Legislative Line – Aug. 17, 2017 – Special Session Wrapup
With one day remaining in the 30-day session, the first called special ended abruptly one day early, on the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 15. The House and Senate were originally expected to work up until the midnight deadline on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the House agreed to accept the Senate’s version of the school finance reform bill and end the standoff on the issue. The Senate’s version stripped out $1.5 billion in funding from the measure. The House then, unexpectedly, adjourned Sine Die (Latin for without day), giving the Senate a take-it-or-leave it choice on the House’s version of Senate Bill 1, the governor’s priority property tax reform measure.
Both chambers had been expected to send representatives to a conference committee to iron out their differences on a bill that would have called for voter approval of property tax increases over a certain threshold. The House and Senate were at a standoff on whether that threshold should be a 6 percent tax increase (like the House wanted) or a 4 percent increase (like the Senate wanted). The House’s adjournment meant that the Senate could either take the bill as the House sent it to them or call it a day without passing anything. The Senate chose not to move forward with the measure, citing its inadequacy to address Texas taxpayers need for tax relief.
Many government officials had something to say about the early adjournment:
- Abbott spokesman John Wittman: “Our office believes this special session has produced a far better Texas than before.”
- Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick: “They quit on the taxpayers of Texas. The Texas Senate didn’t quit early. The Texas Senate didn’t go home without the job getting done.”
- Speaker Joe Straus: “It (early adjournment) was literally a decision made on the fly.”
- Sen. John Whitmire: “The blame game is just beginning, and why I’d want to get between two groups of elephants, I don’t know.”
- Rep. Dennis Bonnen: “I have been working with members of the Senate for several days on SB 1, we have made our efforts, so I don’t want there to be in any way a suggestion that we have not, will not, would not work with the Senate on such an important issue.”
The chambers never managed to reach common ground on many of the 20 issues Abbott included on the special session agenda.
Special Session issues that passed:
- SB 20/SB 60: Texas Medical Board and behavioral health licensing agency sunset extension
- HB 30: Teacher Retirement System TRS-Care funding
- SB 21: School finance reform, establishing a statewide commission to recommend public school finance improvements and extending additional state aid for tax reduction (ASATR)
- HB 7: Restricting local regulation of trees on private land
- HB 214: Prohibiting health insurance plan coverage for elective abortions
- HB 13: Requiring additional reporting by health care providers on abortion complications
- HB 215: Requiring additional reporting by health care providers on abortions provided to minors
- SB 11: Instituting patient protections on do-not-resuscitate orders
- SB 5: Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud
- SB 17: Extending the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force
- SB 6: Municipal annexation reform.
Special session issues that did not pass:
- Teacher pay increaseSchool choice for special needs students
- Property tax reform
- Caps on state and local spending
- Expedited local permitting
- Preventing local governments from changing rules midway through construction projects
- State pre-emption of local regulation of mobile communication devices while driving
- Privacy/prohibiting local regulation of multi-occupancy showers, locker rooms, restrooms and changing rooms
- Prohibiting public entities from collecting union dues
- Prohibiting local taxpayer funding for abortion providers