Special Session: A Showcase for GOP Divide Bathroom Bill

Texas lawmakers return to Austin Tuesday for a 20 item Special Session.  There are two things that became apparent Monday about the massive call issued by Governor Greg Abbott.

First, there was a promise to repackage any item that doesn't pass in the next 30 days for the next regular session. Secondly, the "to do list" has once again exposed the widening divide in the Republican Party between Social and Business Conservatives.

The Texas House Chamber was called to order Monday morning. Not for the special session but for delegates with the Silver Haired Legislature. An opening prayer was followed with some fatherly advice for the state lawmakers who will occupy the chamber come Tuesday.

"Do the best you can with what you got, and try to resolve all your differences, and do what’s good for the people of Texas,” said the group’s leader Walter Graham.

The Regular Session ended in May with a fight on the house floor and critical sunset legislation, to keep several agencies open, left undone.

Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott, while speaking at a conservative policy organization, restated the sunset bill has to be done first before lawmakers can take up 19 other items on his call.

"I got to thinking about it, if we are going to have special session, let’s have a special session that makes it count."

His top issues include drafting a new education finance plan, allowing school choice, and reigning in local control especially in regards to tax hikes without public votes as well as ordinances that regulate the removal of trees from private property.

"So if we don’t stop this, real quick, we are in real danger of losing our standard as being the state for freedom for free enterprise,” warned Governor Abbott.

Abbott didn't talk about one of the most controversial parts of his call - another shot at regulating access to restrooms by a person's gender at birth. Business powerhouse IBM is among the companies to publically oppose the bathroom Bill.

"Reject these discriminatory acts, such measures are wrong, they're bad for business, they have no place in the 21st Century and they have no place in Texas,” said Phil Gilbert the Global Head of Design with IBM.

Gilbert was part of a coalition of business and tourism executives that gathered at the State capitol Monday. The group believes the state can’t afford to reboot the bathroom bill.

"As of today we have been able to track $66 million in conventions and events that have already been canceled in Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Arlington, simply because we are talking about discriminatory legislation,” said Phillip Jones with VisitDallas.

It's estimated that the special session will cost about $35,000 a day. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has indicated he has no regrets about being back to work.

"If you look at these issues, of the 20 issues on the call, 10 of them passed the Senate, already, the Speaker killed them,” said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

In speaking to the same group the Abbott met with, Patrick called out House Speaker Joe Straus for blocking Senate versions of the Bathroom Bill & school finance.

"I believe there is a movement within our own party, led by the Speaker, who wants to put us on a path to a state income tax and Billions and Billions more dollars of spending."

Lt. Governor Patrick said his attack on Speaker Straus is nothing personal. He also endorsed the Governor's promise to publish a daily tracking lists of where each state lawmaker stands on each issue in the call.

I response to the comments by the Lt. Governor, a spokesman for House Speaker Straus, Jason Embry,  issued the following statement to FOX 7.

“Speaker Straus doesn't support a state income tax because it would be bad for Texas and harm our economy, just like the bathroom bill,” wrote Embry.

In regards to another item in the call, Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an Opinion that determined some city tree ordinances could be considered a government taking of private property. The opinion was requested by state Senator Donna Campbell ( R ) New Braunfels.