What to Know
- Gov. Greg Abbott has not yet called for a special legislative session
- The governor say only he can set the agenda and call for a special session, no one else
- Abbott says there could be multiple special sessions, each focusing only one agenda item
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott fired back at Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday, saying only he has the authority to call for a special session and to set the agenda for that session.
Patrick said Wednesday on Twitter that he was calling on the governor to call for a special legislative session to pass three conservative bills that died in the House Tuesday night when they failed to pass before a critical deadline.
Abbott, in Fort Worth Thursday to talk about border security and drug trafficking, addressed Patrick's comments when asked about a special session by NBC 5's Julie Fine.
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"That's pretty goofy because everybody knows there's only one person with the authority to call a special session and that's the governor," Abbott said. "Only I have that ability and only I will execute that authority. And here's the way that it works. Not only am I the only one with the authority to call a special session, I get to decide when and I get to decide what will be on that special session."
Should Abbott call for a special session, he said it would only put one item on the agenda at a time and would continue the special sessions for two years if need be. so that the bills he wants to see passed get passed.
"First, the only things I'll be putting on there are things I want to see passed. Second, we're going to go one item at a time. There will be one item placed upon the agenda. Not until they passed that item will we move on to another item," Abbott said. "So if anybody tries to hold hostage this legislative session to force a special session, that person will be putting their members in the Senate or the House potentially into a special session for another two years until the next regular session."
Patrick tweeted Wednesday morning that he was asking the governor to convene the June special session to pass SB29, SB10, and SB12, all bills Patrick said were killed by the Texas House and were "conservative bills that majority of Texans in both parties support."
SB29 mandates transgender athletes play on teams based on their sex assigned a birth instead of the sex that matches their gender identity. SB10 would make all the local government entities, including school and hospital districts, publish a notice when they plan to hire a lobbyist. SB12 was to help protect Texans from being wrongfully censored on social media for voicing their political or religious viewpoints.
Abbott said Thursday he strongly supported all three of the bills mentioned as priorities by Patrick, but he didn't say whether they'd definitively be the focus of a special session.
"None of them got passed, and so those could be other items that are put on the agenda. There are a multitude of items that could be placed on the agenda, but whether or not anything gets on the agenda is dependent upon the time that will be allowed to make sure that we'll be able to accomplish other items," Abbott said.
The governor has full authority to call as many special sessions as he likes and set the agendas for those sessions. The sessions can be as long as 30 days and legislators are not allowed to take up any other business than what's on the governor's agenda. When the session expires, the governor can call another if he wishes.
Patrick's tweet and the governors response come after a tense week in the state legislature. The House adjourned late last week, in part because lawmakers felt the Senate wasn't passing their bills quickly enough.
It is not unusual for there to be tension in the final days of the legislative session. The governor likened them to the final minutes of a game.
"It is where all the action takes place, and what I do know is if the leaders in the legislature will stop fighting with each other, and start working together, we can get all of this across the finish line," Abbott said.
They have five days to do so with the regular session ending on Monday. As of Thursday afternoon, Abbott has not yet said one way or the other if a special session would be called and what would be his top legislative priority.
NBC 5's Julie Fine contributed to this report.