With Sunset Bills Passed in Midnight Meeting, Senate Clear to Push Forward With Rest of Special Session Agenda

AUSTIN -- The Texas Senate met at midnight Thursday at the call of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to approve Gov. Greg Abbott's "must pass" sunset bills - a prerequisite to opening up the rest of the staunchly conservative items on the special session agenda that Patrick has strongly pushed.Shortly after the Senate gave the sunset bills final approval, Abbott expanded his call to allow lawmakers to tackle other issues on his special session agenda. The move to meet at midnight is part of an effort to put pressure on the Texas House, which had blocked many of Patrick's favored bills - like the 'bathroom bill' and a school vouchers push - during the regular session. During the special session, Patrick is running a hurry-up offense to get all 20 items on Abbott's special session agenda approved in the Senate by the middle of next week. If the bills are then not taken up or approved by the House, Patrick could point the finger saying he gave the lower chamber of the Legislature enough time to act.Patrick attempted to give the required agency sunset bills final approval in the Senate on Wednesday but ran into a roadblock when the usually compliant Senate Democrats refused to give him the necessary votes to suspend a state constitutional requirement that bills be read on three separate legislative days.Democratic Senators said they refused to go along because Patrick had trampled on the public's right to participate in the legislative process by ramming through legislation. In doing so, he broke longstanding traditions that allowed senators to stall a bill's committee hearing by 48 hours.But Patrick downplayed any dissent, saying he was working fast to pass all 20 items on Abbott's call, which he deemed "the people's priorities."In anticipation of the midnight meeting and of Abbott's expansion of his call on the special session, senators had already scheduled committee meetings on Friday to consider bills on bathrooms, abortion and school voucher-type help for parents of kids with special needs.   Continue reading...

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