(The Center Square) – After four months of the 88th Regular Session, the Texas Legislature failed to pass Gov. Abbott’s top two priority legislative items; school choice and property tax relief.
In an unprecedented move, within hours of the regular session ending, Gov. Greg Abbott called a special legislative session to be begin at 9pm on Monday night.
He previously said he would convene special sessions until these priorities are passed.
When it comes to school choice, he said, “Empowering parents to choose the best educational path for their child remains an essential priority this session. A majority of Texans from across the state and from all backgrounds support expanding school choice.”
He previously said the legislature would meet as long as it took to pass school choice, saying, “Parents and their children deserve the time and effort this will take.”
While the Senate passed a sweeping parental rights bill, teacher bill of rights and school choice bill, at least 24 Republicans voted to ensure no state money would fund education savings accounts or other parental empowerment programs. Another ten voted present. Because the school choice bill under consideration also includes a teacher’s bill of rights, which includes pay raises, the legislative session also closed with no deal on teacher pay raises.
Before and after his reelection last November, Gov. Abbott pledged to return half of the $33 billion surplus to taxpayers in the form of property tax relief. But the House and Senate could not agree on how to deliver $17.4 billion in property tax relief to Texas taxpayers.
But the two chambers have been at odds all session on this issue as well. The Senate plan prioritizes increasing the homestead exemption. The House plan prioritizes increasing appraisal caps on all real property. Lt. Gov. Patrick has repeatedly said the House approach to increase appraisal caps is “a non-starter.”
Although there were a series of last-minute deals made on Sunday, according to a statement from the Senate, they fell through.
A budget proposed and approved by both chambers, including billions of dollars in property tax relief and teacher pay raises, also fell through.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick told Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, who’s expected to be the next president pro tem ad interim, “You have the next 18 months. Usually, that would be an interim, but it might not be an interim this time, it would appear.”
Prior to the session ending, the Senate also approved a resolution setting the date to convene an impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton no later than August 28.
The Senate will hold a trial after the House voted 121-23 to impeach him on 20 articles of impeachment. The Senate will act as a quasi-judicial body, with the lieutenant governor acting as the presiding judge and the 30 members of the Senate acting as the jury.
The Senate will hear evidence, consider witness testimony, and rule on whether or not Paxton should remain in office or be removed.
It’s “unclear exactly how the process will work,” according to a statement from the Senate. But the Senate has “broad latitude” under the Texas constitution to establish rules and procedures for an impeachment trial, it said.