The Texas Legislature wrapped up its fourth special session Dec. 5 with Gov. Greg Abbott’s top request, private school vouchers, once again unfulfilled.

The Republican-led Legislature approved two bills aimed at curbing illegal immigration at the Texas-Mexico border during the 30-day special session. Other legislative priorities, including raises for public school teachers and more money for school safety, fell victim to a growing rift between Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Texas Senate.

Abbott has not indicated whether he will call a fifth special session to continue pushing for education savings accounts, a voucher-like program that would give families public money to help pay for private schools. The Republican governor has said he will also work to unseat House Republicans who voted against vouchers last month.

“Gov. Abbott will not rest until school choice is passed. The governor will continue to work with Texas legislators and at the ballot box to get school choice for all Texas families,” Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze said in a statement.

How we got here

A coalition of House Democrats and rural Republicans blocked education savings accounts Nov. 17, with 84 members voting for an amendment that killed the lower chamber’s sweeping education bill.

“The governor has done everything he can to pass school choice ... and he got hit in the face with a shovel by the speaker,” said Patrick, who supports vouchers, at a press conference hours after both chambers adjourned Dec. 5.

House lawmakers met briefly Dec. 5, but they did not consider any legislation before heading home for the holidays.

Rep. Steve Allison, R-San Antonio, asked whether he could move to bypass committee rules and bring Senate Bill 2, a proposal to increase salaries for public school teachers and give schools additional funding, to the House floor. Phelan said he would not be recognized for the motion.

Phelan also did not consider SB 5 and SB 6, which the Senate approved Dec. 1. SB 5 would give public schools $800 million to increase school safety, while SB 6 would tighten the timeline for cases challenging the results of a constitutional amendment election. The latter bill was proposed in response to six lawsuits that could delay voter-approved property tax cuts and a cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers.

What they’re saying

Patrick criticized Phelan for a “lack of leadership and truthfulness,” arguing the speaker purposely killed “good conservative legislation” during the session.

“This guy’s just flat-out impossible to work with,” Patrick told reporters Dec. 5.

“The House is proud to have led on the issues of teacher pay and school safety by presenting more robust, permanent solutions, and it is unfortunate the Senate chose to kill those bills,” Phelan spokesperson Kimberly Carmichael said in a statement.

What else?

Earlier in the session, the Legislature passed a bill that would create a new state crime for illegal immigration and give Texas the authority to expel undocumented immigrants from the country. Currently, only the federal government has the power to deport migrants.

Abbott is expected to sign the proposal, known as SB 4. The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and other organizations have threatened to sue Texas over the bill, which they say is unconstitutional.

“We pass bills that we believe are constitutional or that we can win in court if someone challenges it,” Patrick said regarding SB 4. “The border is a disaster; it's an invasion. We should have the right to protect our border and our people and the country.”

Lawmakers also approved SB 3, which would set aside $1.5 billion to help the state continue to build a wall along the Texas-Mexico border.