Austin, (KXAN)- – Summer vacation comes to an end Tuesday at the State Capitol. Lawmakers will return to Austin for the start of the special session. Their first task, the unfinished business of passing a bill to continue the Texas Medical Board, which licenses physicians in the state. But after that, Governor Abbott set the stage for a series of pitched battles between lawmakers. He added issues that divided lawmakers during the regular session to the call, including the bathroom bill and school choice legislation.
Sunday morning on KXAN’s political program State of Texas, anchor Robert Hadlock took a closer look at the expectations for the special session, speaking to lawmakers and experts with different perspectives on the tasks ahead.
“We’re here to deal with those issues that can have the most significant impact on the lives of Texans, said State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin). She pointed to legislation to change the way Texans pay for public schools. “I hear a lot of us talking about school finance, making sure we’re addressing the kinds of things that can really have an impact on our property taxes, since school taxes are over 50 percent of our property taxes.”
Rep. Howard said she’ll work to stop what she calls “manufactured issues” like the bathroom bill. “There’s no one talking to me about that,” she said, referring to her constituents. She said some business representatives, including Apple and IBM, have reached out to her to say they’re opposed to the bill. “This is bad for business,” she said.
Rep. Howard says she’s also fighting the Governor’s push to roll back local regulations, like the City of Austin ordinance that restricts a private property owner’s ability to cut down certain types of trees. But another Austin representative is stepping up to help Governor Abbott’s effort. Rep. Paul Workman (R-Austin) posted a picture last week of his meeting with the Governor addressing the pending legislation. He said he’s been working to pass similar measures for several sessions. “We just believe that a person should have the right on their own property to do as they wish,” Rep. Workman said. “If they believe that a tree needs to come down they should have the right to do that.”
Rep. Workman says his constituents have their eyes on rolling back one key power of cities like Austin. “Annexation. Without question, annexation,” Rep. Workman said when asked about the number one issue constituents are asking him about. “We have a number of communities in our area which are very concerned about forced annexation and they want something done about that.”
Legislation to restrict annexation powers did not make it through the regular session. It’s not clear this, and other divisive issues will fare in the shortened time span of the special session. “We had 140 days in the regular session to deal with some of these issues and they did not pass,” Rep. Howard said. “I don’t think it’s going to change in a 30 day special session.”