The Legislature's First Special Session Has Ended

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The Texas Legislature's month-long special session wrapped up Tuesday  evening, a day earlier than expected. After weeks of intensifying resistance between the House and the Senate, the session unsurprisingly ended with a stalemate between both chambers over one of Gov. Greg Abbott's top-priority issues: property tax reform.

House lawmakers, bitter that the Senate had stripped their $1.8 billion school funding bill to paltry $352 million, refused to pass the Senate's version of a property tax bill that would ask voters to approve property tax increases — but (according to the House), would do little to actually provide tax relief. After refusing to budge on its version of a property tax bill, the House promptly announced it was done for the session. When the Senate met a few hours later, they did the same.

Gov. Abbott's special session ended with passing only half of his 20 priorities, despite pushing for a "20 for 20" victory. The biggest victories for the GOP leader lie in passing strict anti-abortion bills, a bill clarifying "do not resuscitate" orders, and a measure requiring a public vote before a city annexes an outlying community. But Abbott's top priorities for the bonus session — passing the so-called "bathroom bill," a tax reform measure, and an oddly specific ban on tree laws — didn't reach his desk.

Tuesday evening, Abbott released a statement claiming that "this special session has produced a far better Texas than before." But that doesn't mean a second special session is out of the question. In a Wednesday morning interview with Houston's KRTH, Abbott said "all options are always on the table."

"There is a deep divide between the House and Senate on these important issues. So I’m going to be making decisions later on about whether we call another special session," he said. But Abbott blamed the House, and specifically House Speaker Joe Straus, for standing between priority legislation  and his signature.

Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick, who promised to be Abbott's "wing man" during the special session, echoed the governor's criticism, saying Straus treated Abbott's priorities "like horse manure" in a Tuesday press conference. Patrick was largely responsible for getting  Abbott to call a special session in the first place, after refusing to pass mandatory bills until the House gave his "bathroom bill" — which would keep transgender kids out of the bathroom that matches their gender identity — a green light.

It certainly wouldn't be the first time Texas returned for a second session — the 2011 and 2005 legislatures both racked up three special sessions. There's no limit to how many special sessions the governor can call — but it's entirely up to them. In 1989 (and far into 1990), Gov. Bill Clements had lawmakers stick it out for six special sessions.

Democrats in the legislature, while content with blocking some of the most stringent conservative bills, still see the session as a regression.

“The special session does not leave Texas better than we found it," wrote Austin Rep. Eddie Rodriguez in a Tuesday press release. "We’ve gone through this charade at a cost of over $1,000,000 to Texas taxpayers, and we must not make the mistake of coming back for a second."

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