Fourth special session begins in Texas legislature

Almost as soon as the third special session of 2023 ended, the fourth one began as Gov. Greg Abbott issued his proclamation setting the start for the next special session for 5 p.m. Tuesday — the same day the previous one came to a close.

The fourth special session is an attempt to pull items across the finish line that stalled out during the October special, including an education savings account program, the creation of a penalty for illegal entry into the state from a foreign nation, border barrier funding, and a medley of school funding measures.

The proclamation includes:

Creating an education savings account program

Providing a pay raise to teachers and other school employees

Increasing school funding through the basic student allotment

Additional school safety and security measures

Establishing a state penalty for illegal entry into Texas from a foreign nation, with removal language for state law enforcement

Appropriating more funding for the construction of border barriers

Allotting more state dollars to fund overtime expenses associated with the Texas Department of Public Safety’s operations in Colony Ridge

Abbott said, “The Texas Legislature made progress over the past month protecting Texans from forced COVID-19 vaccinations and increasing penalties for human smuggling.”

“However, there is more work to be done. I am immediately calling lawmakers back for Special Session #4 to complete their critical work to empower Texas parents to choose the best education pathway for their child while providing billions more in funding for Texas public schools and continuing to boost safety measures in schools.” 

He continued, “We must pass laws that will enhance the safety of all Texans by increasing funding for strategic border barriers and mirroring the federal immigration laws President Joe Biden refuses to enforce. Texas will also arrest people for illegal entry into our state from a foreign nation, and authorize the removal of anyone who illegally enters our 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, illegal re-entry will be penalized with up to 20 years in prison. I look forward to working with members of the Texas Legislature to better secure Texas and pass school choice for all Texas families.”

The school choice issue never really got off the ground in the House during the third special. The Senate passed its plan, but the House never held a hearing on its proposal.

In the final days, Abbott announced that there was a deal struck, but subsequent statements by Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick indicated there wasn’t — at least not one that could be sped through the process in time before the 30-day clock ran out.

However, last Friday, Chairman Brad Buckley (R-Killeen) unveiled a new proposal he said would be filed when or if the governor called the body back into session for a fourth special. The 177-page bill includes a $10,500 education savings account program that would reach about 40,000 students based on the budget appropriation; a $540 increase to the basic student allotment; and a $4,000 bonus-plus-pay-raise for full-time teachers.

To pass school choice, proponents in the lower chamber need 24 more votes based on the “Herrero amendment” test back during the regular session — which came out 86 against vouchers or similar proposals, 52 in favor, and 11 registered present-not-voting. 

Coincidentally, that 24-person delta is the exact number of Republicans in the chamber who voted for the Herrero budget amendment that’d prohibit state dollars from being used for school choice programs.

The education section also mentions school safety and security funding, something the Legislature allotted $327 million for during the regular session through House Bill 3.

The other items that also stalled out in the Legislature during the third special session include a $1.5 billion appropriation for border barrier construction, the Senate’s version of which encompassed $40 million for state law enforcement overtime aimed at Colony Ridge, and the creation of a state offense for illegal entry into Texas from a foreign nation.

Patrick and Phelan grappled last week over the sufficiency of their chambers’ respective bills on the illegal entry penalty and border wall funding.

The Texas House will convene on Tuesday at 5 p.m. and again on Wednesday morning to begin the fourth special session. It’s unclear when the Senate will begin its proceedings as Patrick is currently recovering from viral pneumonia.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post