That sound you heard last week was establishment heads exploding in and around the Texas Capitol as Gov. Greg Abbott announced a robust reform agenda for legislators to tackle starting July 18. In calling the legislature back, Abbott is giving the obstructionist House leadership a “do-over” to pass popular reforms they have blocked for years.
But while the regular legislative session’s results – or lack thereof – are a referendum on legislators and their leadership, a called (or “special”) session is a reflection of a governor’s governing prowess.
Abbott set a high bar for himself, telling Texans the first called session of his first term as governor will be judged on his ability to get lawmakers to pass not one but more than a dozen significant policy reforms. Abbott’s agenda includes a litany of bills long-favored by the grassroots but opposed and obstructed by House Speaker Joe Straus and the establishment-wing of the House GOP caucus led by lackluster State Rep. Tan Parker of Flower Mound.
Abbott’s list includes property tax reform, limits on state and local government spending, prioritizing spending in the classroom, protecting women’s and children’s privacy, school choice for special needs kids, and much more. (The complete list can be found here. One item noticeably absent is the top platform plank of the Texas GOP: constitutional carry.)
It’s often been said that the failure to pass items placed on the agenda for a special session calls into question just how seriously legislators take their governor. But in this case, Abbott has wrapped himself in issues that resonate strongly with Texas’ taxpayers. He is inviting the legislature to do the work or thumb their nose at him… and the body politic legislators claim to represent.
Texans should stand alongside Abbott in petitioning legislators with a simple message: Pass Them All. Don’t get trapped into ranking the agenda items, or prioritizing them. Don’t be tempted by the cronies to bid against yourself and your fellow citizens. Tell the legislators that Abbott has given them 30 days to pass less than two dozen measures widely supported by Texans. Pass them all.
One can reasonably expect the Senate will get the job done quickly, as it did in the regular session. House members, on the other hand, should be nervous that the obstructionist Straus-Parker alliance will once again slow-walk conservative reforms to get as little done as possible. If House members continue to saddle themselves with Straus and Parker, they will continue to own the results… or lack thereof.
As citizens, we must not be held captive to low expectations or talked into accepting legislative table scraps. Pass them all. With loud voices all summer, we must demand legislators get to work on Abbott’s called agenda and Pass Them All.