Texas Gov. Greg Abbott addresses the Texas Public Policy Foundation ahead of the legislative special session in Austin, Texas. Moderating the talk is Kevin Roberts, the foundation’s executive vice president. Ralph Barrera American-Statesman via AP
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott addresses the Texas Public Policy Foundation ahead of the legislative special session in Austin, Texas. Moderating the talk is Kevin Roberts, the foundation’s executive vice president. Ralph Barrera American-Statesman via AP

State Politics

Abbott says he’ll call out lawmakers who oppose him during special session

By Morgan Smith

The Texas Tribune

July 17, 2017 5:40 PM

Gov. Greg Abbott said that he would publicly call out lawmakers who didn’t support his 20-item legislative agenda, while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick came out swinging against House leadership during Monday appearances on the eve of Texas’ special legislative session.

Abbott said he would aggressively hold lawmakers accountable for their positions on his legislative agenda and encouraged others to do the same.

“I’m going to be establishing a list,” he said in remarks at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank. “We all need to establish lists that we publish on a daily basis to call people out — who is for this, who is against this, who has not taken a position yet. No one gets to hide.”

The governor was forced to call the session after lawmakers jeopardized a handful of state agencies, including the Texas Medical Board, when legislation reauthorizing them fell victim to a standoff between the House and Senate over a bill that would regulate bathroom use in public buildings for transgender people.

Along with the “bathroom bill,” Abbott put 19 topics on lawmakers’ plate, including teacher pay, limits on property tax increases not approved by voters, private school vouchers for special needs students and limits on municipal annexations.

Abbott said that while all were important, he considered addressing property taxes the “No. 1 issue” of the special session.

“We are hearing stories about people who are being taxed out of their homes because of rising property taxes,” he said. “You don’t really own your home, it seems like, it’s the appraisers. That must stop.”

Leading up to the special session, Abbott has urged lawmakers to go “20 for 20” and pass all of his priorities. Patrick has declared his support for the governor’s full agenda, saying last week that “his agenda is my agenda is the people’s agenda.”

The governor faces more challenges in the House, where Speaker Joe Straus has made clear he opposes the legislation restricting public bathroom use for transgender Texans.

In a speech after Abbott’s, Patrick spent most of his remarks detailing the education plan he unveiled at a press conference last week, but he worked in plenty of jabs at Straus, again making an unfounded accusation that the speaker was behind a push for a statewide income tax.

Patrick promised to be the governor’s “wingman,” repeatedly casting Straus as the enemy of Abbott’s priorities and saying he would not “sit back” while Straus derailed their conservative agenda.

“Gov. Abbott and I don’t want Texas to become Illinois or California,” he said. “Now the speaker? Nice guy. But he’s opposite on the issues.”

Abbott also weighed in on school finance reform during his remarks, touting his plan to create a commission to study the topic.

Straus has said a school finance reform study is too little, too late.

Abbott cast doubt that there would be “some genius moment in the course of the next 30 days where some brilliant legislator is going to come up with the silver bullet” to solve the persistent problem that has led multiple judges to declare the state’s system unconstitutional.

“If it has been studied aplenty that means someone would have come up with a solution,” said Abbott, responding to the criticism that the time had come for action rather than further studies on school finance. “No one has been able to galvanize behind the studies that have been done so far, so I submit to you that the studies that have been done so far have been inadequate.”

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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