The 85th Legislature

The Texas Legislature’s special session ended last week and passed about half of the bills from the governor’s agenda.

In early June, Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session and created a 20-item agenda for legislators to consider. Unlike the regular session, only bills related to the governor’s agenda can move forward in a special session.

The legislature passed 10 bills, including the sunset bill, which will prevent several state agencies from shutting down, and changes to abortion practices. Meanwhile, the bathroom bill and property tax reform failed to pass through the state House of Representatives.

In interviews on radio talk shows, Abbott said he was disappointed his top priority of property tax reform did not pass and some bills were not debated in the House.

“They had plenty of time to consider all these items, and the voters of the state of Texas deserved to know where their legislators stood on these issues,” Abbott said on KTRH news radio station.

Abbott has not yet confirmed whether he will call a second special session. He can call as many as he wants, even back-to-back, until the next regular session in 2019.

Bathroom bill

Senate bill 3 stopped short in the House after passing in a 21-10 vote in the state Senate on July 25.

The bill, authored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, would have mandated that individuals use the bathroom or changing facility as listed on their birth certificates. SB 3 would have applied to political subdivisions, such as public school districts, but not universities or state agencies.

Kolkhorst said SB 3 would uphold Title IX, which aims to prevent gender-based discrimination, including sexual assault and harassment in intimate facilities. Many Democratic senators argued the bill would discriminate against transgender Texans and discourage business in Texas.

Texting while driving pre-emption

Senate bill 15 passed the Senate in a 20-11 vote in July, but was never voted on in the House.

SB 15, authored by Sen. Donald Huffines, R-Dallas, would have restricted local municipalities from making their own policies concerning texting while driving. In June, Abbott signed a texting while driving ban after the regular session, but wanted to work on making the law pre-emptive during the special session.

Some Texas cities go beyond texting while driving by enforcing a hands-free law, but the pre-emptive ban would have forced these cities to enforce the lesser texting while driving ban. Testifiers in committee, including police officers, claimed a texting while driving ban is more difficult to enforce and a hands-free law could keep Texans safer. Some senators supported a blanket bill for all of Texas, without having different law in one municipality to the next.


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