Gov. Greg Abbott to convene special session of Texas Legislature on July 8

Nicole Cobler Chuck Lindell
Austin American-Statesman
Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday he'll convene a special session of the Legislature on July 8, with the agenda to come sometime before the session begins.

Gov. Greg Abbott will convene a special session of the Legislature starting July 8, he announced Tuesday, making good on his promise to bring lawmakers back to the Capitol this year.

Abbott will release agenda items prior to the special session, he said in a statement. 

The announcement comes three weeks after a tumultuous end to the 140-day regular session, with House Democrats walking out of the Capitol ahead of a midnight deadline to pass bills, successfully blocking a GOP effort to overhaul election laws. Abbott pledged to reconvene the Legislature to take up the matter again.

MORE: Legislature is gone (for now). Here's what it did, and left undone, in the session

Republicans said Senate Bill 7 was needed to bolster flagging confidence in election results; Democrats called it voter suppression, saying many of the proposed rules targeted people of color.

The battle drew national attention, amid similar efforts in other GOP-led legislatures to tighten election laws,

Abbott also said he would ask the Legislature to take up changes to bail laws in a special session after a measure addressing the bail system also died without action at session's end.

House Bill 20 would have denied personal bonds, which do not require cash, for those charged with violent or sexual crimes and those charged with a felony while free on bond. It also would have required judges to be informed about a defendant's criminal history, and take that information into account, before setting bail.

More:Gov. Abbott vetoed 20 Texas bills. Here are some of them and his reasons.

But many Democrats argued HB 20 would criminalize poverty by allowing freedom only for those who could afford a money bond.

Abbott last week mentioned a third issue that he would add to a special session agenda when he signed into law House Bill 3979, which limits how race can be discussed in Texas classrooms. The governor called the bill a "strong move to abolish critical race theory in Texas," but he said that more needs to be done.

"The issue will be added to a special session agenda," he said at the time.

Supporters say critical race theory seeks an honest exploration of how racism shaped America, but many conservatives see it as a divisive effort to drive a wedge between people of color and white Americans.

More:'Hoping to light a fire,' Texas Democrats seek to build momentum from walkout

Another likely special session item will be restoring money for the legislative branch that Abbott vetoed last week in retaliation for the House Democrats' quorum-busting walkout that killed the GOP election bill in the closing hours of the regular session. The budget veto would take effect Sept. 1.

Abbott has said he foresees a second special session to handle the redrawing of district boundaries for the Texas House and Senate, U.S. House and State Board of Education, a decennial process postponed because of federal delays releasing census data. He has said that lawmakers also would allocate $16 billion in federal coronavirus relief dollars as part of that redistricting special session. 

During the regular session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick urged the governor to call a special session to resurrect three of his priority bills that House Democrats used delaying tactics to kill: limits on transgender student athletes, ending taxpayer-funded lobbying and protecting conservative speech on social media.

Abbott did not publicly respond directly to Patrick's plea.

A similar call from Patrick in 2017 helped spur Abbott to add the "bathroom bill" — an effort to crack down on transgender-friendly bathroom and locker room policies — to a special session that also included abortion limits and other conservative wish-list items. The bathroom limits, however, died in extra innings as the House focused on other priorities.

Special sessions last 30 days, and the governor determines what issues lawmakers will address in the overtime period.