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Political science expert breaks down the need for special sessions in Texas

Posted at 9:49 AM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 10:49:33-04

BELL COUNTY, TX — Governor Greg Abbott followed through on his promise of vetoing a section of state budget funding for state lawmakers after many house democrats walked out to block the passage of Senate Bill 7, a bill that would overhaul elections rights in the state.

Post-walkout, Abbott tweeted he will veto Article 10 of the budget passed by the state legislature, which funds the legislative branch.

He added to the tweet, “No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities.”

Now, the Governor is adding additional special sessions to the list of to-dos for the politicians this fall, something he said is to address ‘unfinished business,’ and would expose ‘taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session.’

However, what does this mean and what is a special legislative session?

“Every state allows for special sessions in case there is a need for the legislature to consider something after the regular session,” Dr. John Koehler, a political science expert at Texas A&M Central Texas said. “Most states allow the legislature to cooperate with the governor in deciding whether or not there is a special session, but Texas in 39 states, only the governor is able to call a special session. So it really kind of gives insight into the increased executive powers that we have here in Texas.”

When asked about Abbott’s statement regarding high costs for taxpayers and how much it costs on average to hold a special session, Dr. Koehler explained that it’s more of a personal burden on lawmakers who have to carve out more time in the fall than they were expecting, rather than a financial burden.

“I don't have the exact numbers, to be honest with you, I'd have to look them up,” he admitted. “But state representatives get a per diem. So I don't believe, as far as I know, I don't believe it impacts their salary, which is already quite minimal.”

25 News then asked whose income it would affect if not the lawmakers themselves.

“The veto of the funding bill does impact the staff? Yes. I'm not too aware of the details of that,” he said. “They essentially staged the protests, you know, similar, kind of like a filibuster type deal for like the last hour but it’s a little insincere there to say that they didn't earn their pay for the session when you're talking about the very tail end of it there.”

Leaving with one last question to ask, should the public be worried the Governor called another special session after many house Democrats walked out during the vote of Senate Bill 7?

“I think the important thing for voters to keep in mind is that the special session is entirely at the discretion of the governor,” he said. “Blame can be shifted between legislators and the governor, but it's the governor that decides whether or not to hold a special session.”

Dr. Koehler said it’s very common to have extra sessions in Texas because the legislature only meets once every other spring, oftentimes leaving some agenda items unfinished and needing extra time to complete.