Today at 2:30pm, Governor Greg Abbott announced he is calling legislators back to Austin for a special session on July 18, 2017. They will reconvene for 30 days.
The decision was all but forced upon him by the legislature’s failure to pass a sunset bill on the Texas Medical Board. Without the TMB, doctors would be practicing medicine in Texas with little to no state oversight at all. While the extinction of the state agency sounds like a dream for limited-government conservatives and libertarians, Abbott was never realistically going to let the TMB expire.
But, as he explained in his announcement, if he is going to ask the taxpayers to pony up for a called session, he wants to ensure lawmakers make the most of their time. Therefore, in addition to the TMB sunset bill, he is asking legislators to pass 19 other pieces of legislation.
- Sunset bill on TMB
- Teacher pay increase of $1,000. Abbott proposed this through moving money from non-essential programs, rather than by raising taxes.
- Administrative flexibility in teacher hiring and retention practices.
- School finance reform commission. The purpose of the commission will be to find ways to replace the Robin Hood system, whereby wealthy school districts subsidize poorer ones.
- School choice for special needs students.
- Property tax reform. Abbott wants the bill to include language that would require, any time a taxing entity tries to increase property taxes more than 5%, an automatic roll-back election by the voters in the district. This was a non-starter in the House during the regular session.
- Cap on state and local spending. The governor wants to make sure government spending does not increase beyond population plus inflation.
- Preventing cities from regulating what property owners do with trees on private land.
- Preventing local governments from changing rules midway through construction projects.
- Speeding up local government permitting process.
- Municipal annexation reform. In his press conference, Abbott called the current process, whereby a city can annex unincorporated lands without residents’ approval “piracy by government.”
- Texting while driving (state preemption). The governor does not like that the current law still allows for a “patchwork” of local laws which may be stricter than state law and are confusing to drivers.
- This is the “bathroom bill.” Abbott called for the prevention of transgender public school students using restrooms designated for classmates of the opposite biological sex. He called this minimum effort. This will likely re-ignite the battle between House and Senate.
- Prohibition of taxpayer dollars to collect (public sector) union dues.
- Prohibition of taxpayer funding for abortion providers (even at the local level).
- Pro-life insurance reform.
- Strengthening abortion reporting requirements when health complications arise.
- Strengthening patient protections relating to do-not-resuscitate orders.
- Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud. Abbott cited the current investigation in Dallas County as a reason for the legislation.
- Extending maternal mortality task force.
Abbott did go so far to say whether, if the legislature fails to pass these bills, he will call them back again.
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