Gov. Greg Abbott Gives Special Session Mixed Review, Blames Speaker Straus for Blocking Agenda Items

AUSTIN -- Gov. Greg Abbott said he was both pleased and disappointed with the special legislative session that came to a dramatic early end Tuesday. And he blamed House Speaker Joe Straus for blocking about half the items on his 20-point agenda."I'm satisfied that 10 items I put on the special session agenda did get passed," Abbott told Lubbock KFYO radio host Chad Hasty on Wednesday morning. "But I'm also disappointed that some very important ones did not get passed."Lawmakers ended the special session Tuesday, a day early, without passing his top priority, a bill that would limit how much local property taxes can increase. The House adjourned "sine die" early Tuesday evening, officially ending the special session in that chamber, a day before the 30-day limit, leaving the Senate with only the option to agree with the House version of the property tax bill, or let the measure die. The Senate rejected the House bill as too weak, saying it would not provide taxpayers enough relief.Several of Abbott's other priorities, including a bill that would have restricted which public bathrooms transgender Texans could use, also failed.Asked whether he intended to force lawmakers back to the Capitol for another special session to address the unfinished business, Abbott said "all options are always going to be on the table." But he indicated he wouldn't call another session unless House and Senate leaders, who have been at loggerheads since before the regular legislative session began in January, show some sign of compromise."A special session is only going to be appropriate if we can get something done," Abbott said. "Otherwise, it's just a waste of taxpayers dollars."Abbott also indicated he didn't expect to call a special session to address a court ruling on Tuesday that found Texas congressional maps unconstitutionally discriminated against minorities. The court ruling, he said, was wrong, and Texas will appeal it. "I feel confident the Supreme Court will overturn it," Abbott said.Asked about who was to blame for the failure of items such as the so-called bathroom bill and the property tax measure during the special session, Abbott said that Straus, the moderate Republican House leader, was the major impediment."The Speaker made it very clear to me personally that he opposed the privacy bill and said he would never allow it to be voted on," Abbott said. "There is absolutely no evidence he will ever change his mind on this issue."He also expressed frustration that other items, such as eliminating local construction regulations and capping state and local government spending, did not make it through the House."If we are going to ensure that Texas remains the model for governance in the United States of America, we must always be passing laws that constrain spending, that reduce regulations," Abbott said. Asked whether Straus should be replaced as leader of the House, Abbott said, "We've got to either make sure we have a current Speaker who support those principles, or we've got to make sure we have the votes in the House to get those principles passed."The talk of replacing the Speaker came as Texas House Republicans held a caucus meeting Wednesday to discuss the process of choosing their leader for the 2019 legislative session. Members of the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus, who have chaffed under Straus' moderate leadership, called for the meeting, saying that the Republican majority in the House ought to choose the next leader. Straus came to power in 2009 with the support of a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats.   Continue reading...

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