Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is drawing a line in the sand for House Speaker Joe Straus and his lieutenants, demanding that the House pass conservative reforms that have so far been blocked or face a special session.
At a press conference Wednesday morning, Patrick told reporters he was willing to go to a special session if necessary to pass two major issues: substantial property tax reform and legislation to protect women’s privacy in public restrooms, showers, and locker rooms.
“Here’s the bottom line—I want to avoid a special session, but I am prepared for one if the House does not pass the Senate version of SB 2 and if the House does not pass SB 6 or amend another bill with language on the Texas Privacy Act,” said Patrick. “I need the House to commit to do both and move quickly in good faith.”
Both bills have been watered down and obstructed in the Texas House by Straus and his allies.
The property tax reforms that Patrick mentions are embodied in Senate Bill 2 by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston). If passed, the bill would allow voters to have an automatic election on any tax increase of five percent or more.
Passed by the Texas Senate in March, the bill was held hostage by Straus for nearly a month before being referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means where it was further delayed. A gutted version of the legislation was voted out last week and is scheduled to be considered on the House floor on Thursday, but conservatives will have to work hard in order to salvage the bill and return it to a serviceable shield for taxpayers.
“The people don’t care how many sessions it takes for us to go home,” said Patrick. “They care whether they can stay in their homes.”
The Texas Privacy Act, meanwhile, has yet to even be scheduled for a vote. Though Senate Bill 6 by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham) passed out of the Texas Senate with bipartisan support in March it’s since been obstructed by Straus who has gone on-the-record to oppose the measure and has even refused to refer it to committee.
Meanwhile, a watered-down version of the legislation by State Rep. Ron Simmons (R–Carrollton) was killed by Straus’ hatchet-man, State Affairs Chairman Byron Cook (R–Corsicana). Since the bill’s death, a number of lawmakers have added their names in support of the legislation—seeking credit from their constituents for supporting the bill after the fact.
But their feigned support for that legislation now gives a public demonstration that SB 6 would pass if it comes to the floor for a vote— something Patrick noted in his remarks.
While only Gov. Greg Abbott can call a special session, Patrick can effectively force the issue by preventing the passage of the state budget or a bill renewing certain state agencies. That latter tool is in his arsenal thanks to the Texas House Freedom Caucus, who killed the House omnibus sunset safety net bill.
Because the Texas Freedom Caucus killed the House sunset safety net bill, Patrick and the Texas Senate are in full control of the legislation. Should they decline to come to Straus’s rescue and vote the senate bill out, several state agencies – including the Texas Medical Board – would be scheduled to close their doors at the year’s end. That untenable result that would certainly force Abbott to call lawmakers back for a special session.
While establishment lawmakers often oppose special sessions, conservatives tend to favor them as they have traditionally been vehicles for major conservative victories such as the defeat of liberal State Sen. Wendy Davis’ (D–Fort Worth) filibuster and the passage of pro-life legislation.
“Whether we have a special session is in the hands of the House,” said Patrick. “The people are watching.”
A full video of his remarks can be viewed here: