Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has officially proclaimed that he will be bringing lawmakers back to Austin for a special session to address issues left undone during the regular, constitutionally proscribed session.
Under the state’s constitution, the Texas Legislature meets for 140 days every other year. Article 3 of the Texas Constitution gives the governor the authority to call the legislature back into session at any time. These sessions can last for no more than 30 days at a time, but there is no limit to how many special sessions a governor can call.
In Texas’ history there have been 123 special sessions called, the first being in the 3rd Legislature, when Gov. Peter Bell called two sessions in August and November of 1850.
As the longest serving governor in state history, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has the distinction of calling the most special sessions: a total of 12 between 2003 and 2013.
Special sessions are different from regular sessions in many ways. In a regular session, lawmakers can pass legislation covering any topic they chose.
Not so in a special session. During these periods, the legislation that can be covered is limited by the governor, through means of the gubernatorial proclamation calling the special session. Anything else is out of order.
Once the proclamation is issued and the special session begins, a governor can and often does expand the topics eligible for consideration. Gov. Abbott issued a proclamation on July 10 calling lawmakers into session on July 18.
Gov. Abbott has said he would initially call lawmakers to session to address those agencies set to expire under the state’s sunset provision. Abbott has said once the sunset issue is addressed by the Texas Senate, he would immediately add 19 items to his call.
Most of the procedural hurdles are swept away in a special session. Legislators have nowhere to hide in a special session; failure to move legislation is either a reflection of a governor making a “bad call”… or lawmakers flat-out unwilling to do it.
Actually, it’s not fair to say legislators have no where to hide. We saw that a decade ago when Gov. Perry called several special sessions dealing with congressional re-districting. Democrats decided to break the quorum of the Texas legislature – first the House, then the Senate – by running to Oklahoma and New Mexico respectively.
With House Speaker Joe Straus, a nominal Republican, likening Abbott’s agenda to “horse manure,” and his liberal lackeys running around the state wearing #SunsetAndSineDie pins…anything is possible when the special session convenes.