Abbott Vetoed A Lot More Than Dog Protections And Legislative Funding This Year

With the flick of his pen, Gov. Greg Abbott nixed 20 laws after the 2021 legislative session.
With the flick of his pen, Gov. Greg Abbott nixed 20 laws after the 2021 legislative session. Screenshot
Two of Gov. Greg Abbott’s vetoes have gotten seemingly all the buzz following the recently-adjourned state legislative session. The one that’s garnered the most attention was Abbot’s “line item veto” of the part of the state budget which funds the entire legislative branch (and its hundreds of non-partisan employees) which he issued out of spite over state House Democrats’ choice to walk out rather than vote on the controversial voting bill Senate Bill 7.

Abbott’s choice to veto a new law that would have made it a crime to chain dogs up outside without shade and drinking water also enraged plenty of Texans, and even got the hashtag #AbbottHatesDogs trending on Twitter.

But those weren’t the only two pieces of the Legislature’s work Abbott tossed in the trash can this year. Among the 20 bits of legislation Abbott vetoed in recent days are a bill that would have required Texas schoolchildren to be taught about dating violence and abuse, as well as two criminal justice bills that would have banned the use of testimony gleaned after a person was hypnotized and that would have made it easier for juvenile offenders to be granted parole.

Abbott has plenty of experience kneecapping new legislation he’d rather not see enacted through the power of the veto: He’s been in the Governor’s Mansion through four sessions of the Texas Legislature and has issued 174 vetoes over that period.

This session, Texas lawmakers passed 1,073 bills, a total that will likely increase by at least a few bills as Abbott on Tuesday afternoon finally made good on his promise to call a special session of the Legislature. The extra session is officially set to begin on July 8.

While Abbott will have the right to veto anything passed by the Legislature during extra innings in the weeks ahead, it’s unlikely he’ll be dragging out the veto pen anytime soon given that he has total control over what items lawmakers can and cannot tackle in the special session.

In one of his less-heralded vetoes, Abbott nixed the anti-dating violence Senate Bill 1109, written by Dallas Democrat state Sen. Royce West. Titled the Christine Blubaugh Act in remembrance of a teenage Texan from Grand Prairie who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend back in 2000, the bill would have required public school students in Texas to be taught how to spot signs of dating violence, how to report cases of abuse and just how common dating violence is in the United States if it had been enacted. Those lessons would have had to take place once during middle school/junior high and twice during high school.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about one in 11 female high school students and one in 14 male high school students have experienced physical dating violence in the last year. Despite those troubling statistics and the bipartisan support for West’s bill, Abbott chose to veto the measure, all because he believes Texas parents should have the right to pull their children out from having to receive such potentially life-saving lessons.

“These are important subjects,” Abbott admitted in his veto proclamation, “and I respect the Senate author’s good intentions, but the bill fails to recognize the right of parents to opt their children out of the instruction.” Abbott wrote that he vetoed similar bills in the past for not allowing parents to request that their children not receive the lessons “because we must safeguard parental rights regarding this type of instruction.”

Abbott also took issue with Senate Bill 281, written by McAllen Democrat state Sen. Chuy Hinojosa to bar criminal courts from using statements obtained from suspects after they were hypnotized.

In 2020, a Dallas Morning-News investigation unveiled that Texas cops have used hypnosis to compel testimony “nearly 1,800 times over 40 years” despite the lack of scientific proof hypnosis can actually lead to folks recalling true memories and criticism of the practice from the American Psychiatric Association and other memory experts.

Abbott’s main objection to Hinojosa’s bill was that an amendment accepted by both the state House and Senate “added language so that for any any person who has undergone investigative hypnosis, all statements that person makes ‘after’ the hypnosis — even ones made long ‘after’ the hypnosis session and unrelated to that session — are barred from being admitted into evidence in any criminal trial.”

In his veto order, Abbott argued that amendment would “dramatically expand [the bill’s] scope in an unacceptable way” and claimed it “would grant lifetime immunity” for anyone ever hypnotized by a cop “from having any subsequent statements used in a criminal trial.”

Abbott also killed House Bill 686, which would have given Texans convicted of crimes as minors the chance to get out of prison on parole much earlier than the current law allows. As written by Democrat state Rep. Joe Moody of El Paso, the bill would have made Texans serving life sentences after being convicted for committing capital felonies under the age of 18 eligible for parole 10 years sooner than the current law allows.

Moody’s bill also would have mandated that parole panels “consider the age of the inmate” when they committed the crime when deciding whether or not to grant parole. But in one of his most vague veto orders, Abbott claimed the bill “conflicts with jury instructions required by the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.” Abbott argued this “would result in confusion and needless, disruptive litigation,” despite acknowledging that the bill “admirably recognizes the potential for change and encourages rehabilitation and productiveness in the young offender population.”

The support of Abbott’s fellow Republican and Speaker of the Texas House Dade Phelan wasn’t enough to save either of the two criminal justice bills; Both measures were listed as priority items for Phelan in his “Smarter Justice, Safer Texas” package of bipartisan-backed criminal justice reforms.

While he hasn’t announced what the special session agenda will look like yet, Abbott’s only publicly mentioned in recent weeks two red-meat conservative priorities of his as items he’ll definitely include: the failed “election integrity” bill that would place new restrictions on voting in the state, and a Republican-backed bill to make it tougher for Texans accused of violent crimes to post bail and get out of jail before trial.
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Schaefer Edwards is a staff writer at the Houston Press who covers local and regional news. A lifelong Texan and adopted Houstonian, he loves NBA basketball and devouring Tex-Mex while his cat watches in envy.
Contact: Schaefer Edwards