Governor Abbott announces third special session agenda

The Texas Legislature will have border security, private vaccine mandates, and school choice on its plate when it reconvenes Monday according to the list of items announced by Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday afternoon.

In his proclamation released Thursday, Abbott listed the purpose of the third special session as to:

Establish an education savings account program for all Texas school children

Create a criminal offense for illegal foreign entry into Texas

Raise penalties for human smuggling

Appropriate additional funding for border barriers

Address the Colony Ridge development

Ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates by private businesses

“Together, we will chart a brighter future for all Texas children by empowering parents to choose the best education option for their child,” Abbott said in a statement. “Texas will also pass laws to mirror the federal immigration laws President Joe Biden refuses to enforce that will reduce illegal immigration and enhance the safety of Texans.” 

“For the first time ever, Texas will subject people to arrest for illegal entry into our state from a foreign nation. All licensed law enforcement officers in Texas will be authorized to arrest or remove any person who illegally enters the State, with penalties up to 20 years in prison for refusing to comply with removal. To crack down on repeated attempts to enter Texas illegally, re-entry will be penalized with up to 20 years in prison. Additionally, we must protect the freedom of Texans from forced COVID-19 vaccinations.”

The first item on that list is the most important for Abbott, who has poured a lot of political capital into creating the state’s first school choice program; his call specifically names a universal system. The idea had a tumultuous run during the regular session, particularly in the Texas House, whose Republican membership is especially divided on the issue.

It is thought that to pass the school choice plan, it will have to be tied to teacher or school funding bumps — but those are not on Abbott’s call, again raising the question debated during the first special session about whether the Legislature can only pass something specifically called for in the governor’s proclamation.

The smuggling of persons item was on the governor’s call for the first special session, but it foundered during the standoff between the two chambers over property taxes. 

Texas has been in the process of building its own border wall — which Abbott highlighted in a social media post this afternoon — along with the erection of the Rio Grande buoy barrier system that is currently the subject of federal litigation.

As for the Colony Ridge item, the Houston-area development has drawn a national spotlight in recent weeks, and state officials, including Abbott, have promised to address it in some capacity. Legislators were invited to tour the development with its owner on Thursday.

The last item listed is a ban on COVID-19 vaccine mandates by private employers, something the Republican Party of Texas and several legislators, including state Rep. Brian Harrison (R-Midlothian), have called for since the regular session. The Legislature passed a law in May that prohibits local governments from issuing COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates, along with school and business closure orders.

But now, the governor has tossed onto the target mandates by private employers — something with which businesses are likely to be unhappy.

The legislators will convene on Monday to take up these issues and any others Abbott decides to add during the 30-day sprint.

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