Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday added new abortion regulations to the Legislature's special session workload, measures long pushed by conservatives that could signal two weeks of fierce ideological debate after an unusually harmonious regular session.
Perry spokesman Josh Havens said the governor's office had filed paperwork adding legislation further regulating abortion, abortion providers and facilities to the special session agenda, as well as a proposed mandatory life sentence in prison with the possibility of parole for a capital felony committed by 17-year-olds.
Eating lunch at a San Antonio restaurant, House Speaker Joe Straus told The Associated Press he had just heard about Perry's move and declined comment.
The Legislature completed its 140-day regular session on May 27, but Perry called it members back to work almost immediately to approve new voting maps based on 2010 census data. That process has moved extremely slowly, however, and on Monday, Perry further tasked the Legislature with providing new funding for major transportation projects statewide.
The governor previously called on lawmakers to take $3.7 billion from the state's cash reserves, or Rainy Day Fund, for infrastructure. The Legislature passed measures asking voters to approve spending $2 billion from the fund for water projects but didn't pass a bill for highways.
The special session is only 30 days long, and only about half of that time remains. Legislators may have to scramble if they want approve the voting maps, tackle transportation funding and broach potentially politically contentious items like abortion and life sentences with parole for 17 year-olds convicted of murder.
Currently, Texas law has only two options for juries dolling out punishment in capital murder cases, the death penalty or life in prison without parole. The U.S. Supreme Court has said both are unconstitutional for offenders under 18.
Republicans control both chambers, but their Democratic colleagues are likely to oppose Perry's latest additions and could resort to stall tactics to keep bills from moving.
Until now, the session had been characterized by cooperation and bipartisanship, as both parties worked together to approve a state budget and largely avoided cultural hot-button issues.
But Perry made it clear Tuesday he hasn't forgotten the kind of ideological topics that are close to the hearts of his conservative base, saying in statement: "The horrors of the national late-term abortion industry are continuing to come to light, one atrocity at a time. Sadly, some of those same atrocities happen in our own state."
"In Texas, we value all life, and we've worked to cultivate a culture that supports the birth of every child," Perry said. "We have an obligation to protect unborn children, and to hold those who peddle these abortions to standards that would minimize the death, disease and pain they cause."
During a special session, lawmakers can only consider topics Perry directs them to work on. Still, in hopes the governor might add abortion to the call, Republican Sen. Bob Deuell, a physician from Greenville, filed a bill requiring abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.
If approved, the measure would mean that 90 percent of abortion clinics statewide would either have to spend millions to upgrade their facilities or shut down.