bill that many called a blatant attempt at voter restriction.
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He did so after House Democrats staged a walkout in the final hours of the regular session that killed the priority elections bill. The inclusion of the legislative funding raises the possibility that lawmakers could restore paychecks for their staff — and other staff at the Capitol — before the next fiscal year begins on Sept. 1. More than 2,000 staffers are affected by the veto of the Legislative funding, which Democrats have called an executive overreach of power. Late last month, House Democrats and legislative staffers asked the state Supreme Court to override it. The court had not ruled in the case yet.
The special session is fraught with risks for both parties.
Democrats have to decide how to try and derail the voting bill, while considering their staff’s salaries could continue to be withheld. As for Republicans and especially Governor Abbott, they are trying to avoid another embarrassing political setback. They are already walking back two controversial elements of the voting bill, including one that would give judges more leeway to overturn elections and another that would cut back Sunday voting hours.
The elections bill, critical race theory legislation and bail reform were all expected to be part of the special session. One surprise addition was Abbott asking the legislature to take up a bill that would bar transgender athletes from competing on school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity. Abbott supported the bill during the regular session but it was not expected to be included in the special session.