By Andrew Trunsky
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s special legislative session focuses the GOP-backed voting reforms, combatting critical race theory in schools and prohibiting transgender women from partaking in women’s sports.
The session begins Thursday, and Abbott released the agenda 24 hours earlier. Other issues on the table include pushing back against social media “censorship” and funding for the state’s legislative branch, which Abbott vetoed after the election bill failed.
“The 87th Legislative Session was a monumental success for the people of Texas, but we have unfinished business to ensure that Texas remains the most exceptional state in America,” Abbott said in a statement.
Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a tweet that the legislature would pick up the election legislation first, and that committee hearings would begin Saturday.
Senate Bill 7, which would overhaul Texas elections, failed to pass the state senate in May after Democrats walked off the floor in protest. It would limit mail-in voting, change early voting hours and completely ban drive-thru voting, which was predominantly used in large cities like Houston.
It empowers partisan poll watchers and increases penalties for elections officials who violate state laws or make mistakes while tabulating ballots. The bill also makes it easier for a judge to overturn an election in the state if the number of votes cast illegally is enough to change the outcome of the race.
Abbott vetoed the legislature’s funding after Democrats’ walkout, affecting the pay of both state lawmakers and their staff. Abbott’s veto did not come without warning, but his opponents immediately labeled it an abuse of power, and asked the state Supreme Court to override it.
The special session, which begins Thursday at 10 a.m. local time, does not include anything about upgrading Texas’ electric grid, which failed during a deadly February storm. Officials also asked residents months later to conserve energy amid a record heat wave.
Abbott has already announced another special session for the fall, which he said will address Texas’ redistricting and allocating billions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief funds.
The first session, which focuses on top conservative priorities, comes as Texas GOP Chair Allen West launched a primary campaign against Abbott, alleging that he is not conservative enough.
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