More on the special session

Governor Perry speaks about the upcoming special session.

All were left unaddressed when the Legislature adjourned June 1. Perry told reporters he expects lawmakers to finish their work in “72 to 96 hours. I think that’s three to four days, right? My Aggie math — y’all kind of check me on that.”

Perry said he won’t place the contentious issue of voter identification before lawmakers, even though the call for stricter voter identification is a priority for GOP leaders and lawmakers.

A fight over the issue stalled action in the regular session and undoubtedly would tie up the special session, which can last up to 30 days. The governor sets the agenda for special sessions and determines when they start.

“Look, we clearly believe that the issues that we’re going to address are the ones that have to be taken care of,” Perry told reporters after a separate speech. “We’re talking about people’s lives and livelihoods here when you talk about the Department of Insurance, when you’re talking about TxDOT (the Texas Department of Transportation) … I want those employees to understand that we’re going to get this bill passed and we’re not going to take a chance on … any legislative mischief from some other piece of legislation.”

Agencies that need legislation to continue also include the Texas Racing Commission, Office of Public Insurance Counsel and Texas State Affordable Housing Corp.

When I first read this, I felt a twinge of paranoia, because there was nothing in here to indicate that voter ID would not be taken up after these issues have been dealt with. I know I’ve opined that if Perry were going to do this, he’d be telegraphing his position, but that doesn’t mean I’m feeling at ease. However, someone must have asked about this, because Perry did address it:

Perry said even if the issues he specifically listed are wrapped up, he won’t expand the scope of the special session to include voter ID.

Well okay then. I doubt I’ll completely shake that nagging feeling, at least until sine die, but that does help. Now how likely is it that this thing really will last only 3 or 4 days?

“To get this done in three days is very ambitious and requires the cooperation of a lot of people,” says rules expert Hugh Brady. “You’re really going to have to bust a hump if you’re going to get this done by Friday afternoon.”

More contested legislation like the Voter ID Bill and CHIP expansion have been kept off the agenda, and Perry says he doesn’t anticipate adding anything new while the session’s underway. But even with such a narrow set of issues on the call, lawmakers have a lot of leeway about what amendments they can add to bills.

True, the House Parliamentarian could always adopt a very strict interpretation of what amendments are germane to certain bills, but that would be going against several judicial and legislative precedents, Brady says. “If the House or the Senate really wants to, they could take a narrow bill and try to expand it to add consumer protection or whatever they’d like to add onto it.” So lawmakers could still add amendments that substantially reform TxDoT and the insurance department, and it may take more than a few days to do so: just passing a bill in a three-day period would require suspending certain rules, he added.

But will they really want to? In that sense, at least, Perry timed his session well. As Brady points out, “it’s the middle of the summer and nobody really wants to be here.”

Sounds about right to me. We’ll see how it plays out. Rep. Pena has more.

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