Oh, you thought you were done screaming “WTF TX Lege?!” into the void? Well, think again. The regularly scheduled biennial session may have concluded, but Gov. Greg Abbott has called a special session scheduled to start July 8.
Yeah, yeah, we are not thrilled about it as we know it will be dedicated to passing anti-voter legislation that didn’t pass in the regular session. We know this special session was called because Gov. Abbott and his cronies will do anything to make voting harder for Black, Brown, disabled and young voters. But, as always, the fight continues and we are here to prepare you for everything you need to know about this rapid fire legislative session and what to expect.
WTF is so Special?
A special session is a session with a designated agenda. It is intended to pass specific legislation that didn’t get through the legislature in the regular session that the Governor deems necessary. The legislature can’t really take up any other legislation other than what the session has been specified for. It acts similar to a regular session, but on a much faster timeline of 30 days. With a special session comes special rules such as: the Governor can call as many of these as he wants, on whatever he wants, with no time restraints and no warning between regular sessions. If the legislation doesn’t pass this special session, Gov. Abbott could keep calling them until he gets what he wants. They can be back-to-back, and even the same day as one ends because there ain’t no rest for the wicked. Sessions could even continue popping up until the next regular session two years from now. Not that this is likely, but we just want to put emphasis on the power the Governor holds to ensure his priority legislation passes. Considering how the election legislation played out in the 11th-hour of the regular session, we know this could be a means for controversial back-and-forth on party lines.
Gov. Abbott intends to call two special sessions, the one set for July 8 to pass the anti-voter legislation, and bail system legislation that also died when the Democrats broke quorum; and then another session predicted for the Fall when census data is official to redraw our district lines (also, very important!!)
What TF Happened? Why TF Are We Having this Special Session?
Trust, if we could answer the overarching question here we would. Alas, we are having a special session – not to fix our electrical grid that left millions of Texans cold and several hundreds to die in February – no, not that. This special session is not to roll out vaccination plans and COVID relief in a state with less than 50 percent of adults vaccinated and with least insured people in the nation. And, it’s definitely not to pass pro-voter legislation like online or automatic voter registration in 1 of the 10 states left without this system, nope. It’s all so Gov. Abbott can pass legislation that makes it stricter, scarier, and less accessible to vote in what is already the hardest state to vote in. Doesn’t seem like this should be our state’s priority legislation, but we digress.
The biggest reason this session is being held is because of the last ditch effort from House Democrats to not let Senate Bill 7 pass. Quick recap: During the last day of the regular session, SB 7 needed the full-house vote to officially turn the bill into legislation. It was obvious party-line votes were going to result in this legislation, so House Democrats broke quorum – left the chamber – so no vote could be held and the bill would die with the session.
Fun fact: Breaking quorum to kill a bill has only happened three times in Texas history. Put us in the books, baby!
After breaking quorum, pro-voter lawmakers took to Washington to address the U.S. congress in hopes of passing the For The People act to enact national standards so these attacks will cease.
This Special Session
The official agenda for the July 8 special session was released Wednesday morning. Gov. Abbott makes it clear that he will use this special session to threaten the basic rights of all Texans and undermine our freedom to vote.
We can’t be exactly sure how everything will play out, but we know the situation can be expected to be hairy as legislators on both sides are strategizing to get their desired result.
The state budget will even be taken up due to Gov. Abbott who vetoed the part that pays legislative staff and agencies to make a statement. He said funding should be cut for those who “leave early” in reference to those who broke quorum.
This gross abuse of power disguised as teaching legislators a lesson hardly affects legislators whose payment is guaranteed in the Texas constitution. Who this really hurts is their employees and the folks who make the capitol run, amounting to over 2,000 state employees – from staffers, to cafeteria workers and custodians.
It now goes beyond passing legislation into the ethics of potentially risking pay to their staffers if anyone threatens to stop this legislation. Just normal, Texas dystopian bullshit though.
Precautions could be taken, but Speaker of the House, Dade Phelan says he will not lock doors or bring police to keep Democrats from breaking quorum again. But, he did say, “If it takes a hundred special sessions, the Texas Legislature will pass an election integrity bill that instills further confidence in the accuracy of our elections.” It’s like a time loop horror movie!
Moreover, it is unclear how the election legislation will look this time around. It could be a whole new proposal or look the same as it did when it failed just under a new bill number. For reference, Senate Bill 7 threatened to limit early voting hours, local voting options, mail ballots, ban drive-through voting and increase the scope of poll watchers. And, that was AFTER we vouched for the worst parts to be gutted!
You Made This Possible
With the power the Governor holds in special sessions and the measures being taken to push this legislation, not much of this feels like a win. But, the fact that we were able to kill the last bill in a regular session where the majority wanted it passed, was no easy feat. Sure, it was House Democrats that broke quorum, but it was grassroots organizations like MOVE Texas, our partners, allies and supporters who enabled this reality. It was everyday voters, business leaders, artists and advocates making their voices heard for the first time that created the space to kill this big, bad bill. It was our late night testimonies, staying at the Capitol for 24-hours to make sure we were heard, the huge rallies we attended, and making this a moral issue of right and wrong that empowered the quorum break. We did that.
Even before the quorum break, there was serious work that went into doing damage control to reduce the scope and harm of this election bill.
People power made all this possible and now Gov. Abbott is scared and taking all precautions to block us. While there’s many shitty things happening/could happen to ensure Gov. Abbott passes his racist, voter suppression bill, it’s kinda cute that we got him shaking in his boots.
Our role in this special session is to continue to make noise and keep telling the legislators that this bill is racist, ableist, ageist, and their actions to pass it are unethical. Silence and darkness is truly where democracy dies, and we aren’t letting up. It’s in our nature; we showed up for each other through this pandemic, through Winter Storm Uri, and we will continue to be there for each other when our leaders abandon us. No one can ever say Texans do not show up. We out here, tx lege, where are you?