AUSTIN (KXAN) — When Gov. Greg Abbott called lawmakers back for a special session this summer, he tasked them with a 20-item agenda. However, when the Texas legislature adjourned Tuesday night — one day before the official last day of the session — only a handful of items ended up making it to the governor’s desk.
KXAN’s Phil Prazan spoke with Abbott about what was accomplished this session:
KXAN: Can you make the case that Texas is a better state than it was 30 days ago?
Abbott: Absolutely. Because if it were not for the special session we would not have been able to add the much-needed money that was needed by our retired teachers for their health care. We would not have a plan in the school finance system to come up with solutions for the next session to ensure that we overhaul the way we finance education in the state of Texas and finally get rid of the Robin Hood [system] that is now a nightmare for the Austin area.
Texas is also better because we passed a reform that will crack down on mail-in ballot voter fraud, ensuring that we are going to protect the integrity of our ballot box and prevent cheating and illegal voting in the state of Texas. And also we passed several reforms that reduced regulations on homeowners in Austin and around the state.
KXAN: Did Speaker Joe Straus get in the way of what did not pass?
Abbott: Here’s the deal: There were I think 10 of my 20 items that did not pass. Of those 10, nine never received a vote on the House floor. Some never made it into committee, let alone out of committee. So there were roadblocks to our ability to even get a vote.
The least that I asked for was a vote by the members of the House and Senate so that voters at home could decide if they are for or against this particular legislator. And remember this Phil, that is, of my 20 items, the Texas Senate was able to pass 18 of them out of the Senate all together in just one week, proving what I said before the session began. If items fail, it won’t be because of a lack of time, it will be because of a lack of will.
KXAN: How big of a role did Straus play in stopping that?
Abbott: It’s clear by the fact that these items that did not pass, did not even get out of committee, that he had some or total control over that process. But what we need to find out is we need the members to go back home to their districts. They need to hear from their citizens, from their constituents and their constituents need to let their members know about the importance of these issues, such as my top issue, and that is reducing property taxes in Texas. Whether they live here in Austin, or across the state, they need to let their legislator know that reducing property taxes in Texas is so important.
KXAN: Are you going to call a special session on redistricting and then tack on issues you like?
Abbott: I’ve been working with the Texas attorney general last night, and then with his office today on what our response is. And understand this, this is the same court that in 2012 issued a similar opinion about these very same districts. When I was attorney general, I appealed that decision all the way to the Supreme Court and won a 9-0 opinion from the United States Supreme Court, striking down what this very same lower-court decision.