A look at what will be on Texas’ special session agenda

Gender neutral bathroom (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered state lawmakers back to work starting July 18 for a sweeping, 30-day special legislative session covering 20 topics.

Here’s what the governor wants tackled as the Legislature enters overtime for the first time since 2013:

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BATHROOM BILL: Abbott wants Texas to become the first state since North Carolina to restrict restroom access for transgender people, demanding legislation that “protects the privacy of our children” in public schools. The Republican-led Texas House passed such a measure doing that during the regular, 140-day session that ended May 29 — but it died in the GOP-controlled state Senate, which was holding out far broader restrictions applying to most public restrooms and facilities in government buildings.

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ABORTION: The governor wants to prohibit taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortions and to bar some insurance plans from covering the procedure. He also wants to strengthen regulations mandating that clinics and other health facilities report to state authorities all complications arising after abortions are performed, even though such complications are rare.

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SCHOOL VOUCHERS: Abbott revived a voucher proposal offering taxpayer funding so some special education students can attend private school. The bill passed during the regular session in the Senate — which for years has championed school vouchers — but stalled in the House. There, Democrats and rural Republicans, who represent small districts where private schools are scarce and public ones are social and cultural hubs, have long teamed up to oppose vouchers in any form.

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OTHER EDUCATION POLICY: Abbott endorsed legislation that would increase teacher pay statewide by $1,000 and proposals giving school administrators more flexibility in hiring and retaining teachers. He also wants Texas to create a commission to study ways to fix its troubled school finance system after a bill that would have begun an actual revamp died during the regular session amid a House-Senate battle over vouchers.

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VOTER FRAUD: Abbott wants lawmakers to take another try at cracking down on what he called “mail-in ballot fraud.”

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MATERNAL MORTALITY: The governor wants to revive a bill that seeks to extend a special task force on maternal mortality from 2019 to 2023. A recent, University of Maryland-led study found that Texas’ maternal mortality rate doubled between 2010 and 2012 and remains the highest in the nation — though it offered few explanations as to why.

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PROPERTY TAX CUTS: The governor wants reductions in property taxes statewide and backed a plan that would require local governments to put proposals for hefty tax increase to voters. That referendum proposal was so bitterly opposed by municipal leaders that it largely derailed a more-comprehensive property tax reform bill during the regular legislative session.

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LOCAL GOVERNMENT LIMITS: The Legislature should cap state and local spending, prevent cities from restricting tree-cutting practices on private land and bar local governments from modifying rules on construction projects once they’ve begun, Abbott said. He also wants to speed up local governmental permitting processes, limit cities’ ability to annex surrounding territory and expand an already approved statewide ban on texting while driving to supersede a “patchwork” of existing local prohibitions previously adopted around Texas.

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UNION DUES: The governor is reviving an effort stalled during the regular session to end voluntary payroll deductions of union dues from state and public employee paychecks.

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END OF LIFE CARE: Abbott wants to bring back a bill that failed to pass during the regular session seeking to restrict when do-not-resuscitate orders can be carried out on terminally ill patients.

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AGENCY OPERATION: Abbott said lawmakers can only began working on all the other items he asked for after the Senate has approved a series of logistical bills allowing several state agencies to continue functioning. Those proposals passed the House but died in the Senate during the regular session. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Senate, said as the regular session was ending that he was effectively forcing Abbott to call a special session by not passing them — now he’s gotten his wish.

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