Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference on Tuesday, June 6 to announce a special session that may include consideration of another bathroom bill. The bathroom bill is on Abbott’s laundry list of issues to address in the special session, but it is relatively low on his list of priorities and lawmakers must first address sunsetting agencies and then take on property tax reform.
Abbott called the special session “avoidable” and blamed it on leadership in both houses for failing to pass mandatory legislation relating to sunsetting agencies. Because he must call the special session to see to mandatory legislation, Abbott went ahead and added a laundry list of other bills the legislature may consider once mandatory legislation passes.
Among those issues are the bathroom bill, more abortion restrictions and limits on local control.
But first the legislature must deal with agencies such as the Texas Medical Board. If left to sunset, Texas would be unable to license new physicians or regulate medical care.
The first item Abbott said he will add to the agenda once sunsetting agencies are reinstated related to education. He wants teacher pay increased by $1,000 and administrators given more flexibility to hire and fire. To overhaul school finance, the governor wants a commission to be appointed to reform the school finance system. The scheme he’s proposing seems to be a veiled, back-door attempt to institute a voucher system.
Next, he said, he wants to rein in skyrocketing property taxes throughout the state. While the tax rate has not increased, local governments are reassessing properties to much higher values. The effect is higher taxes. To address this, Abbott proposes limiting local government spending increases to population growth and inflation.
Abbott also proposes a statewide texting ban that creates uniform statewide regulations. He signed a ban into law today that passed during the regular session but wants the law changed to prevent any further regulation by local governments.
Another goal has been to take as much authority as possible away from local governments. Abbott proposed taking control from local governments but in only three areas that he said are interfering with job creation — regulating trees on private land, changing rules midway through construction projects and slow permitting. In addition, he’d like the legislature to change rules on cities annexing land, which he said is being abused. If he’s concerned about job growth, businesses have warned that a bathroom bill is the biggest threat to the state’s business health, not trees.
Abbott called for the legislature to consider HB 2899 — the bathroom bill — to discriminate against trans students. He called this safety for women and children. That’s because there is no evidence of a trans person ever attacking a woman or a child in a restroom. The House version of the bathroom bill that Abbott cited would also repeal local nondiscrimination ordinances.
He also wanted additional abortion restrictions including preventing local government from providing taxpayer money to abortion providers. Withholding funds from Planned Parenthood to provide services like mammograms and Papp smears has already bee declared unconstitutional.
He’d like to prevent taxpayer funds being used to collect union dues from public employee paychecks. He would like tougher penalties provided against anyone who commits mail-in ballot fraud. And he would like to extend funding to investigate pregnancy-related deaths.
The session begins July 18 and runs 30 days.