Lawmakers move quickly in second special session

Lawmakers are working quickly on legislation that deals with transportation funding, abortion restrictions and juvenile justice during the Texas Legislature's second special session, which convened July 1. Gov. Rick Perry called the session after lawmakers failed to pass those bills during the first special session in June.

The price tag

At a cost of about $30,000 per day, a 30-day special session can cost taxpayers more than $1 million. The price includes $150 per diem for each lawmaker for food and living expenses in Austin, though a handful choose not to take the pay when they are not in Austin for session work.

A special session can only be called by the governor and cannot last more than 30 days. Lawmakers met July 1 to open the second session, then adjourned a little more than an hour later until July 9.

The first round

The regular session of the

83rd Legislature ended May 27, but Perry called lawmakers back to the Capitol immediately to deal with the state's interim district maps, redrawn last year by judges who said the initial 2011 maps were unconstitutional.

Halfway through the special session, Perry added transportation funding, abortion and juvenile justice to the call.

Lawmakers did approve the state's redistricting maps, but other bills were bogged down in the session's final hours.

An 11-hour filibuster by Fort Worth Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis targeted the abortion bill, and, as a result, derailed any attempts to pass bills that were not connected to redistricting.

Abortion limitations

A House committee passed the abortion bill after a contentious hearing in which thousands signed up to testify. A Senate committee is expected to take up the bill July 8.

The legislation requires clinics to meet the same standards of care as ambulatory surgery centers and bans abortions after 20 weeks' gestation. The House could take up the bill in a floor vote as early as July 9.

Transportation, justice

Senators used the first week of the second special session to get less controversial measures out of the way. The Texas Department of Transportation has estimated that it needs about $4 billion in additional funding each year to maintain roads, but lawmakers have been stymied on how to find the funds and failed to reach a deal during the regular session.

A bill passed by a Senate committee during the first week of the second special session asks voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would divert part of the state's oil-and-gas severance taxes to highway funding, generating about $1 billion a year for highways.

Currently, all of that money goes to the state's rainy day fund.

A Senate committee also approved a measure that closes a loophole in juvenile justice law regarding 17-year-olds convicted of capital murder. Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions mean that 17-year-olds cannot get life in prison without parole, so lawmakers are trying to bring Texas in line with those decisions.


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