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The history and power of Governors in terms of special sessions

Texas Capitol Rotunda
Posted at 7:25 PM, Jul 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 20:41:42-04

The special session that began Thursday, July 8, is not the only special session that is expected to take place this year.

In fact the Texas Constitution, Article 4 section 8(a), does not place time limits on the Governor's power to call for a special session.

"The Governor may, on extraordinary occasions, convene the Legislature at the seat of Government, or at a different place, in case that should be in possession of the public enemy or in case of the prevalence of disease threat. His proclamation therefor shall state specifically the purpose for which the Legislature is convened."

Vernon's Constitution of the State of Texas Annotated examines Article 4, section 8 and further explains how the Governor is not obligated to give the legislature a notice in advance.

"[The Governor] may call at any time and for any reason, although he must state his purpose in the proclamation calling the legislators to special session," according to Vernon's Constitution of the State of Texas Annotated.

How have past Governors have taken action on this?

Governor Bill Clements called a special session of the 70th Legislature at 1:30 a.m. on June 2nd, 1987. The special session was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on that same morning and only lasted one day.

Special sessions have no minimum amount of time but they can only last up to 30 days.

The 1st called session of the 38th Legislature was convened by Gov. Pat Neff in 1923. No bills were passed during the one hour session.

Additionally, more than one topic can be brought up during the special session and there is no limitation on the number of topics that are brought up; according to the Legislative Reference Library of Texas, 153 topics were designated during the 1st called session of the 43rd Legislature.

The topics for consideration have to be those designated in the proclamation of the Governor, although the Governor can expand to include more topics at anytime; and one chamber of the legislature alone can not be called into a special session - both must be present, according to the Legislative Reference Library of Texas.

The special session that began Thursday, July 8, is also set to last 30 days and will address 11 agenda items.