Two Days Left in Special Session, 15 Bills to Go. What Will Fail?

Two Days Left in Special Session, 15 Bills to Go. What Will Fail?
Abbott Photo by World Travel & Tourism Council/Flickr, Straus Photo by David Martin Davies/Flickr, , Patrick Photo by David Martin Davies/Flickr
As Texas legislators enter the final two days of the special session, they've passed just six bills related to five priority items on Governor Greg Abbott's list of 20 priorities. Which means that, with 15 items left, most are likely bound to fail.

The bathroom bill is all but dead, kept alive only by conservatives who vow not to vote for lawmakers who didn't support it. A bill to block cities from partnering with Planned Parenthood or any abortion providers for any reason is sitting idle in the House. And Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick's pet issue (besides transgender bathroom rules), private school choice vouchers for disabled kids, is no longer part of the school finance package.

So in the next 48 hours, what can you expect to land on Abbott's desk and be signed into law?

Both chambers are expected to iron out the kinks for a larger school-finance package, the property-tax limit proposal and a funding boost for the floundering retired teachers healthcare-benefits program — all of which has come together in the last few days.

After weeks of disagreement, both the House and Senate finally made significant progress on a school-finance compromise Monday. While the House had been arguing that simply "studying" the state's school-finance debacle was not enough, it finally passed the Senate's bill to create a commission for that research after the Senate agreed to take up a more immediate solution Monday night. The Senate agreed to boost school finance by $563 million.

Only $1.3 billion less than the House was hoping for.

In a package of bills, HB21 and HB30, the Senate's proposed $563 million boost would go primarily to small, rural districts and help students with disabilities such as autism and dyslexia, and $212 million of that would be dumped into the underfunded retired teachers' healthcare fund, Teacher Retirement System–CARE. The source of funding would come from deferring payments to Medicaid managed-care organizations — also a source of disagreement between the Senate and House all session. The House signaled it would be more open to considering this source of funding this week as long as the Senate passed immediate funding relief.

The chambers will also continue arguing over property-tax reform. The Senate's SB 1 would have required taxpayer approval for property tax hikes of 4 percent or more. The House amended SB 1 to require approval for hikes of 6 percent or more — which the Senate has already rejected, meaning the chambers will be left to sort out their differences.

And if they can't? It's possibly the only bill that would trigger a special session if it doesn't pass.

You can also expect bills that would create a commission studying the state's alarming maternal mortality rate, that would ensure patients or their legal guardians give consent before do-not-resuscitate orders are issued, and that would limit local tree-removal ordinances (if the Senate's changes appease House Speaker Joe Straus) to make it to Governor Abbott by Wednesday.

Bills that have already passed include a bill to increase abortion reporting requirements if the patient is a minor; to require women to pay a separate insurance premium if they want abortions to be covered, including those from rape or incest; to enhance penalties for mail-in voter fraud (while also repealing a law that expanded voting at nursing homes); to limit cities' annexation powers; and two bills extending the lifelines of key government agencies such as the Texas Medical Board, the only legislation actually required to pass during the special session.
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Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.
Contact: Meagan Flynn