Welcome to the latest edition of Texas Legislative News for the 88th Texas Legislature. In this weekly feature, we provide information on disability-related issues being considered at the State Capitol. We also include overviews of how lawmakers conduct business and provide details on upcoming TCDD events.
Monday, May 29, was the 140th – and final – day of the legislature’s regular session. Lawmakers adjourned sine die in the early evening. Ordinarily, this would be a time for celebration at the Capitol. Unfortunately, a number of issues prioritized by state leaders remain unaddressed, and the prospect of one or more special sessions was a virtual certainty. Sure enough, shortly after adjournment, the governor gave word that he was calling legislators back for a special session with an official start time of 9:00 p.m. that same evening.
The governor named two narrowly-focused items for lawmakers to consider: property tax relief and border security. The House and Senate both indicated that they would convene at noon on Tuesday, May 30, to begin their deliberations. They will have up to 30 days to come to an agreement on each of the topics. If they don’t find an agreement, the governor will have the option of calling another special session to force the issue. The governor’s statement already indicates that there will be multiple special sessions, with just a few of his priorities added for each one, “to ensure that each priority receives the time and attention it deserves to pass into law.”
Education Funding Still Unaddressed
Among the topics that many advocates are hoping to see addressed in a future special session is funding for public schools, including additional dollars for special education programs. House Bill 100 from the regular session would have provided such funding, as well as pay raises for teachers across the state, but was derailed in the final days by a Senate amendment that would have created a private school voucher program. The two chambers formed a conference committee to work out their differences on the bill, but it died when the Senate refused to strip their provision. Vouchers have been a major concern for disability advocates throughout the session and the House has, on multiple occasions, indicated an unwillingness to provide public dollars to private schools. We’ll see if the governor pushes the issue further in a special session.
Impeachment of a State Official
In the final days of the regular session, much of the conversation shifted away from the bills being considered, and over to the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton. Earlier this year, Paxton settled a whistleblower case for alleged misconduct and asked the Legislature to provide appropriations for the multi-million-dollar payout. This led the House General Investigating Committee to look into the claims raised in the lawsuit. Their probe uncovered what they believe to be grounds for removal from office. The committee put together a list of 20 charges. On Saturday, May 27, the House voted to impeach the attorney general. He will be suspended from office until the Senate holds a trial to determine if he is guilty of those charges and should be removed permanently. Such removal would require a two-thirds majority of the Senate’s 31 members. The trial is set to begin no later than Aug. 28. This process is quite rare; only one other statewide official has been impeached in Texas, over 100 years ago.
Veto Deadline Approaches
While the Legislature enters a special session, the governor will continue reviewing bills passed in the regular session. Governor Greg Abbott has until Sunday, June 18, to act on those measures. By then, he can choose to sign a bill into law, let a bill pass into law without his signature, or veto a bill and prevent it from taking effect. At this time, the governor has vetoed two bills from the 88th Texas Legislature. In previous sessions, he has vetoed as many as 56 bills.
Disability Policy Academy
On Wednesday, June 14, TCDD will host a Disability Policy Academy titled “A Capitol Recap: Disability Policy in the 88th Legislature.” The event is free and open to the public and will feature:
- an overview of new disability-related laws;
- a summary of disability issues that remain unaddressed;
- a discussion on topics lawmakers may cover in special session; and
- a Q&A session with TCDD’s public policy analysts.
The event will be held via Zoom. Participants must register ahead of time to attend.
Date: Wednesday, June 14, 2023
Time: 1-2:30 p.m. CT
Register to attend (The registration period has ended.)
Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) service will be provided. If you need other accommodations to participate, please contact Koren Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-437-5416.