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War and Pee

Dan Patrick’s Scorched-Earth Potty Politics.

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File: Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick at a 2016 press conference on school restrooms.
Photograph by AP/LM Otero

The legislative ghost of former Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst still haunts the halls of the Texas Capitol. You can hear the chains rattle as someone whispers, Dan Patrick said he wouldn’t run against Dewhurst, and then he did. If you walk through a cool chill outside of Governor Greg Abbott’s office, you can imagine a sibilant spectral voice hissing, I could be the ghost of your election future. As the regular legislative session nears its end on Monday, Great David’s Ghost is a presence, especially in the past several days during the West Wing versus the East Wing verbal pissing match between Speaker Joe Straus and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick over transgender bathroom legislation.

With just three days left in the regular legislative session, Straus declared that he and the House will not pass legislation to limit multi-user bathroom access for transgender public school students. “It’s absurd that bathroom bills have taken on greater urgency than fixing our school finance system,” Straus said in a Friday evening news conference in the West Wing’s Speaker’s Committee Room. Across the rotunda, in the Senate Press Conference Room, Patrick responded by blaming the failure of bills to keep the Texas Medical Board alive on Straus and thus the need for a special session on bathrooms. “He laid down the gauntlet tonight,” Patrick said, as well as, “Tonight, I’m making it very clear, Governor. I want you to call us back.”

Before we proceed, let us take care of a little housekeeping first. Patrick said the House got bills to keep the medical board to the Senate too late. Those would be Senate Bills 1929 and 80 with House amendments. By a three-fifths vote, the Senate can do whatever it wants until midnight on Monday. If Patrick can’t muster the vote to keep doctors in Texas licensed to practice medicine, then he’s not the lieutenant governor we all think he is. Nope. Dan Patrick is killing that legislation to try to force a special session on bathrooms.

To really understand where we are today and the political maneuverings that go beyond the potty, we have to go back a few years and listen to Great David’s Ghost. The specter tells us that Patrick once promised not to run against Dewhurst for lieutenant governor and then did. That’s not exactly true. But the chain-rattling haunt might tell us—“at the end of the day”—Dan Patrick’s loyalties carry a caveat. They are good for the day they are uttered and subject to change.

During the 2011 legislative session, Patrick’s political obsession was on genitalia—especially that fondled by transportation safety personnel during aggressive pat-downs of airline passengers. Patrick wanted to make it a crime for a safety officer to touch private parts, but the then-Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst initially backed down after the federal government threatened to shut Texas airports if the bill passed. At the time, Dewhurst was considering a run for United States Senate. Patrick used that to ridicule him over failure of the pat-down bill in regular session. “We’ve had a good relationship, but someone who will undermine his members and someone who will not stand up to the federal government, you have to ask yourself is that the kind of person that we need in the United States Senate?” Patrick told reporters.

Straus at that time was in a similar position to where he is today: “The bill—without some serious revisions—appears to me to be nothing more than an ill-advised publicity stunt,” Straus said. A substantially toned-down version passed in special session. Does that sound familiar to anyone who watched Straus’ Friday night news conference on bathroom bills?

Eventually, Patrick and Dewhurst made up, and Patrick backed Dewhurst in his run for Senate against Ted Cruz. Along the way, Patrick said of The Dew, “There’s no way you can’t call him a conservative.” It was clear, Patrick thought Dewhurst winning the Senate seat would open the door for him to run for lieutenant governor. Dewhurst lost the Senate race, but rewarded Patrick with a committee chairmanship for the 2013 legislative session. Then Patrick’s anti-abortion legislation died on the final day in the famous Wendy Davis filibuster in no small part because Dewhurst mishandled the situation and was absent at dinner most of the evening.

Et tu, Danny? Patrick wasted little time putting a dagger into Dewhurst’s political career, declaring the need for “authentic conservative leadership” while announcing as a candidate against Dewhurst in the 2014 Republican primary. Patrick won and in January 2015 took the oath of office as the second-ranking state official, just behind Governor Abbott. I have little doubt that Patrick’s judo throw of Dewhurst has played no small part in two years of Abbott watching over his shoulder.

You say the staunchly conservative Abbott has nothing to fear? Patrick opened this legislative session with a news conference to put down rumors that he planned to run for governor. He dismissed rumors that he might run for U.S. Senate while incumbent John Cornyn was under consideration as a possible FBI director. Listen to the ghost of Dewhurst.

Here is what Patrick said about then-Attorney General Greg Abbott in 2011. “I would never want to run against him,” Patrick told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “And I told the attorney general, ‘I’m happy to be your co-pilot. As long as you believe in the things I believe, then I don’t have to be in the driver’s seat. I’m happy to push the cart.”

Take to heart the last part of that message to Abbott: “As long as you believe in the things I believe, then I don’t have to be in the driver’s seat.”

In this year’s bathroom debate, Abbott has sort of stumbled into putting Patrick into the driver’s seat. He and Patrick in 2015 both spoke out against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance in the campaign of “no men in women’s bathrooms.” Abbott also spoke out against President Obama’s transgender bathroom order for public schools. But when reporters asked him in December whether he would support a state law limiting multi-person bathrooms to gender specificity, he waffled. Abbott passed on declaring it an emergency and putting the law into the legislative mix. He also did not mention it in his state of the state address.

Then in mid-April, Abbott indicated possible support for House Bill 2899, which was not as harsh as Patrick’s Senate Bill 6, which applied to all government, college, and public school bathrooms. The House bill would have invalidated local ordinances protecting transgender bathroom access in Texas (there is only one city ordinance that does that) and it would have overturned some public school policies meant to accommodate transgender students. By that point, passage of a bathroom bill already was looking slim in Straus’ House, but now here was Abbott on the record wanting something to pass.

Then a column from Empower Texans that ran on some tea party web sites called House Bill 2899 “a weak-kneed half measure that is effectively toothless… Abbott’s actions on the matter, while weak, are a marked improvement from earlier this year.” Most of the state’s libertarian and Christian right groups had supported Patrick’s first version of the bathroom bill.

Two weeks ago the House passed a bathroom bill that applied only to public schools and only required them to accommodate students who wanted to use a single-occupancy toilet or changing room. Patrick threatened to force a special session on bathrooms and a failed bill on tax-rollback elections for cities and counties. Even two days ago, Abbott was still hoping for a compromise to avoid a special session. Conservative blogger David Jennings on Friday night wrote, “Will the Governor support Lt. Dan and the vast majority of Texas voters? Or will the Governor side with the Speaker, a man that has started to believe his own press and has made unforced errors in trying to protect the members of the House from voting on controversial issues?”

All versions of the bathroom bills still have opposition from major corporations, and it is unclear whether the NCAA would pull the 2018 Final Four basketball tournament out of San Antonio if a bathroom bill passes. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community consider all versions discriminatory and fear they might contribute to hate crimes. The issue remains politically contentious and appears mostly aimed at the 2018 Republican primary voter–you know, the ones who might decide a contest between Abbott and Patrick.

The medical board and property tax bills alone will give Abbott cover to call a special session this summer. Will Abbott add bathrooms? If he doesn’t, will he represent authentic conservative leadership in Patrick’s mind? And remember Patrick’s promise from 2011. “I told the attorney general, ‘I’m happy to be your co-pilot. As long as you believe in the things I believe, then I don’t have to be in the driver’s seat.”

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  • SeeItMyWay

    Oh, boy. What a train wreck.

    Does anyone truly think that Abbott and Patrick speak for the majority of those calling themselves Republican’s in the state of Texas?

    The radicals have taken over local precincts. They are supported by a stout PAC that funds their candidates of choice handsomely, and broadcasts through social media and mailers slanted and contrived messages crucifying anyone who stands in their way.

    Until the business community gets their act together and forms a counterbalancing well funded PAC, employing the exact save techniques as Tim Dunn has created and employed, we can expect more bozos like Patrick, Stickland, Campbell, Burton, and others to rule the roost.

    Many of these TP’er associated elected officials are personable and attractive. The problem is that they know nothing about business, and show this by labeling big businesses involved in civic/corporate partnerships as the enemy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The economic boost compared to the tax abatements they receive is monsterous.

    This bathroom bill will maybe get the major corps and Chamber of Commerce’s off their butt’s and into a private meeting where money is pledged and a striketeam formed to counteract the deliterious affects of Empower Texans, the TLR, and a handful of others.

    • WUSRPH

      As RG noted, Patrick is smart enough to have done his polling of his voting base. He probably has the numbers that make him willing to follow the course he has been…..As such, he does represent the Republicans who count—-those who vote in the GOP Primary. He can ignore the rest because, like you, they will vote GOP in the fall anyway.

      As to the business lobby getting together, etc. They are as organized now as they ever were in the days when they effectively ran the legislature. The difference is in the kind of person being elected to the legislature…..and that is not going to change until more Fall Republicans are March Republicans as well….and that isn’t happening.

      • SeeItMyWay

        You have never seen the Senate thumb their noses at business like has happened this session. It is because business lobbying is fractured. They will eventually figure out that supporting one PAC with millions is the only way to counteract Dunn his Empower Texans.

        • WUSRPH

          How many dollars did Tony Sanchez and the “Dream Ticket’ spend against Perry?….estimates are more than $100 million….You can spend and spend and spend–ala Dewhurst—but if you don’t get your voters to vote in the primary, it is wasted.

          • SeeItMyWay

            $100M spent by the Dem’s on Dem candidates is wasted money. A concerted effort by the business community that employees and supports and contributes so much to the economic viability of Texas, if concentrated into a combined, cohesive PAC to counter the skewed message of Empower Texans and fund candidates opposed to the TP’ers radical agenda would garner much better results, in my opinion.

          • WUSRPH

            If a concentrated effort aimed at the ET type candidates pointing out how they had voted against the best interest of their constituents would work, Stickland would no longer be a member of the legislature. What you are talking about works only if the voters agree with you that what their rep has done is bad….It took years to plant ideas into their heads and it .will take years of a educational effort to reverse the mindset of the GOP primary voters—if that is even possible. More likely is that they will eventually die off and, you hope, be replaced in the primaries by more reasonable voters. The National Chamber of Commerce started an educational drive—financed chiefly by Dupont—to reverse labor gains and much of the New Deal in the mid 1930s…It only began to take effect in the late 50s and is still unfolding….Similarly, Robertson and Farwell started the “moral majority” in the late 70s…..You expect too much, too soon.

          • SeeItMyWay

            No, I don’t expect too much too soon. I just want to see a start.

          • WUSRPH

            You still have not yet provided any “message” for this effort. What is it going to sell to the voters?

          • SeeItMyWay

            The anti-business attitude of many of the TP’ers who can’t seem to realize that tax abatements are small concessions when compared to what they give back to the cities, counties and states in jobs which fuel so many other aspects of an area’s economy, and through the many ancillary business that supply them.

            If the bathroom bill ends up being a full blown issue and ends up costing us sporting extravaganzas and convention business, there is that.

            And then there is the issue of things like the passage of this session’s Insurance tort reform which I remember the business community opposing, if I’m not mistaken.

            It seems to me that the business community has all sorts of ammo, along with Texas cities and counties, to load a gun with.

          • WUSRPH

            It all sounds quite reasonable UNTIL you present it differently:

            Tax incentives—-Giving away your tax dollars to bribe some big business to bring a handful of jobs while hundreds of local businesses are started each year without a dollar of the taxpayer’s money. Texas already has a great business climate…We don’t have to bribe them to come…….Stop ‘pickin the winners and the losers with our tax money’, corporate socialism…..

            Windstorm Tort reform (p.s..business wound up at least neutral if not in favor)—stopping a handful of greedy lawyers from driving up your insurance rates by filing hundreds of unjustified law suits……up 10,000% in just x yeas.

            Bathroom bill—-(it exempted sports arenas by the way)—protecting your children from sexual perverts (sell well with the Church-crowd in the GOP Primary)—-stopping giving special privileges to a handful of sexual deviants.

            money for schools—-there is no proof that spending more on schools makes them better….We have spent plenty already and what are we getting for it……Cut out the waste, fraud and corruption….get back to the basics…..stop spending millions to educate illegals…

            money for health care—rewarding those who will not work…..millions spent on care for illegal aliens, etc.

            big government—-taxes are too high…..government is too big….cut out the waste, fraud and corruption–it is the taxpayers money and they know how to spend it better.

            property tax caps—–cities and counties have been jacking up your taxes year after year while claiming that they do not raise tax rates….cap the increase in taxable values…..make them justify their big spending….let the voters, not the special interests decide.

            All of these have and will sell well with a majority of the voters in the GOP Primary. You have a long way to go before you can convince them that they are wrong…

      • Jeff Smith

        Votes don’t count. Money Rules Texas Politicians.

        • WUSRPH

          Money certainly helps…..The milk of politics and all that….but there are too many examples—Stickland for one—where the “message” whoever skewered has overcome the dollars. Aroused voters—often for all the wrong reasons–can overcome dollars. Money, plus “issues”, can always win….Money without issues can, but not always.


    The Quorum Report has a story that an additional reason for Patrick killing the Sunset bill, and the Texas Medical Board in the process, is because of a fight his good buddy in fighting sexual issues Dr. Steve Hotze has with the board. Hotze, as you probably know, is the statewide leader of attacks on gays, same-sex marriage, transgenders and anyone else whose sexual behavior does not comply with his standards. He, of course, wants the bathroom bill, having led the fight to overturn the ordinance in Houston, but, if he can stick it to the medical board at the same time, all the better.

    P.S. The House has adopted the budget. The Senate is debating it….so take that bill off the list of “must passes”……It looks like it is all boiling down to SB 80.

    PS.PS. The Senate has voted to go to conference on HB 21 in these the very last hours of the time to adopt conference committee reports. Either they already have a deal—-all ready to be reported before midnight—or they just want to be able to say “we tried”.


    Here is an interesting one for you. The Senate yesterday voted to go to conference on SB 669, the bill to which the House added its version of the property tax bill, BUT the House has yet to respond–with only 3 1/2 hours to go before the deadline for finding conference committee reports. It appears that the House is telling the Senate “take it or leave it’…If the Senate declines, that gives Patrick another reason for a special.. (The Senate could adopt the bill with House amendments by voting to reconsider its vote not to concur in the House amendments and then voting to concur. It can do that anytime up to midnight Sunday.)

    • WUSRPH

      The Senate did the same thing with SB 2078, the bill to which the House attached its version of the bathroom bill. Although there were only hours left to adopt and file a conference committee report, this would allow the Senate to at least officially claim that “it tried”….The House has taken no action. As with SB 669, after midnight tonight, the Senate can still adopt the bill up to midnight Sunday by reconsidering the vote to go to conference and concurring in the House amendments. That, of course, is highly unlikely.


    I’m going to read a good book….but some close out notes:

    * All conference committee reports had to be filled in the House and Senate by midnight tonight. The House and Senate have until midnight Sunday to adopt the various conference committee reports and/or any necessary resolutions to authorize the conferees to make changes that were not in dispute.

    * A bill still in conference at midnight Saturday is normally considered to be dead unless a motion is made to discharge the conferees (agreed to by the other chamber) and a vote is then taken to concur in the amendments. That must be done by midnight Sunday.

    * Bills on which there is still a difference that did not go to conference (or as with SB 669 and SB 2078 the House did not agree to go to conference) can still be passed by having a successful motion to concur in the other chambers’ amendments. The deadline for concurring is midnight Sunday.

    If the required motions are not made or are not successful by midnight Sunday, a bill is dead.

    The only exception would require an extraordinary motion that requires an extraordinary vote. And, the House Rules prohibit the casting of any vote accept to make corrections is a bill after midnight Sunday.


    One more piece of information: Speaker Straus told his home-town newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, that he “intends” to seek another term as speaker. Should he be successful, it would break the five terms record he now holds with two prior speakers. Of course, “intentions” can change…..and Dunn and company will certainly do all they can to defeat him for re-election both to the House and as speaker…..but the odds are in Straus’ favor.


    It only took more than 45 years…but Texas Tech will apparently break Texas A&M’s headlock on a veterinary school thanks to a rider in the General Appropriations Act appropriating more than $4 million to Tech to start such a school. Prior to this A&M has been successful in defeating or deferring any efforts to build another vet school. The funding for Tech comes more than 45 years after Texas Gov. Preston Smith, a Tech grad, pushed a authorization for such a school at Tech through the Legislature. But, despite that authorization, A&M was able to block any funding until this session. (Of course, Tech still has to worry about Gov. Abbott’s veto pen.)

    • SpiritofPearl

      Is there a need for a second vet school in Texas?

      • WUSRPH

        There is supposedly a major need for more “large animal” vets to serve ranching, etc. as most vets these days open dog and cat clinics. Large animals are difficult to work with and it is a demanding practice so there is always a shortage of those willing to enter that field.

        • SpiritofPearl

          Vets I have known said the money is in small animal care, not so much for large animals. The logistics of a small animal practice produce more customers than a vet schlepping from place to place.

    • Jed


      Are they starting a vet school or a doggie daycare?

      • WUSRPH

        That is “startup” money…..The next session will have to appropriate building money….assuming, of course, that Abbott signs the bill or A&M is not able to block an appropriation next time.


    The House has gone home for the night (presumably “pending the filing of conference committee reports”) so there will be no chance of a conference committee on either SB 669, the bill containing the House’s version of the property tax bill, or SB 2078, which contains the House version of the bathroom bill. This either kills both and sets up some of the conditions for calling a special session. (IN theory, both could still be passed if the Senate made the necessary motions to accept the House versions….but no one expects that to happen.) This still leaves the question of whether Lt. Gov. Patrick will kill SB 80, the bill that would extend the life of several state agencies. Letting it die would probably be the act that would force Gov. Abbott to call a special session. It would also, assuming the validity of a story in the QR earlier today, give Patrick’s close ally Dr. Steve Hotze another shot in his alleged dispute with the Texas Medical Board which is one of the agencies covered in SB 80. The fate of HB 21, the school finance bill, is unclear at this time, but there are only 38 minutes left in which to file a conference committee report on that bill.

    • BCinBCS

      W, if Abbott has to call a special session, does he set the agenda or is the legislature limited to considering any bill that was introduced or is it able to consider anything?

      If the first, what, besides an election challenge, would happen if the governor called a special session but did not include the bathroom bill as part of the call?

      • SpiritofPearl

        You and W are up far into the night . . .

        • WUSRPH

          Under the Constitution the agenda at a special session is limited to the issues that the governor includes in his proclamation “calling” the session…..known as “the call”… This means that, if he does not put it into the call, it cannot be considered….But, it should be noted that, according to court rulings (one of which I dug out of the history books) the governor only determines the “issues” and not the specifics. For example, he can say “bills regulating the bathroom habits of transgenders” but it is up to the legislature to decide what to do on the issue. The precedent I helped uncover actually dealt with a case where the governor called the legislature into session to “cut taxes” and they wound up raising one. It was challenged in court but the courts found that the governor’s power was limited to the “subject” of taxes and what to do with them was up to the legislature.

          As to what happens, Patrick would scream and make an issue of it….but nothing legal
          As to the House passing the :”must” bills and ignoring bathrooms, it could but I doubt it. It is more likely to pass its version again……the question then begins how long can it withstand the pressure….and, after 30 days, would the governor call another session just for bathrooms or would Patrick sabotage the special in order to get another try at bathrooms.

          It should be noted that a number of bills not covered by the call will be filed, but probably not heard by committees. This is done to attract the governor’s attention to the issue or show the supporters that the sponsor has not given up. Often, the governor will “open the call” to some of those issues in the “hope’ of getting more votes for his position.


    The unluckiest person in the world tomorrow (and the one yelled at the most) will be the pour legislative clerk who got to the office to file a conference committee report at 12:01 am Sunday. It has happened. It is not a pretty sight.


    The passage of only one bill, SB 80 to extend the life of several state agencies, can stave off a special session and only one man, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, stands in the way of its passage. If Patrick desires, he can let the bill come to the Senate Floor for concurrence in House amendments. If that happens, there would no longer be any “must” reason for a special session……since anything else can wait till the next Legislature without damaging the state. Will Patrick sabotage the success of the session by killing SB 80—forcing a special session only to get another chance at his “bathroom bill” and his version of the property tax bill? Is he so dedicated, so fanatical on he subject that he will create the reason for a special session? Only he knows….but stay tuned to find out.

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    Interesting article in the Texas Tribune on the background of the bathroom bill.


    • BCinBCS

      That TT article was great.

      I wonder if Straus and Abbott should simply allow the passage of the strictest bathroom bill possible and then let the heat that is generated by the business, sports and convention communities backfire on Patrick and the TP like it did in N. Carolina? Maybe it’s time to start showing the radical-right Republicans the consequences of their actions.

  • Texas Publius

    Dannie Goeb was for Dewhurst before he was against him.
    Dannie was against Cruz before he was for him.
    Dannie was against Trump before he was for him.
    Dannie was for Abbott before he was……

    Dannie Goeb has no loyalties. He operates purely on narcissistic, self-interest.

    I never thought I’d say this, but I miss Dewhurst!

    As for Abbott, if the Office of Governor were vacant, would anything be different this session?

    • Jed

      For someone using a pseudonym, you sure seem hung up on Patrick’s name change.

      • Stacytlopez

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  • Texas Publius

    If Abbott actually wakes up long enough to do Dan’s bidding and call a special session, I have no doubts that all 31 millionaire Danbots will show up to convene the Senate.

    But what makes anyone so sure that more than the 99 House members required to convene the House would actually leave their families and employers to show up for issues like bathrooms and commandeering local govts? Most of the House members’ potential primary opponents currently serve in local govt elected positions. And most of the House members still need to make a living, and their employers get a little testy after not having had their services the last five months…


    On a different subject: Chancellor Merkel made it clear today that Europe can adopt a “Europe first” attitude if Trump continues to withdraw from the world….Remember that the EU is as large of an economy as the US. They can certainly go it alone if they have too…..which, Trump not understanding, would inflict major damage to the US economy……However, I still don’t like the idea of nuclear armed Germany for some reason.


    Both chambers now playing the old game of “it’s their fault” and holding legislation hostage…..I doubt either will blink as it appears to most that a special is coming…..The only questions are on what besides the sunset stuff. That, of course, is Abbott’s choice…..but it is clear that Patrick wants another shot a bathrooms and roll back elections and, according to some, giving his old buddy Dr. Steve Hotze, fellow hater of all sexual “deviants”, another chance to “encourage” the medical board to see it his way in a long-standing between the board and Hotze..

    • WUSRPH

      Not being a subscriber to the Quorum Report (I would love to but us retired, fixed income folks have to be thrifty),,,,does anyone know just what the dispute between Dr. Hotze and the Texas Medical Board is all about? It would be interesting to see that if a special session a sunset bill for the TMB suddenly picked up some language on the subject involved. Ethics freaks would squawk…but Patrick could care less….after all if you have the power why not use it to help a friend?


    One last procedural item:

    Since we appear to be going to have a special session, I thought one or two (but I am certain not more) might be interested in a brief explanation of how special sessions differ from the Regular Session that ends tomorrow. As such, below you will find the an excerpt from my (in)famous legislative training manual explaining how they differ. I hope it does not bore you to death.


    Occasionally an emergency arises in the interim between Regular Sessions of the Legislature that requires the Legislature be summoned back to Austin to handle the situation. When that happens, the Texas Constitution gives the governor—and only the governor—the power to summon or “call” the Legislature back into what is called a Special Session.

    There are no limits on how many called sessions a governor may call between Regular Sessions. The governor can call as many, or as few, as he or she believes necessary.

    Each Special Session is a separate affair in which new bills must be filed, new hearings held and new Floor votes cast.

    Legislatures have shortened the time required for action by a Special Session by holding hearings prior to the official beginning of the Session. This allows them to speed this process so only a pro forma hearing may be necessary when the session actually begins. Limited hearings may also be the case when the Special Session follows close behind another session that unsuccessfully dealt with the same issue or issues.

    How They Differ

    Special or Called sessions differ from the normal Regular Sessions in several ways. The most important differences are:

    *Special sessions are limited to 30 calendar days rather than the 140 days of a Regular Session.

    *The Legislature may only consider the subjects the governor includes in the proclamation officially calling the session in what is called “the call of the session.”(House Rules also allow the consideration of resolutions not
    specifically included in the governor’s call. The Senate Rules are silent on the question.)

    Time Constraints

    Special sessions are not bound by the 60-Day and 30-Day rules that control when bills can be introduced or considered during Regular Sessions, but many of the other rules and procedures limiting legislative actions still apply.

    For example, the five-day, two-hour and 24-hour “posting” or “notice” requirements for legislative committee hearings remain in effect during a Special Session. And, so do the “tag” and “filibuster” rules which can be used to delay action in the Senate.

    The Senate does not use the Intent Calendar Rule during Special Sessions, since there are usually only a few bills to consider. This means that it is not always possible to know in advance which bills may come up for a vote before the full Senate during a Special Session.

    However, the basic time constraints that control action during a Regular Session remain in effect.

    The fact that Special Sessions can last only 30 days makes these time constraints of special importance because there may not be enough time to overcome one of these barriers it if is used to slow the passage of a bill through the legislative maze.

    Whether the Senate’s three-fifths rule is used in a special session is an often debated subject. History shows that it has both been used and not used with no firm policy apparently being established. As such, whether it is applies to a particular special session may rely solely on a decision by the lieutenant governor on whether to use it or not.

    Controlling the Agenda

    An important limit on what happens in a Special Session is the fact that the Texas Constitution gives the governor the full power to set the Legislature’s agenda by granting him/her the power to limit the topics it may discuss.

    In fact, the Constitution specifically limits the Legislature to acting only on the subjects the governor lists in the official proclamation calling the Legislature into a Special Session.

    The power to include or exclude issues from the proclamation, known as “the call of the session,” gives the governor a much more prominent role in a Special Session than during a Regular Session.

    During a Regular Session the Legislature is free to consider any issue it desires and the governor’s only weapons are his/her powers of persuasion and the veto. But, during a Special Session, no matter how important the Legislature may feel an issue may be, if the governor doesn’t share that concern (or if he or she wants to duck the issue), the Legislature’s hands are tied.

    Governors usually limit the original call of a Special Session to only the items of direct concern to them. Later in the session, they may add items to the original list by issuing a new proclamation. This is called “opening the call.”

    Some governors have tried to use the possibility of opening the call to additional items of interest to individual Legislators or interest groups as an incentive to win votes for their position on an issue. “Vote right,” a governor may hint, “and I’ll let you do x, y and z. Ignore what I want, and you’ll have to wait until the next Regular Session.”

    Limits on the Governors Power

    Although the governor controls the subjects on the legislative agenda for a Special Session, the governor cannot force it to do what he or she wants on those subjects.

    In fact, the Courts have held the governor’s call only opens the door to a subject and does not limit the actions the Legislature may take to solve the problems cited by the governor in the call.

    The court rulings, for example, suggest that if the governor calls the legislature into a Special Session for the purpose of “reducing state spending” and specifics in the Call the areas to be cut, the Legislature is free to decide which programs should be cut, no matter what the governor’s preferences may be. In the controlling case, the Court held that a bill passed by a Session called “to cut taxes” but which increased a tax was valid because once the governor opened the door to the subject of taxes, it was up to Legislators to decide whether to cut them or raise them. (See Baldwin v. State, 21 Tex. 591, 3 S.W. 109 (1886); Deveraux v City of Brownsville,
    29 Fed. Rep. 742 (1887).)

    Enforcing the Call

    Although the governor’s call is supposed to limit the subjects being considered, bills are often introduced during a Special Session which deal with subjects not included in the call. Such bills are said to be “outside the call.”

    Often the author of a bill technically outside the call is only trying to get a head start on the process in the hope that eventually the governor will open the call to it.

    Despite the Constitutional restriction, bills which are technically outside the call have been introduced, heard
    by committees, reported back to the House and Senate and, on occasion, passed by one or both of the chambers and even sent to the governor for approval.

    There is no problem if the governor eventually opens the call to the subject or decides to ignore the violation when such a bill reaches him/her.

    Three methods are available if these two methods fail–or the legislative leadership declines to use them–to block bills outside the call, the governor still has the ultimate power to enforce his or her will with the veto.

    The two methods usually open to the legislative leadership are to:

    *screen all bills and resolutions introduced during a Special Session and only referring to committees for hearings those which the leadership believes fall within the governor’s call; or

    * enforce the call by ruling on points of order that a bill is outside the call if the bill reaches the floor for a
    vote before the governor has opened the call to it.

    The last method is for governor to veto a bill that falls within the call, but most
    governors are reluctant to veto the Legislature’s work product if it means the
    Session will end in failure.

    If the Legislature fails to solve the crises that brought it to Austin within the 30 days allowed, the governor may, but is not required, to call another Special Session.

    • BCinBCS

      …remain in effect during a Special Session. And, so do the “tag” and “filibuster” rules…

      What’s a tag?

      • WUSRPH

        The Tag

        The “tag” is another Senate procedure to delay the process of a bill through the Legislative maze. Like the filibuster, it is most useful late in a session when a few days’ delay can mean a bill cannot go through all the necessary steps before the 140‑day time limit arrives.

        The tag is established by a Senate rule that provides that any Senator can block a committee from acting on a bill for 48 hours by filing a letter with the Secretary of the Senate requesting 48 hours advance written notice of any committee hearing on the bill. This request effectively blocks any action on the bill for 48 hours until the Senator applying the tag receives that written notice. The Senator does not have to be a member of the considering committee to tag a bill.

        A tag cannot be used if

        *The Bill has been laid before the committee during the hearing.

        * Public notice or a committee hearing has been published at least 72 hours prior to the time of the hearing

        *The Secretary of the Senate has provided each Senator with a written notice of the hearing time at least 48 hours in advance of the hearing.

        A bill can normally be tagged only once. The system does not allow one Senator who opposes a bill to block action for 48 hours and then let another do the same. A second tag would be allowed only if the written notice of the hearing time was not delivered to the Senator who applied the first tag before he withdrew his tag.

        The Senator who has tagged a bill can remove his tag before the 48 hours have ex­pired, thereby allowing the committee to act on the bill. A Sena­tor who favors a bill can tag it to keep an opponent from do­ing so and then can remove the tag within a few hours. This is known as a
        “friendly tag.”

        What makes a Tag so effective is that it can stop a bill in its tracks before it can get a committee hearing….plus it is much easier than a filibuster since it only requires filing a piece of paper with the Senate Secretary where a filibuster requires a senator to stand and speak for hours to have any real impact.

        • BCinBCS


    • SpiritofPearl

      Sounds like a special session could be a Pandora’s Box.


    We may soon learn whether Trump feels he owes anything to the Russians….He is planning to “restart the Ukrainian peace process”. It would certainly be nice to have an end to the fighting (Russian-supplied and backed) in Eastern Ukraine…..but it will be interesting to see which way the US “tilts” in any negotiations between the legitimate government of the Ukraine and the Russian-financed–armed–and-directed “rebels”. Whether his intentions or good or bad, anything that suggests yielding to the rebel’s demands for “autonomy” (read much closer links to Russia) would make it look like pro-Russian position and tend to undermine what little faith the Ukrainians and the Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians may still have that Trump will live up to the NATO treaty if and when the Russians substantially increase the pressure it is already inflicting on them to “come home” to great Russia, either literally or economically and politically. But, as Trump made very, very clear in his speech in Saudi Arabia, His Administration (unlike those for most of the past century) is not concerned about how a foreign government treats its own citizens or its neighbor as long as it does not directly affect us


    I had to—both as part of my job and interest—stay up for this midnight deadlines for more than 16 regular sessions and a bunch of specials……but I don’t have to any more. So, good night…..See you tomorrow.


    “We will be, if we have a special session, only convening on the topics that I choose, at the time of my choosing,” said Abbott. who offered a one-word answer when asked how much pressure he felt from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to add bathrooms to the call. “None.” (thanks to QR)

    Sounds tough Let us now see how he acts.

  • dave in texas

    House member Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving) just called ICE on people protesting the “sanctuary cities” bill. So much for the asinine claim that it won’t result in racial profiling if the very people who wrote the damned bill are engaging in profiling before then damned thing even goes into effect.


    The House has gone sine die….pending the receipt of messages and administrative duties…In theory that means they could still be in session if the Senate were to pass SB 80 or the other sunset bill. That, of course, is not happening. Senate supposed to quite around 3 p.m. We now wait to see if and when they return.


    I wish the Legislature could change its last day to be some other day than Memorial Day…That way you would not have incidents like Rep. Rinaldi calling the ICE on Hispanic demonstrators and other “incidents” be spoil this one of our most sacred days that honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. But maybe it takes people like Rinaldi to remind us what they died for.

    And to think that less than 100 years ago the children of upper class whites in places like my mother’s hometown of New Orleans were not allowed to play with children with last names like Rinaldi’s as they were considered to be too “low class” to mix with. We have come so far but still have far to go.

    • BCinBCS

      Just curious:
      Why would people with the last name Rinaldi be considered low class?

      • WUSRPH

        Because less than 100 yeas ago when floods of Italians ,most of them Sicilians and Southern Italians, were coming thru places like Ellis Island as “economic refugees” to the United States Italians, other than the likes of Enrico Caruso and a handful of others, were considered undesirables. They were, after all, Catholics, did not speak our language, mostly uneducated or under educated, tended to hang together and were part of criminal gangs….All the things they say about Hispanics and other aliens today.
        This was a very race, ethnic and class oriented society back then….Much has changed back then but the social barriers against most of those late 19th-early 20th century European “aliens” did not begin to break down for a number of years……The “mixing pot’ of World War II had a lot to do with it, plus the economic explosion that followed and such things as the GI Bill of Rights that opened suburban housing with mixed groups and professional and white color jobs to them. (The same thing happened

        • BCinBCS

          I understand. I thought you were alluding to something specific to New Orleans.

          It’s a shame that history classes are limited to “Columbus sailed the blue in 1492” and that the U.S. declared independence from Britain in 1776. If social history was also taught, bigotry could slowly be erased from this country. (Plus, it’s much more interesting.)

          • WUSRPH

            I spoke about New Orleans only as an example. . But it was nationwide. (Although, they did break into the parish jail in New Orleans and lynched 11 Italians in 1890 after an Irish policeman was killed..)

            Actually, from what I can see of the screams from the far right about “leftist professors indoctrinating our children and poisoning their minds”, the history lessons of today are probably much more balanced and realistic than they were in “our day”. Of course, some people have been screaming about the evils of public education ever since it began. But then they probably burned the guy who discovered fire at his own stake.

          • BCinBCS

            Those were the good ol’ days: 1890’s and 1960’s.


    Well now that this regular session of the Texas Legislature is ending…..how do you rate it, other than “incomplete”?

    It was certainly “conservative” if you mean that it raised no taxes, failed to expand government and adopted a budget that, when adjusted for population growth and inflation, is smaller than the last one….

    But it was “radical” in passing such things as sanctuary cities and “sincere religious belief” expansions…..

    Did it meet the state’s needs…Well, it did something about the mess in CPS and it acted to stop our jails from being “debtors’ prisons”…

    But, do not fear, it will probably get another chance to do worse later this summer.

    • WUSRPH

      But then, my original mentor in the legislature used to say that he viewed his job as “killing one snake at a time”…..but, as I tried to point out to him, he was dealing with a Medusa.

    • BCinBCS

      W asked: “…how do you rate it…?

      I couldn’t put it any better than what R.G. wrote about it in the next topic post:
      “Two decades from now, it is unlikely anyone will look back and proclaim that the 85th Legislature worked to build a Texas for the rest of the 21st Century.


    Interesting article from 5-38 about how Trump’s base is actually shrinking…slowly, but surely…..Of course, this part of that “fake news”–i.e.. anything Trump does not like.



    Well they are officially gone…….This means, based on an old saying, that your life, liberty and property are safe AGAIN….at least for awhile.


    From accounts it seems like the only part of his recent trip that matters to the Trump WH was his time in Saudi Arabia and particularly the arms deals with the Saudis and the UAE. To them none of the other stuff in Rome, Brussels or Sicily mattered…..After all, who cares if he offended our allies and some of our major trade partners. He’s the president and they aren’t. We have to hope that history does not prove him to be as wrong in this judgement as he is in so many others.

    Wasn’t it nice not to have the president of the US calling some of his fellow American’s “the enemy” for 9 days?


    If you think things go nasty in the Texas House this session—not counting the last day where it got out of hand—think about a house where you have two groups, skilled in the rules, going after the speaker and his team trying to kill all the legislation they can. We’ve had one group doing it…..The Dirty 30, the Gang of Four, the Democrats under Craddick and, in recent sessions, Stickland and his ilk, under whatever tittle they give themselves. But, it could and may well get worse.

    The Democrats were united on some issues this session—mostly the red meat issues of abortion and sanctuary cities….BUT they were not as unified of a group as the Freedom/Liberty/Anarchy or whatever “caucus” in that they were not out to kill everything they could. Some still thought they could contribute to the process and even pass some good legislation. That was true to an extent….but it seemed to be less likely as the session went on.

    Most of the Democrats had a real grievance against Craddick, but many have tended to give Straus the benefit of the doubt, especially since their voters helped elect him. BUT, if he they think he will continue to give in on those issues that mean the most to them–as it appeared he did this session–they may see no reason to continue to do so. All out war is possible….with Straus being hit from both sides. .It could even break out during the special if the governor is not smart enough to delay until later in the year in order to let tempers cool.

    In any case, unless some miracle takes place when the GOP has its primary, things are probably only going get worse during the next regular session with several more members of GOP crazies and maybe a few more activist Democrats. (One of those running for Dukes’ housesat here in Austin more than first into that category.)

    Straus is wise in letting things cool before making his run for another term official and sending his lieutenants out to sign up votes. Right now they might be told what to do with those non-pledge card pledges.

    • WUSRPH

      The likelihood of fewer Democrats having any reason to work with or even think about working with Straus gets greater as more are replaced by newer members who do not have a memory of the Craddick times or any reason to feel any ties to the speaker.

      • donuthin2

        But what choice will they have? Or will they vote with the crazies just to accelerate the demise of the republican party?

        • Jed

          they don’t have to vote with anybody.


    I wrote this, see below, on March 28th. It is truer now than it was then:

    “The biggest failure of the session

    Although when I write this there are still more than 60 days left in the current session of the Texas Legislature I think I can already predict the biggest failure of the session. It is actually easy to do since it has been the biggest failure of session after session for many years……

    It will be the failure of the legislature to (once again) address the vital needs for equity and adequacy in public education funding………”

    • BCinBCS

      But…but…but…big hairy men in women’s restrooms!


    Getting rid of his communications director probably won’t help Trump that much when the problem isn’t the director but the message they are trying to communicate.


    One dinner with the top Chinese leader was enough to distract Trump from his attacks on China…but he needs somebody to attack so he seems to have picked Germany.

    • WUSRPH

      Maybe she should have bought him dinner.


    The conservative National Review offers some reason in conflict with Trump’s tantrums on trade with Germany.


  • chriselhardt

    … Most of the state’s libertarian and Christian right groups had supported Patrick’s first version of the bathroom bill…
    this is the first time I’ve heard that any libertarian supported Patrick’s bathroom bill. Must have been an editing mistake?

    • WUSRPH

      Got to be a typo…..he must have meant TPers…