With deadlines looming, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Wednesday threatened to push for a special session of the Legislature to pass a bill to regulate bathroom use for transgender Texans and legislation to set new thresholds for when cities and counties must get voter approval for their tax rates.
Patrick deemed Senate Bill 2, a property tax bill from state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, and either Senate Bill 6, the "bathroom bill" from state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, or similar language amended to another bill, as must-pass measures to avoid a special session. Both bills have passed the Senate and are currently in the House.
The last day of the legislative session is May 29. Only the governor can call a special session.
“If we must go to a special session, I will respectfully ask the governor to add both of these bills — plus other legislation he has voiced support for — in that special session call,” Patrick said during a press conference at the Capitol. "If the bills don’t pass in the special and they’re blocked again, I will ask the governor to call us back again and again and again.”
Patrick's key source of leverage is a measure known as the "sunset safety net bill," which lawmakers have to pass each session to keep a long list of state agencies from shutting down. All state agencies must undergo periodic "sunset" reviews by the Legislature or be forced to shut down if reforms aren’t passed. The conservative House Freedom Caucus managed to block the House from passing its version of the "safety net" bill last week, leaving the Senate version as a critical measure.
Patrick on Wednesday said the Senate had less than 48 hours to pass its version of the legislation and avoid the need for a special session.
But he added that he “must see action in the House to pass several key” pieces of legislation before moving on the Senate's sunset legislation.
Patrick’s threat came a day after House Speaker Joe Straus made public a letter to the lieutenant governor in which he wrote that the Legislature could avoid a special session if it finished its work on the budget and the passed the sunset safety net bill.
This is a developing story and will be updated.