special session

Gov. Abbott Calls Second Special Session, Adds Quorum Rules to Agenda

Abbott adds six new items to the second special session set to begin Saturday

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What to Know

  • The first special session ends on Aug. 6; the second special session is to begin on Aug. 7.
  • Gov. Abbott adds changing quorum rules to the agenda after a lack of quorum sank his first session.
  • If the Democrats don't return to Austin, Abbott said he'll continue calling special sessions until they return home.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced Thursday he's calling a second special session of the legislature after his first one failed for a lack of quorum. The second session will begin at noon on Saturday, Aug. 7, and will include new agenda items, including changing the rules on what constitutes a quorum.

Following the end of the 87th Legislative Session, the governor called a special session to advance items on his agenda that were not passed during the regular session. But that session collapsed when Texas House Democrats walked out of the Capitol and flew to Washington, D.C., depriving the body of a quorum and stopping the session in its tracks.

The Democrats said they were leaving because the Republicans were pushing an election integrity bill that they said was veiled voter suppression. Republicans say that's not true and the legislation is necessary in order to have secure elections in Texas.

Abbott, on Thursday, included all of the same 11 agenda items that were a part of his first special session, but he is now also is asking lawmakers to take up changing the rules of what constitutes a quorum along with five other new items.

Last month, when it was clear Texas Democrats would not return to finish the session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked Abbott to add changing the quorum rules to a simple majority plus one model to a future special session.

The House rules currently say "two-thirds of the House shall constitute a quorum to do business." The Texas House is comprised of 150 members, each elected to a two-year term. Under the current rules, to have two-thirds present would be 100 members in the House chamber. A "majority plus one rule" would lower the number of members needed to have a quorum to 76 members. The current makeup of the House membership is 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats making it much easier for the controlling party to maintain a quorum.

The other items added to Abbott's agenda include federal COVID-19 relief appropriations; rules around masking in schools during the COVID-19 pandemic and COVID-19 vaccines; changes to the 2022 Texas primary election dates; the rules around radioactive waste in the state; rules around the terms of employment; and enhancing criminal laws as part of Abbott's border security plan.

The entire list of agenda items is below.

  • BAIL REFORM: Legislation reforming the bail system in Texas to protect the public from accused criminals who may be released on bail.
  • ELECTION INTEGRITY: Legislation strengthening the integrity of elections in Texas.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA CENSORSHIP: Legislation safeguarding the freedom of speech by protecting social-media and email users from being censored based on the user's expressed viewpoints, including by providing a legal remedy for those wrongfully excluded from a platform.
  • ARTICLE X FUNDING: Legislation providing appropriations from unappropriated available revenues to the Legislature and legislative agencies in Article X of the General Appropriations Act.
  • FAMILY VIOLENCE PREVENTION: Legislation similar to Senate Bill 1109 from the 87th Legislature, Regular Session, requiring schools to provide appropriate education to middle- and high-school students about dating violence, domestic violence, and child abuse, but that recognizes the right of parents to opt their children out of the instruction.
  • YOUTH SPORTS: Legislation identical to Senate Bill 29 as passed by the Texas Senate in the 87th Legislature, Regular Session, disallowing a student from competing in University Interscholastic League athletic competitions designated for the sex opposite to the student's sex at birth.
  • ABORTION-INDUCING DRUGS: Legislation similar to Senate Bill 394 from the 87th Legislature, Regular Session, which prohibits people from providing abortion-inducing drugs by mail or delivery service, strengthens the laws applicable to the reporting of abortions and abortion complications, and ensures that no abortion-inducing drugs arc provided unless there is voluntary and informed consent.
  • THIRTEENTH CHECK: Legislation similar to House Bill 3507 from the 87th Legislature, Regular Session, relating to a "thirteenth check" or one-time supplemental payment of benefits under the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.
  • CRITICAL RACE THEORY: Legislation similar to House Bill 3979 concerning critical race theory as originally passed by the Texas Senate in the 87th Legislature, Regular Session.
  • APPROPRIATIONS: Legislation providing appropriations from unappropriated available revenues for the following purposes: property-tax relief; enhanced protection for the safety of children in Texas' foster-care system by attracting and retaining private providers for the system, and to better safeguard the state from potential cybersecurity threats.

What's New and Changed on the Governor's Agenda

  • CHANGED -- BORDER SECURITY: Legislation enhancing criminal laws or providing funding from unappropriated available revenues to support law-enforcement agencies, counties, and other strategies as part of Texas' comprehensive border security plan.
  • NEW -- FEDERAL RELIEF APPROPRIATIONS: Legislation providing appropriations from unappropriated available revenues for COVID-19-related healthcare expenses, such as those listed below, taking into consideration the approximately $10.5 billion in funds received by local governments intended to be used on COVID-19 from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021(ARPA), Pub. L. No. 117-2: healthcare staffing needs, including physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals; establishing, staffing, and operating alternative care sites; supporting the operations of nursing homes, state-supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities; vaccine administration; testing sites; supplies and equipment, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators; and standing up and operating infusion centers.
  • NEW -- EDUCATION: Legislation providing strategies for public-school education in prekindergarten through twelfth grade during the COVID-19 pandemic, which ensures: students receive a high-quality education and progress in their learning; in-person learning is available for any student whose parent wants it; the wearing of face coverings is not mandatory; and COVID-19 vaccinations are always voluntary.
  • NEW -- PRIMARY ELECTIONS: Legislation modifying the filing periods and related election dates, including any runoffs, for primary elections held in Texas in 2022.
  • NEW -- RADIOACTIVE WASTE: Legislation reforming the laws governing radioactive waste to protect the safety of Texans, including by further limiting the ability to store and transport high-level radioactive materials in this state.
  • NEW -- EMPLOYMENT: Legislation shielding private employers and employees from political subdivision rules, regulations, ordinances, and other actions that require any terms of employment that exceed or conflict with federal or state law relating to any form of employment leave, hiring practices, employment benefits, or scheduling practices.
  • NEW -- STATE LEGISLATURE: Legislation relating to legislative quorum requirements.

If the Texas House Democrats do not return from the nation's capital to make a quorum, none of the governor's legislative items from the second session can be passed. The Texas Senate, which maintained a quorum, passed all of the legislation on the governor's agenda for the first special session. Without the House quorum, that legislation languished and died.

Texas Democrats said previously they planned to remain in Washington through Aug. 6, the end of the first special session. It's not clear yet if they plan to return for the second session.

Abbott, as governor, sets the agenda for a special session and can add any item he wants. The special sessions run 30 days and the governor can call as many special sessions as he likes until his agenda is passed. Abbott has said previously, of the Democrats' walkout, that he will call as many special sessions as are needed to see his agenda through.

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