Gov. Abbott calls fourth special session to get school choice bill across the finish line

(The Center Square) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday called the fourth special legislative session of 2023 after the House killed a school choice bill passed by the Senate and after the…

(The Center Square) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday called the fourth special legislative session of 2023 after the House killed a school choice bill passed by the Senate and after the legislature remained deadlocked over border security bills during the third special session.

The fourth special session was called to begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Election Day.

“The Texas Legislature made progress over the past month protecting Texans from forced COVID-19 vaccinations and increasing penalties for human smuggling,” Abbott said in his announcement, referring to the legislature in the third special session passing only two bills that made it to Abbott’s desk.

“There is more work to be done,” Abbott said. “I am immediately calling lawmakers back for Special Session #4 to complete their critical work to empower Texas parents to choose the best education pathway for their child while providing billions more in funding for Texas public schools and continuing to boost safety measures in schools.”

During the third special session, the Texas Senate passed a school choice bill and nearly unanimously passed an education funding bill. Both bills were filed by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe. After the Senate passed them, the bills went nowhere in the House.

Abbott’s call states the legislature will convene to pass legislation related to school safety measures and state funding mechanisms. This includes “primary and secondary education, including the establishment of an education savings account program, the certification, compensation, and health coverage of certain public school employees, the public school finance system, special education in public schools, measures to support the education of public school students that include certain educational grant programs, reading instruction, and early childhood education, the provision of virtual education, and public school accountability.”

The legislature must also pass additional laws to enhance border security, he said. “We must pass laws that will enhance the safety of all Texans by increasing funding for strategic border barriers and mirroring the federal immigration laws President Joe Biden refuses to enforce,” Abbott said. “Texas will also arrest people for illegal entry into our state from a foreign nation, and authorize the removal of anyone who illegally enters our state, with penalties up to 20 years in prison for refusing to comply with removal.

“To crack down on repeated attempts to enter Texas illegally, illegal re-entry will be penalized with up to 20 years in prison. I look forward to working with members of the Texas Legislature to better secure Texas and pass school choice for all Texas families.”

The call prioritizes components of legislation proposed in HB 4, which didn’t make it out of the Senate, and SB 11, which didn’t make it out of the House. The bill the governor wants the legislature to pass, he says, will help “reduce illegal immigration by creating criminal offenses for illegal entry into this state from a foreign nation and illegal reentry or presence following denial of admission, exclusion, deportation, or removal.” It will also authorize “the removal of illegal immigrants from Texas; and providing indemnification and immunity for public officials, employees, or contractors in connection with the foregoing.”

He also called for the legislature to pass a bill to “impede illegal entry into Texas by providing more funding for the construction, operation, and maintenance of border barrier infrastructure,” referring to measures that were included in SB 6 and HB 6, appropriating an additional $1.5 billion funding for border wall and other barrier construction. The bills passed in both chambers but differences weren’t reconciled, and they died.

The governor also called for the border funding bill to include additional funding for Department of Public Safety officers’ overtime expenses and costs associated with operations in the Colony Ridge development in Liberty County, Texas.

The call language was amended after in the third special session Senate and House hearings revealed that the characterization of the community was inaccurate, as The Center Square first reported. The findings were also consistent with lawmakers assessments of the development that some media reports hadn’t given “the full picture.” And after residents and a DPS officer reiterated that, “The media narrative that this area is an illegal alien colony and everyone is working with the cartels is totally false.”