A special session may be on the horizon for Texas lawmakers

Posted Friday, May. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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In the waning days of the 83rd legislative session, some lawmakers see more than light at the end of this 140-day tunnel.

They see a special session.

“At this point in the session, everyone thinks there will be a special session,” said Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. “There are so many balls in the air.”

If Gov. Rick Perry calls a special session, he can name any topic he would like lawmakers to address — and add more at any time.

Many say the first issue would be the budget if it doesn’t pass this session. Other than that, redistricting would top a list that could also include anti-abortion measures and gun bills.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told the Star-Telegram on Thursday that he has asked Perry to call a special session to address conservative issues that failed this session, such as measures to require drug tests for welfare recipients, to allow concealed-handgun-license holders to carry weapons inside college buildings, to further restrict abortions and to allow school vouchers.

Perry remained mum Friday on whether he will call a special session.

“We are headed for the end of the session,” Perry said when reporters asked about a special session.

The regular session ends Monday — Memorial Day.

Some lawmakers say there is plenty of time left in the session to pass a budget to fund state business over the next two years.

“There’s no reason to have a special session when you still have days left to get everything done,” said Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie. “We are required to pass a budget, and I think that’s going to happen.

“So I see no reason for a special session. But obviously, that’s the governor’s decision.”

Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, isn’t so sure that the budget will make it.

“I don’t think the budget will be finished in time,” she said.

Redistricting

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, said that this has been a highly bipartisan session in the upper chamber but that the collegial spirit might not extend to a special session.

“Every time the lieutenant governor hasn’t been able to force his will, his plan has been, ‘Well, we will just come back and address the issues in a special session,’” she said. “We know there were a number of issues set aside.

“I think it’s a shame we are threatening to disrupt this … with a special session to readdress issues that came through this chamber and had their opportunity as any issue did.”

She said she believes a special session will address redistricting.

The question is whether Perry will call lawmakers back to make permanent the legislative boundaries drawn by a federal judicial panel last year — or to redraw the lines.

“I’m hopeful the current maps — the ones we all ran on — will be approved,” said Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth. “That, in my opinion, is the best answer for the state.”

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus asked Perry this week to protect the congressional districts that are represented by African-Americans.

“At least four African American districts are necessary to maintain fair proportional representation and to reflect the overall growth of the African American population,” read the letter, written on Veasey’s stationery.

Other issues

If Perry does call a special session, Nelson said, she hopes that he adds her bill to require Texans receiving welfare to be tested for drugs.

“I’m so disappointed it died,” she said. “We were able to put together a bill … with support from both ends of the political spectrum. Yet it died in the House.”

Democrats “chubbed” the bill, or talked it to death, after time ran out.

“A lot of people were involved; this was a team effort to defeat this bill,” Turner said. “It was bad public policy.”

Nelson disagrees.

“I sincerely hope the governor adds it to the call if he calls a special session,” she said.

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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