1st Special Session Concludes

Special Session Update 7-27-17
July 27, 2017
Governor Abbott Senior Staff Changes
September 22, 2017
The first called Special Session of the 85th Legislature has officially come to a close, one-day short of the 30-day special session period. With less than 36 hours to go, the House agreed to Senate amendments to the public-school finance reform bill, HB 21 by Rep. Huberty (R – Humble) putting $ 351 million into public schools. At the same time, the Senate did not agree to the House amendments made to the property-tax reform bill, SB 1 by Sen. Bettencourt (R – Houston), and appointed conference committee conferees to iron out the differences of each chambers version of the bill. However, in light of the time required to print the committee report and the time required to iron out the differences, the House asked the Senate to either accept their amendments or come back next Session to come to an agreement. The Senate chose the latter option. Here’s what did pass:
  • Texas Medical Board and behavioral health licensing agency sunset extension;
  • Teacher Retirement System TRS-Care funding;
  • School finance reform, establishing a statewide commission to recommend public school finance improvements and extending additional state aid for tax reduction (ASATR);
  • Restricting local regulation of trees on private land;
  • Prohibiting health insurance plan coverage for elective abortions;
  • Requiring additional reporting by health care providers on abortion complications and on abortions provided to minors;
  • Instituting patient protections on do-not-resuscitate orders;
  • Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud;
  • Extending the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force; and
  • Municipal annexation reform.
Here’s what did not pass:
  • Teacher pay increase;
  • School choice for special needs students;
  • Property tax reform;
  • Caps on state and local spending;
  • Expedited local permitting;
  • Preventing local governments from changing rules midway through construction projects;
  • State pre-emption of local regulation of mobile communication devices while driving;
  • Privacy/prohibiting local regulation of multi-occupancy showers, locker rooms, restrooms, and changing rooms;
  • Prohibiting public entities from collecting union dues; and
  • Prohibiting local taxpayer funding for abortion providers.
The Governor has said he is disappointed all 20 items didn’t make it to his desk. That issue plus a recent federal court ruling declaring two of Texas’ Congressional districts unconstitutional cause many to believe a second Special Session may be called. When asked about calling legislators back to pass key items like property tax reform, Governor Abbott said “all options are always on the table.”