Abbott Calls Fourth Special Session as Third Ends

Texas Capitol building | Image by Sean Pavone

Texas lawmakers ended their third special legislative session without passing school choice or border security legislation, prompting Gov. Greg Abbott to call for a fourth special session on Tuesday.

Abbott previously outlined his priorities for the third special session, which began on October 9, highlighting school choice and border security as topics lawmakers needed to address.

The agenda was expanded at the end of October to help bolster support for a school choice bill that stalled in the House, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

Still, lawmakers were unable to advance either of Abbott’s priorities, so the governor officially called for another special session.

“The Texas Legislature made progress over the past month protecting Texans from forced COVID-19 vaccinations and increasing penalties for human smuggling,” said Abbott in a press release. “However, there is more work to be done. I am immediately calling lawmakers back for Special Session #4 to complete their critical work.”

“[Lawmakers must] empower Texas parents to choose the best education pathway for their child while providing billions more in funding for Texas public schools and continuing to boost safety measures in schools,” he continued. “We must pass laws that will enhance the safety of all Texans by increasing funding for strategic border barriers and mirroring the federal immigration laws President Joe Biden refuses to enforce.”

Sherri Greenberg, who works at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, said the third special session was “a disappointment” for Abbott.

“However, it’s not coming as a shock to anyone,” she added, according to The Dallas Morning News.

House and Senate leadership have been at odds since the regular sessions, with tensions ratcheting up even further in the aftermath of Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment and subsequent acquittal, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

During the third special session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) clashed over a border security bill passed by the House.

HB 4, sponsored by Rep. David Spiller (R-Jacksboro), would have allowed local and state law enforcement to arrest suspected unlawful migrants.

Although the Senate Committee on Border Security advanced the bill to the full Senate, Patrick took to social media to call the legislation a “Texas-sized catch-and-release bill.”

Phelan responded to Patrick, claiming the lieutenant governor’s comments were a “desperate bid to salvage what’s left of his credibility on border security this special session.”

In addition to clashing over border security, lawmakers were split throughout the session on school choice, particularly in the House.

Rep. Brian Harrison (R-Midlothian) has voiced his support for a bill, stating, “Over 30 other states have already empowered their parents with some form of [school choice]. Texas must finally join them.”

In contrast, Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) claimed that within his own party — which comprises the House majority — there was plenty of opposition to advancing school choice legislation.

“I’m comfortable we have enough like-minded rural Republicans, and urban Republicans, to stand against that in numbers sufficient to defeat it,” he claimed, according to The Texas Tribune.

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