The Texas House of Representatives called a close to Gov. Greg Abbott's special session Tuesday, a day early. While the House used the session to act on about half of the governor's cherry-picked priorities — including increasing penalties for mail-in ballot fraud and passing a bill that allows key state agencies to remain open — it didn't even consider a bill regulating where transgender people go to the bathroom or one regarding property tax reform. These were two of the biggest priorities for Texas' most conservative public officials during the session.
Abbott reacted to the end of the session the next day by accusing House Speaker Joe Straus, a pro-business Republican who strongly opposed the bathroom bill, of sabotage.
“I’m disappointed that all 20 items did not receive the up or down vote that I wanted,” Abbott said during an interview with Houston's KTRH radio. He said the speaker let his chamber "dilly-dally" on issues unrelated to the governor's identified special session priorities. Straus "was not tricky," Abbott said. "He was open and overt that he would not let it on the House floor.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was more blunt in his assessment of the House's performance during the session, blaming Straus for the House quitting before passing a bill that would've made it harder for cities to increase property taxes, one of Patrick's biggest priorities.
“The Texas Senate didn’t quit early. The Texas Senate didn’t go home without the job getting done,” he said. “Thank goodness Travis didn’t have the speaker at the Alamo. He might have been the first one over the wall.”
In Dallas, the performance of Straus and the House was better received.
"We bitch and moan a lot," Mayor Mike Rawlings said during the City Council's weekly briefing. "We need to say thank you" to Straus for his inaction on property taxes and the bathroom bill, added Rawlings, who met with the governor earlier this month to decry the proposed property tax legislation. Businesses in Dallas and around the state vehemently opposed the bathroom bill.
State Rep. Eric Johnson, who represents West Dallas and is considered a rising star in Texas' Democratic Party, accused Abbott of wasting legislators' time and taxpayers' money by calling the session.
"Texas taxpayers paid $1,000,000 for a 'do over' of the regular session with the exact same outcome: NO BATHROOM BILL," he wrote on Facebook. "I hope voters remember it was Texas Republicans who put us through this and made us national laughing stocks. We need real leadership in Austin. One party rule is bad for Texas."
Despite the celebration, at least one Dallas legislator, state Sen. Don Huffines, asked Abbott to call another special session, insisting that the state must do something to control property taxes.
"Governor Abbott: Please call a second special session immediately to compel the legislature to fix property taxes," Huffines said in a statement. "We accomplished a lot in the first special session, now we need to finish the job."
It seems unlikely that Abbott do so. While he can call as many special sessions as he wants, he indicated Wednesday that calling another one wouldn't make much sense as the characters involved would remain the same. “That’s why elections matter,” he said.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.