1) Gov. Greg Abbott today announced he is calling a special legislative session starting Tuesday, July 18 on the agenda of his dreams.
The session will include a broad array of goals Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick didn't achieve during the legislative session, including a version of the Paycheck Deception bill that would take away the economic freedom of state and local employees to support the labor organizations of their choice through payroll dues deduction.
Topics also include school finance, private school vouchers for special education students, the "bathroom bill," a variety of bills aimed at preempting city powers (including a return of the annexation bill that was the subject of an 11th-hour filibuster), a ceiling on local property tax increases, artificial limits on spending and other matters. The 19 topics will not be formally triggered until the Senate approves the one seemingly must-pass bill that extends the life of the Texas Medical Board, but that might take just a day or two.)
Many of the topics Abbott is adding were opposed by the United Labor Legislative Committee and by progressive organizations around the state.
Abbott also said he wants a $1,000 across-the-board pay raise for teachers, but within existing school budgets. And he said he has signed the anti-texting while driving bill, but wants lawmakers to revisit the subject to preempt local ordinances on cell phone use involving matters other than texting.
This is nothing less than a do-over session for a broad array of right-wing goals of Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Tea Party. It is a lot of things, but "conservative" does not fit the bill. The more appropriate word is "radical."
Abbott included the Paycheck Deception bill in his State of the State speech, so it is no surprise that the matter is a priority for him among 19 items. The bill died in the Texas House without receiving a committee hearing, but the procedural roadblocks against bills in a special session are much weaker. It will take straightforward opposition among lawmakers to stop that bill and any of the others.
The session could last up to 30 days. Abbott has the power to call more special sessions as he sees fit. The topics included in the session are broad enough to generate hundreds of bill proposals.
Based on the agenda, there is no question that labor activists and our progressive allies will need to stand and fight.
Abbott had tipped his hand toward calling a special session during a speech to Bell County Republicans in which he excoriated the City of Austin over SB 4 (the "show me your papers" bill) and other matters, doing a passable imitation of President Trump in the process. Among other things, he called Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez "Sanctuary Sally" and referred to the "People's Republic of Austin," the Austin American-Statesman reports.
The former is a misnomer. Hernandez has followed the law, which does not require cooperation on every "hold" requested by federal immigration officials, and has said she would adhere to the dictates of SB 4 if it takes effect as scheduled on Sept. 1.
The latter is an old quip about Austin that speaks more to partisanship - Travis County votes solidly Democratic - than to actual radical leftist views in our governance.
But name-calling is in these days in national politics, and apparently when it comes to the present Governor of Texas, respect is not.
See Jonathan Tilove's account of Abbott's Bell County remarks: http://www.statesman.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/gov-abbott-austin-stinks-and-does-sanctuary-sally/goq6JEihda4PzADg2lOMgO/
2) Here is the list of topics Abbott put out in a news release:
Teacher pay increase of $1,000
Administrative flexibility in teacher hiring and retention practices
School finance reform commission
School choice for special needs students
Property tax reform
Caps on state and local spending
Preventing cities from regulating what property owners do with trees on private land
Preventing local governments from changing rules midway through construction projects
Speeding up local government permitting process
Municipal annexation reform
Texting while driving preemption
Prohibition of taxpayer dollars to collect union dues
Prohibition of taxpayer funding for abortion providers
Pro-life insurance reform
Strengthening abortion reporting requirements when health complications arise
Strengthening patient protections relating to do-not-resuscitate orders
Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud
Extending maternal mortality task force
3) Do something!: Here's a chance to weigh in on putting potential changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement on the right track.
Bob Cash of the Texas Fair Trade Coalition passes along word that a comment period before the U.S. Trade Representative will be closing next Monday, June 12. Celeste Drake of the AFL-CIO posted an explanation of what you can do to help and Brother Cash passed along a link that has suggested language that you may adopt or rewrite.
From Sister Drake's explanation:
Recently, the Trump administration notified Congress that it plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement-better known as NAFTA-with some in the president's administration saying it simply needs to be "modernized."
The U.S. Trade Representative's office is accepting comments from the public until June 12. It's important that working people speak up for ourselves now, the same as we did with the Trans-Pacific Partnership...
NAFTA-to put it bluntly-was terrible for working families in the United States, as well as our allies to the north and south, Canada and Mexico. The terrible deal triggered job losses, depressed wages and more power for corporations across all three countries.
Millions of working people stood united to make sure that the Trans-Pacific Partnership didn't pass once we saw that the agreement left working people out in the cold. We have fought hard for trade policy that works for working folks and now is not the time to let up.