Legislative Line – Aug. 13, 2017 – Special Session


The Texas House and Senate worked through the weekend in order to get everything done before the 30-day special session expires at midnight Wednesday.

Earlier this week, the House passed numerous measures included on the call. Most notably is the final passage of two sunset bills on Friday that will extend the lives of several state agencies. These bills are the reason the Legislature had to come back following the regular session. Gov. Greg Abbott quickly signed the two sunset measures into law.

The House on Friday passed municipal annexation reform but with one big change relating to annexation around military bases. It now goes back to the Senate for it to decide whether to accept the changes in the House version or request a conference committee to hammer out the differences in the two versions. SB 6 as passed by the House still includes language to better clarify that existing Industrial District Agreements (IDAs) are not impacted.

Also on Friday, senators gave final approval to a tree ordinance bill. HB 7 would require cities that impose tree mitigation fees for tree removal during residential construction and development to allow a person to apply for a credit for tree planting to offset the amount of the fee. It now goes back to the House, where members will either agree to the Senate’s changes or go to conference to work out differences.

Friday’s House calendar included two major measures: SB 1, a property tax reform bill and SB 11, requiring certain patient approval for do-not-resuscitate orders. Considerable debate was expected, however only SB 1 had a lengthy debate, lasting a little over four hours.

Rep. Dennis Bonnen’s version of SB 1 includes a provision that would trigger a rollback rate election for increases of more than 6 percent compared to the Senate’s preferred 4 percent trigger. Twenty-five amendments were offered, including one that attempted to return the legislation to the Senate’s version. None were adopted. The bill received preliminary approval on Saturday, but on Sunday the House delayed further consideration of final approval until Monday. Should it achieve final passage, it will need to go back to the Senate for concurrence or conference to iron out differences.

With only five days left, the so-called “bathroom bill” is very likely dead. The measure, which passed out of the Senate quickly, has died a slow death in the House State Affairs committee where the bill has yet to be given a hearing by Chairman Byron Cook. On Thursday, a coalition of Texas businesses sent a letter to Gov. Abbott opposing the bathroom bill.

With only a few days left, it still remains to be seen what of the 20 measures on the call will ultimately be sent to the governor’s desk and whether or not the governor will be pleased with the measures passed. Recall that the governor can – at any time – call another 30-day special session. In his remarks at a private fundraiser, Abbott did not shy away from the possibility of another special session: “He said the work going on at the Capitol was important for the future of our children and grandchildren and had to be done. It has to be done now, next month, or maybe it gets done in January but it must get done,” according to a report on the private event.

Abbott was later noncommittal when asked about a potential January special session later in the event. A few other sources who were there acknowledged Abbott made a remark about the special session and January, but said he was clearly joking. In any case, Abbott’s remarks appeared to go beyond what he’s been willing to say in public, where he’s waved off talk of a second special session as too early to speculate about.

While much of the attention in Austin has been focused on what is happening under the Dome in the last 30 days, the debate over “sanctuary cities” has continued outside the Capitol. On Wednesday, Federal Judge Sam Sparks dismissed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit against Travis County and other defendants over the state’s incoming “sanctuary cities” law. A separate lawsuit against the measure, which is set to take effect Sept. 1, is still pending in a San Antonio federal court.