Gov. Greg Abbott on Oct. 5 released his agenda for the third special legislative session of the year, asking lawmakers to pass “school choice” legislation, increase border security and ban COVID-19 mandates from private employers.

“I am bringing the Texas Legislature back for special session #3 to continue building on the achievements we accomplished during the 88th regular legislative session and two special sessions this summer,” Abbott said in a news release.

The session will begin Oct. 9 at 1 p.m. and can last up to 30 days. If lawmakers do not meet Abbott’s requests during that period, he has said he will call them back for a fourth special session.

The details

“Education freedom,” one of Abbott’s key priorities this year, tops the agenda. He directed lawmakers to authorize education savings accounts, a program that would set aside taxpayer funds to help parents pay for private school tuition, books and more if they pull their children out of public school.

“Together, we will chart a brighter future for all Texas children by empowering parents to choose the best education option for their child,” Abbott said.

During the regular legislative session, the Texas Senate passed legislation to give families $8,000 per student to help send them to private schools. The proposal faced bipartisan opposition in the Texas House, with Democrats and rural Republicans standing against it.

“Today, there are schools in my district and all across Texas at risk of closure because the governor is holding public school funding hostage to pass his private school voucher scam,” Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, said in a statement. “It’s clear Greg Abbott is more interested in doing the bidding of the billionaire mega donors pushing this scam than in serving the people of Texas.”

Republicans in rural districts have also expressed concerns that their public schools will suffer if students leave for private schools outside their boundaries.

Notably, the governor’s order does not mention pay raises for teachers or an increase in public school funding. Lawmakers debated several methods to increase teacher salaries and per-student funding during the regular session, but none passed.

Abbott directed lawmakers to “do more to reduce illegal immigration” by:
  • Creating a criminal offense for illegally entering Texas from another country
  • Authorizing Texas law enforcement to arrest and remove illegal immigrants
  • Increasing criminal penalties for human smuggling
  • Boosting funding for border barrier infrastructure
Abbott also asked lawmakers to look into Colony Ridge, a housing development north of Houston. State officials and conservative media outlets have alleged the residential community is marketed to undocumented immigrants.

The agenda directs lawmakers to pass “legislation concerning public safety, security, environmental quality and property ownership in areas like the Colony Ridge development.”

The Legislature should also pass a bill prohibiting private employers from requiring their staff to get a COVID-19 vaccine, Abbott said. The order builds legislation passed during the regular session, which keeps government entities from implementing COVID-19 mandates.

“This is fantastic,” Texas Republican Party Chair Matt Rinaldi said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I did not expect vaccine mandates to be added to the call.”