AUSTIN, Texas - Moments after the special session was gaveled in, the tone was set.
It came in the form of a parliamentary inquiry from House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie) that involved the budget, and as he clarified later, the question was about some political payback.
"It goes back to Greg Abbott's unconstitutional veto of Article X which is the funding for the entire legislative department as it is described in the Constitution, and so my question is simply, if we have to take up matters of appropriations, and there are several appropriations matters on the governor's proclamation, on the call, can that include the Legislature revisiting the appropriation for Article I which is what funds the governor's office," said Turner.
The tension Thursday is a continuation of how the regular session ended when Texas House Democrats walked out and broke quorum in order to kill Senate Bill 7, a controversial election-reform bill. The legislation is now re-filed as House Bill 3.
"There are problems and processes that need to be tightened up, Harris County colored outside of the lines and tried to implement things that are not in code or statute, and we need to make sure that doesn't happen," said state Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-North Richland Hills).
Election reform is one of several items on the governor's call, which also includes:
- Bail reform
- Border security
- Social media censorship
- Ban on abortion drugs
- Teaching family violence prevention
- Restricting Critical Race Theory
- Designating what sports a transgender student can participate in
- Teacher retirement benefits
- Funding the legislature
- Property tax relief
- Cyber security
- Foster care
"I think it is fascinating that no one wants to come to the table and talk about election security I want to talk about it, and I think Democrats want to talk about it too. They love security," said state Rep. James White (R-Hillister).
Democrats said they'd rather focus on other topics. What extra things the Governor could bring up was brought up in the Senate. "So he can add rate payer relief for Winter Storm Uri, he could add medicaid expansion, if he so chose," asked state Sen. Roland Gutierrez.
The question was directed to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who said "I don't deal with hypotheticals, but the Governor can add anything he wishes."
The Democrat wish list is not expected to come up during the special session. While the controversial GOP backed bills are expected to be fast tracked, there was an offer to find some political common ground.
"I think there's compromise on everything we work on here, at the State Capitol. What if there is a walkout again? Well thats a decision they can make and we will deal with it just like last time," said state Rep. John Cyrier (R-Lockhart).
Possible opportunities for compromise could be things like online voter registration and allowing ballots to be mailed in, similar to what's done in Colorado. But the possibility of another Democrat walkout was not ruled out.
"And every option is on the table, we are going to use every parliamentary means available to us to stop these bills," said state Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston).
The first committee meetings are expected to take place Friday afternoon and Saturday. Lawmakers can only meet in special session for a total of 30 days. Another special session is expected to be held in the fall to redraw voting districts based on the latest census count.
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