By Gary Gillen
Because the Legislature meets for only 140 days every other year in Regular Session it is not always possible to get all the work done the Legislature needs to do. The one thing they must do is adopt a biennial budget. That is often the most contentious bill the Legislature must pass. The budget sets the course and priorities for state government and its agencies. The Federal Government is run by Secretaries of the various Federal agencies. Texas is different. Texas government is run by boards and commissions. The members of those Boards and Commissions are appointed by the Governor with the Advice and Consent of the Texas Senate. The Budget tells those individuals what the Legislature deems important.
There are so many decisions that our legislators must make in a very compressed period and many members have projects that are important to their constituents and all of these interests are trying to get their issues addressed through the budget. For this and other reasons it may be impossible for the House and Senate to agree on and adopt a budget. And even if the House and Senate agree on the budget and send it to the Governor he may veto the budget if he does not like what is in it or what is not. If the Legislature cannot agree on a budget by the end of the session or the Governor vetoes it then a Special Session must be called by the Governor.
The Governor may call a special session or several special sessions at any time the Legislature is not in session. Each Special Session has a 30 day maximum. The Governor alone decides the topics to be addressed in the Special Sessions. In 2013, you may recall that then-Governor Rick Perry called the Legislature back to Austin for three Special Sessions. After the 83rd Regular Session which ran from January 8 to May 27, 2013, He called a Special Session that began the last day of the regular session and ran until June 25th. The major topics were to adopt the Redistricting Plan as ordered by the Federal Courts; Transportation Infrastructure funding; Establish a mandatory sentence of Life with parole for a capital felony committee by a 17 year old; and Establish regulation of abortion procedures, providers and facilities.
The Governor called the legislature back into session on July 1 for a thirty day session to consider Legislation Establishing a Mandatory Sentence of Life with Parole for a Capital Felony committee by a 17 year old; Funding Transportation Infrastructure projects; and Regulating Abortion procedures, providers and facilities. Three issues from the previous Special Session.
Finally, on July 30, the last day of the Second Special Session, Governor Perry Called the Legislature back for a Special Session with one major job. To consider Transportation Infrastructure projects. They completed the task in 7 days. Perhaps they were ready to go home after having been in session 207 days.
As I write this column we do not know if a Special Session will be needed. But with a couple of weeks left in the 84th Regular Session the House and Senate must still address the Budget, School Finance, Tax Reform, handgun legislation and other issues. Both Chambers agree that tax reform is needed but each has a different plan. The House concentrating on Sales Tax reduction while the Senate wants to reduce property tax.
All of these issues are important and some or all of them may be better considered in a special session with limited issues to consider. Let’s hope a Special Session isn’t needed.
Gary Gillen owns and operates Gillen Pest Control and Gillen Political Strategies in Richmond. He is the only person in history to have served on both the Richmond City Commission and the Rosenberg City Council. He was the Chairman of the Republican Party of Fort Bend County 2006-2007. He can be contacted at Gary@GaryGillen.com