After Texas House Democrats squashed several bills addressing some of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s top priorities — banning transgender girls from girls sports, stopping social media “censorship” of conservatives and banning taxpayer-funded lobbying — Patrick asked Gov. Greg Abbott Wednesday to keep the state Legislature in town through June for a special session to bring those proposals back to life.
In turn, Abbott snapped back by telling state lawmakers — including Patrick, leader of the Texas Senate — that there’s still time for the Legislature to vote on measures that would address those issues before the legislative session ends on May 31.
The three Senate-backed bills Patrick is angry didn’t get through the state House won’t be able to be revived before the end of the current session because they failed to make it through the House by midnight on Tuesday, the deadline for the House to approve certain Senate bills.
That’s because Texas House Democrats successfully used stall tactics, like offering up loads of amendments to Senate bills being debated and using up the full ten minutes of speaking time allotted per representative for every bill up for discussion, to dramatically lengthen the time it took to debate every Senate bill ahead of Senate Bill 29, the bill that would have prevented transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams at Texas public schools.
Even though Democrats are outnumbered by Republicans in the state House, they were able to meet their goal of blocking the House from voting on SB 29 before that midnight Tuesday deadline, a bill Democrats and LGBTQ advocates argued was based more on transphobic pandering to conservatives than it was about “protecting girls sports” as Patrick claimed.
“Ding dong the bill is dead,” tweeted Democratic state Rep. Erin Zwiener once SB 29 had been blocked, alongside several of her Democratic colleagues carrying transgender pride flags.
Bills that would have prevented local governments from using taxpayer cash to pay for lobbyists in Austin and that would have stopped social media companies from blocking posts from Texans due to conservative viewpoints were behind the transgender sports bill in the voting pecking order, making them casualties of the Dems’ single-minded quest to stop SB 29.
The morning after Democrats pulled off their procedural power move, Patrick took to Twitter to request that Abbott use his gubernatorial powers to require state lawmakers to clock-in for legislative overtime in the form of a special session starting June 1 to resuscitate the bills on lobbying, social media censorship and transgender girls sports.
“The TxHouse killed these conservative bills that [a] majority of Texans in both parties support,” Patrick claimed, without any hard evidence on the bills’ popularity.
Asking @GregAbbott_TX to call a June #SpecialSession today to pass #SB29 to save girls sports, #SB10 to end taxpayer funded lobbying and #SB12 to stop social media censorship. The TxHouse killed these conservative bills that majority of Texans in both parties support. #txlege
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) May 26, 2021
Later Wednesday afternoon, Abbott issued a brief statement signalling he has no desire to call a special session before the Texas Legislature has exhausted all its options to continue approving legislation. Even though the three bills Patrick is incensed about are dead, their content could still be shoehorned into other legislation still being considered by the Legislature as amendments.
“Some are trying to end the game before the time clock has run out,” Abbott wrote. “There’s still time remaining for the House and Senate to work together to get important conservative legislation to my desk.”
“Members in both chambers need to be spending every minute of every day to accomplish that mission,” he argued.
This isn’t the first time Patrick has tried to pressure Abbott into calling the Legislature in for a special session to pass a law targeting transgender Texans. In 2017, Patrick asked Abbott to call state lawmakers back into town to pass “bathroom bill” legislation that would have required transgender men and women to only use public restrooms that align with their biological sex at birth.
Abbott at first resisted, but eventually did call a special session that summer, although the bathroom-bill still didn’t make it out of the Legislature due to opposition from moderate House Republicans led by former Speaker Joe Straus.
Patrick clearly wants to pressure Abbott into helping him get his conservative priorities passed into law ahead of his reelection campaign for lieutenant governor in 2022, and Abbott is facing plenty of pressure from the right for his own reelection race that year to stay in the Governor’s Mansion. Time will tell if he’s feeling enough heat from his right-flank to ultimately cave-in to Patrick’s demands.
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