Texas House, Senate move quickly in special session

May 20, 2023 – Tyler, Texas (KLTV)

“It’s like an encore at a concert. It’s not a surprise anymore,” said Smith County GOP Chair David Stein about special legislative sessions in Texas.

His comments follow Texas Gov. Greg Abbott calling the first of what’s expected to be multiple special sessions to tackle unachieved legislative priorities. The Republican governor’s first special session priorities include property tax relief and action at the border.

“I’m very disappointed for example in property tax,” Stein said. “We knew way back in January what the Senate bill version was, and what the House version was. And literally, they didn’t do anything to bring those two together. “

In previous years, the governor has called a special session with an entire list of priority items, but this year he’s opted to select a couple to a few items to tackle.

“I like the focus,” Stein said.

On Tuesday, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick criticized Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, saying he runs a “dysfunctional chamber.”

“I’m tired of the dysfunction of the House and passing legislation to us in a timely manner. And I’m tired of these points of orders that are called on good legislation like the virtual school bill,” Patrick said.

In most sessions, the Texas House passes more bills than their legislative counterparts in the Texas Senate. In his comments Tuesday morning, Patrick pointed out that the Senate had passed 121 bills compared to the three in the House by April 3.

“In this Texas latest legislative session, the opposite occurred the Senate passed a lot of things,” said Dr. Ken Wink, UT Tyler professor of public administration. “And the House held some of those things up. Now, some of those things were passed this weekend at the 11th and a half hour, which is not all that unusual. And of course, the time spent on impeaching the attorney general perhaps could have been spent talking about legislation.”

While the special session officially started Monday at 9 p.m., legislation was already moving Tuesday in the Senate with the unanimous passage of a property tax relief plan authored by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston.

The House later passed two pieces of legislation and adjourned, according to the Texas Tribune.

After weeks of bickering over whose proposal to cut Texans’ property taxes is better, House Speaker Dade Phelan sent a clear message to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, his Senate counterpart, on Tuesday: Take our pitch or leave the special session with nothing.

That message was delivered when the House abruptly adjourned Tuesday after swiftly passing bills on property tax relief and migrant smuggling — the sole items that Gov. Greg Abbott demanded from a special session that began Monday night.

The adjournment means the chamber can’t meet for the rest of the special session, leaving the Senate to accept the version of the bills the House passed or not pass any bill this session.

Lt. Governor made an additional statement on Twitter Tuesday evening, in which he was critical of Gov. Abbott’s statement that “The Texas House is the only chamber that passed a property tax cut bill that is germane to the special session that I called to provide Texans with property tax relief.

“He seems misinformed about the roles of the executive and legislative branches of government. While the Governor has the sole authority to call the Legislature into Session, the Legislature writes the bills – the courts have been crystal clear on this. Governor Abbott has finally shown his cards. He chooses to give homeowners 50% less of a tax cut, nearly $700 a year, to give corporations more. This is not what homeowners expected when they voted for him. Both the House and Senate spend $17.6 billion for property tax relief. After giving lower tax rates to everyone through compression the Senate plan dedicates nearly $6 billion for homestead exemptions. That gives homeowners nearly $700 more than the Abbott plan. I’m shocked Governor Abbott is advocating for taking that additional $700 savings from homeowners and giving it to businesses. I stand by our bill. It is germane to the call – legal precedent is clear on this point. Something Governor Abbott and Speaker Phelan should remember — for any bill to pass, it must go through both the House AND the Senate. While the House may have thrown in the towel, the Senate continues to work. The Governor should feel free to expand the call to include other critical issues for our State,” Patrick wrote.

 

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