Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Threatens Special Session If ‘bathroom Bill' and Property Tax Relief Fail

AUSTIN -- Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued an ultimatum to House Speaker Joe Straus on Wednesday: Pass a so-called "bathroom bill" and property tax relief bill, or plan to spend your summer at the Capitol in a special session."Whether we have a special session is now in the hands of House Speaker Joe Straus," Patrick said during a news conference Wednesday. He left without addressing reporters' questions.Patrick held a news conference after a letter Straus wrote to the lieutenant governor Monday seeking to forge a deal to end the current legislative session on May 29 without a special session was leaked to the press. Patrick said legislators are on the "precipice" of a special session because Straus and the House have moved too slowly on important bills. And he said he will ask Gov. Greg Abbott to call multiple special sessions if that's what it takes to pass the so-called "bathroom bill" and property tax relief. Abbott has said those issues are also priorities for him, but he believes lawmakers can address them in the current legislative session.The tough talk at the news conference brings to a head what has been an increasingly volatile relationship between Straus and Patrick since the regular legislative session began in January. The two leaders are both Republicans, but Patrick is outspokenly far-right, while Straus has been more moderate. Patrick said his demand, though, is not personal. Instead, it's about fulfilling promises he made to the voters who elected him. He said Republican voters want legislation that keeps transgender Texans out of public restrooms that don't align with their birth gender, the "bathroom bill." And he said Texans need tax relief because their homes are becoming unaffordable."People don't care how many special sessions it takes us to get home," Patrick said. "They care about being able to afford to live in their home."On Monday, Straus wrote to Patrick, urging that the Senate and House collaborate to quickly pass the two-year state budget and a sunset "safety net" bill that will allow state agencies such as the Department of Transportation and boards that license doctors and mental health therapists to continue to operate."The House wants to finish all of our work in the regular session, and we believe that this goal is well within reach," wrote Straus, a San Antonio Republican.If lawmakers don't pass a budget and the sunset bill, Abbott would have little choice but to call lawmakers back.But Patrick said those are not the only two items that must pass in the final 13 days of the legislative session. Patrick said he was planning to send a letter to Straus signed by a hundred pastors from churches across Texas demanding that the bathroom bill pass the Texas House.Patrick said he would be satisfied if the House passed either Senate Bill 6, the upper chamber's version of the bill that would ban transgender people from public bathrooms, or if a similar measure was tacked onto another bill.While the Senate approved the bathroom bill in February, the measure has languished in the House. Straus has said it was not a priority for him. Business groups have worried it will cost the economy billions. And Democrats argue it discriminates against the LGBT community.The House is set to debate the property tax relief measure this week. But it's version is much watered down compared to the Senate's. Instead of requiring rollback elections if tax rates hit a certain level, the House bill simply provides more transparency for taxpayers."The final bill must provide genuine property tax relief," Patrick said.On the budget, Patrick said lawmakers are not close to agreement on how to fund the state's $212 billion worth of priorities. The House wants to use $2.5 billion from the state's Rainy Day Fund, a savings account of sorts. Patrick and the Senate have chosen to use accounting maneuvers to fill gaps in the budget. And Patrick said he would not stand for dipping into the savings account to pay for recurring state expenses."That is a no-go," Patrick said. He added, though, that he believes lawmakers "can get there" and agree on a final budget. That's the only legislation lawmakers are constitutionally required to pass.And there are other issues, Patrick said, that lawmakers must deal with, including another of his priorities, private school vouchers. The House has vehemently rejected any proposals to spend public school dollars to allow families to send their children to private schools. But Patrick said he was brokering a deal that would give the House what it wants on education funding, about $500 million for public schools, while also putting funding into education savings account that would allow families with students who have special needs to use public funds for private schools.But Patrick made clear he will not settle for a conclusion to the 140-day legislative session if a bathroom bill and tax relief do not pass. Abbott, the only state leader who can actually convene a special legislative session, said on Tuesday that those two issues were also priorities for him. In the past, though, Abbott has been reticent to convene special legislative sessions, which cost taxpayers millions of dollars because lawmakers must be paid for additional time in Austin."The Governor made clear yesterday that property tax reform and maintaining privacy in restrooms and locker rooms are legislative priorities that must be passed, and he believes both items can be achieved before the end of the regular session," said Abbott spokesman, John Wittman.A Straus spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.   Continue reading...

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