Texas Legislature

Legislative Session Nears End With Many of Gov. Abbott's Top Priorities Unresolved

The 88th regular session of the Texas Legislature ends Monday, May 29

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As the final hours and minutes of the 88th Texas Legislature tick away, many of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's top priorities remain unresolved.

The session has been one for the books, not just legislatively but for the political circus enveloping more than one elected official. The session saw the resignation of state Rep. Bryan Slayton (R-Royse City) earlier this month, hours before an expulsion vote was to take place over alleged sexual misconduct, and the overwhelming vote on Saturday by the Texas House to impeach the state's Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton.

In the wake of multiple mass shootings in Uvalde, El Paso, Houston and Allen over the last 12 months, Texas has garnered a lot of national attention around whether state lawmakers would address school safety and gun laws. A late push by families in Uvalde to raise the age to legally purchase semi-automatic rifles stalled in a House committee.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have also drawn a lot of attention to legislation around restricting drag shows (SB12), banning care for transgender children (SB14) and restrictions on transgender athletes (SB15), and restricting DEI initiatives at state colleges (SB17), which all have been sent to the governor's desk. Legislation on school choice (SB8) and property taxes (SB3), meanwhile, has failed to pass.

On Sunday, the Texas House and Senate moved HB3, a bill dealing with school security, to Abbott's desk for a signature. The bill enhances the enforcement of security procedures and gives the state more oversight. The bill also requires districts to have an armed police officer on every public school campus in the state during regular school hours, but only if the district can afford it.

"While the bill includes several laudable measures for facility upgrades and mental health initiatives, it does so at a financial cost which could cripple our public schools. We should not be settling upon setting up our schools for failure," said state Rep. Vikki Goodwin (D-Austin, District 47).

Districts that are unable to fund an officer at each campus under HB 3 can file for an exception however they must create an alternative plan that could include a school marshal or a district employee or contractor who has completed school safety training and carries a handgun.

"I think we should have armed staff and there should be armed somebody on a campus, but I'm more concerned about spotting the child in trouble, then having to do something about a child that's in trouble," said state Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian, District 88).

Abbott's so-called "school choice" bill (SB8) is stalled over delays and disagreements and was left pending in committee on May 15. Other education-related priorities like teacher pay raises are effectively dead.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate are both at odds about how to lower property taxes and strengthen the power grid, two issues of paramount importance to voters.

Another bill, one that allows for a murder charge to be applied for fentanyl poisoning (HB6) is currently on the governor's desk.

When the session ends, any of the governor's priorities that have not been met will need to be made the focus of a special session. Only the governor can call for a special session and only the items outlined by the governor can be legislated in that session. The governor is at liberty to call as many special sessions as he likes to see his list of priorities through.

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