Voting Rights, Other GOP-Aligned Measures Back in the Crosshairs for Special Session

More red meat as Abbott puts the Lege into overtime

Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Mike Collier, state Rep. John Bucy, TDP Co-Executive Director Jamarr Brown, and state Rep. Celia Israel gathered outside the Texas State Capitol on June 30 to call on Gov. Abbott to prioritize the power grid in this month's special legislative (Photo by John Anderson)

With just over 24 hours to spare, Gov. Greg Abbott finally issued the proclamation calling the 87th Texas Legislature back to Austin Thursday, July 8, for its first of at least two special sessions. In that edict, the governor – who now has three declared opponents in the 2022 GOP primary, and who still has aspirations of a 2024 or 2028 presidential run – laid out his call of 11 items the Lege can consider over the next 30 days. (He can add more later; they cannot.)

A couple of these we knew already, since he'd made them priorities in his State of the State address in February. One is "election integrity," the voter suppression effort that prompted House Dems to break quorum and walk out in the waning hours of the regular session in May. Another is "bail reform," which to Abbott means bills "to protect the public from accused criminals," not the ongoing movement to actually reform Texas' decadent cash-bail system. There's also the Article X gambit to restore funding to the legislative branch in the next biennium, which Abbott vetoed in retaliation to the Dems' walkout; the Dems have asked the Texas Supreme Court to rule that move illegal and invalid.

But Abbott didn't stop there! There's a broad ask for funding "as part of Texas' comprehensive border security plan," which has consumed the governor's attention for weeks. He also wants to catch up to other rising-star governors with a bunch of Fox News hot hits: thwarting "social media censorship," trying once again to ban transgender students from playing sports, banning abortion medications and tracking abortion patients, and of course, critical race theory. (The Lege did ban CRT in schools, but Abbott wants to strip out amendments they added – such things as stipulating that white supremacy is bad.)

Other cleanup work includes reviving legislation to educate students about dating violence, which Abbott vetoed because it didn't let parents opt out; getting a supplemental benefits payment to retired teachers (a "13th check"); and a thumbs-up to bills to spend money on property tax relief, foster care, and cybersecurity. (Comptroller Glenn Hegar released a revenue estimate on Wednesday that gives Abbott and the Lege about $8 billion in play money.)

Not on the call: the state's power grid. Abbott pronounced last month that all the problems that led to February's catastrophe have been fixed and the grid is in better shape than it's ever been. But on Tuesday he fired off a letter to his all-new Public Utility Commission demanding they act immediately to shore up the grid in ways that he prefers. That means more tax breaks and giveaways for fossil fuel and nuclear plants and additional costs imposed on renewables, neither of which fixes the problems that helped kill 700 Texans. As has become his habit, Abbott would prefer to manage this issue by decree, but others differ. On July 1, while Abbott was at the border (see above), Democrats led by lieutenant governor candidate Mike Collier gathered in front of the Capitol with one message: "Fix the Damn Grid." Collier's opponent, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, has also made fixing the damn grid a priority and asked Abbott to add it to the special session call. No dice.

After the "87(1)" convenes Thursday, it will adjourn in short order so the regime leaders and GOP faithful can hurry up to Dallas for this year's Conservative Political Action Conference – "CPAC 2021: America Uncanceled" – featuring all of the above nonsense and more, including private citizen Donald Trump.

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87th Texas Legislature, 87th Texas Legislature special session, Greg Abbott, Texas House Democrats, bail reform, Glenn Hegar, Mike Collier, Public Utility Commission, Dan Patrick, Texas Supreme Court

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