Governor Greg Abbott calls for second special session and will address changing quorum requirements
Friday was the last day of the first special legislative session, but the governor is yet to let lawmakers pack their bags.
Governor Greg Abbott called a second special session on Thursday as many of the state’s Democratic lawmakers continued to stay in Washington, DC Last week, news broke that two of those lawmakers were reportedly vacationing in Portugal, sparking many reviews.
Abbott’s convened second session, which began at noon on Saturday, comes amid mounting tensions between the state’s GOP and Democrats. Republican lawmakers are demanding that their fellow Liberals return to work, while Democrats insist their trip to Washington is necessary to protect voting rights.
As of yet, it’s unclear when Texas Democrats will return, but in the meantime Abbott may be looking to change some key legislative rules.
In a statement Thursday, Abbott said the Texas legislature has an obligation to “complete the work that has been started.”
“I will continue to convene extraordinary session after extraordinary session to reform our broken bail system, maintain the integrity of the elections and adopt other important points that Texans demand and deserve,” he said. a stronger and brighter future for the Lone Star State. ”
Over the next few days, lawmakers will consider 17 agenda items that echo those set for the first convened session, such as the GOP-backed elections and âbail reformâ bills. Another would ban transgender children from participating in student sports teams that match their gender identity.
There is also a notable new element. Entitled “State Legislature”, Abbott defines it as “the legislation relating to legislative quorum requirements.”
From now on, each chamber requires the presence of two thirds of its members to deliberate. For the 150-member lower house, including 67 Democrats, that means 100 lawmakers must come forward.
In a letter to Abbott last month, however, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called for a change in quorum requirements in response to the Democrats’ trip to Washington.
“Texans expect their legislature to work and not be held hostage by a few lawmakers who exploit the quorum requirement,” he wrote in the letter. âThe majority of other state legislatures require a simple majority plus one. For this reason, I respectfully request that you add to the appeal a modification of the majority quorum requirement through a constitutional amendment. “
#ICYMI: I asked the governor. @GregAbbott_TX to add the change to the quorum requirement to the call. Should be the simple majority, as is the case in most states to stop the outrageous behavior of Democrats. I am convinced that voters will support the # Simple majority.#txlege #Special Session pic.twitter.com/qLBatkefn2
– Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) July 15, 2021
This isn’t the first time Patrick has called for a rule change in favor of the majority, according to Texan. Earlier this year, the Senate lowered the qualified majority requirement to 18, making it easier for Republicans to pass legislation.
If the GOP leadership is serious about redefining the quorum rules, that would mean updating the Texas Constitution, said David Rausch, professor of political science at West Texas A&M University. And ultimately, regular Texans are expected to approve it at the ballot box.
âThis, I’m sure, will be hotly debated – and I’m very sarcastic here – hotly debated among the public. âWhat are we still voting on? Why are we doing this? ‘ Rausch said with a laugh.
“Yes [Abbott] Genuinely cared about stopping the spread of COVID, he wouldn’t have signed an executive order making it impossible to do just that. – Raven Hollins, advisor for Texas Right to Vote
It might be difficult to change the quorum requirements. In order to get a statewide vote in the first place, two-thirds of the state’s House and Senate lawmakers would have to support the amendment. This could be difficult to achieve, as a number of Democrats in each chamber are expected to support the move.
In addition to the quorum limitation, Abbott’s agenda includes an “essential” element regarding the dates of the 2022 primary elections, such as filing periods, Rausch said.
âBecause if not, you would apply for a district, and you don’t know which district, because they haven’t done the redistribution yet,â he said.
Meanwhile, Texas Democrats have criticized Abbott’s choice of legislative priorities.
âWhen Greg Abbott called for a special session of the Texas Legislature, he called for bills to withdraw our votes, harm trans children and rewrite Texas history – not end the pandemic. Since then, 610 Texans have died from COVID, âLiberal Boot Texas Republicans PAC said in a tweet on Thursday.
When Greg Abbott called for a special session of the Texas legislature, he called for bills to withdraw our votes, harm trans children, and rewrite Texas history – not end the pandemic.
Since then, 610 Texans have died from COVID.
– Boot Texas Republicans (@BootTexasGOP) August 5, 2021
The Texas Democrat-led Right to Vote group also released a statement, accusing Abbott of failing to fix the power grid or significantly tackling the pandemic. Councilor Raven Hollins noted that the announcement of the special session follows a sweeping executive order that prevents public institutions from enforcing vaccine or mask mandates.
“Yes [Abbott] Genuinely cared about stopping the spread of COVID, he wouldn’t have signed an executive order making it impossible to do just that, âHollins said.
Ahead of Abbott’s announcement, the Texas House Democratic Caucus said that Friday morning in Washington they would hold a press conference to celebrate their “victory in killing anti-election measures by Republicans in Texas.”
Eventually, however, Democrats will have to come home. Lack of funding is one thing, but Rausch said their public relations were also weakening, in part thanks to the Portuguese scandal. âIt’s not a good thing,â he said. “Optically, that’s a bad thing.”