AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday revived the GOP’s thwarted efforts to pass new voting laws in America’s biggest red state after Democrats temporarily derailed a restrictive bill with a late-night walkout in the state Capitol in May.
As expected, Abbott made new election laws one of nearly a dozen items — including border security and other GOP lightning rod issues — that he is instructing lawmakers to revisit over the next 30 days in a special session that begins Thursday.
The two-term governor, who is up for reelection next year and has not ruled out a presidential run in 2024, offered no immediate guidance about what changes he wants in Texas’ elections laws. But already, Republicans are backing away from the two most contentious issues that fueled Democrats’ dramatic quorum break just before a midnight deadline over the Memorial Day weekend.
He also ordered lawmakers to restore funding for Texas’ legislative branch after vetoing paychecks for roughly 2,000 Capitol employees following the walkout.
“These Special Session priority items put the people of Texas first and will keep the Lone Star State on a path to prosperity,” Abbott said.
The GOP’s overwhelming majority in the Texas Capitol means it is likely an elections bill will pass, although Democrats have vowed to continue fighting and have not ruled out breaking quorum again.
Other issues on the agenda include Abbott's priority bills related to the bail system, as well as pushing back against social media “censorship” of Texans and critical race theory.
Abbott is also asking lawmakers to get him legislation that prohibits transgender Texans from competing on school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity. Abbott had voiced support for that during the regular session but had not given any indication he would add it to a special session despite a campaign by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to do so.
The special session is set to start at 10 a.m. CT/ 9 a.m. MT on Thursday.
It is one of at at least two special sessions of the legislature expected this year, with a later one coming on redistricting and the spending on federal Covid-19 relief funds.
Abbott’s agenda for the first special session notably does not include anything about the state’s electric grid, which was exposed as deeply vulnerable during a deadly winter weather storm in February that left millions of Texans without power. Lawmakers made some progress in preventing another disaster during the regular session, but experts — as well as Patrick — have said there is more to do.
On Tuesday, Abbott sent a letter to the state’s electricity regulators outlining a number of steps he would like them to take to “improve electric reliability.” But it appears Abbott does not want to reopen legislative debate on the issue for now.
Click here to see Abbott's complete list of items for the session.