Why the 20-item special session agenda failed to gain support

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Why the 20-item special session agenda failed to gain support

Before the first day of the special session gaveled out, a House Freedom Caucus legislator asked to eliminate options for Democrats to stall special session progress. This request set the tone for the rest of the special session, which ended a day early in mid-August, with chasms widening in votes between Republicans and Democrats, between the House and the Senate, and between members of the conservative Freedom Caucus and the more moderate House Republicans led by Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.

In key issues, House Republicans banded together, forwarding legislation on maternal mortality, abortion reporting and mail-in ballot fraud to the governor for signing. However, they divided on issues of property tax reform and school finance.

But on the issue of school finance, the majority of the House Republicans and Democrats banded together to approve a billion-dollar infusion into the public school system, relying on money from the state’s Rainy Day Fund. The majority of Freedom Caucus members voted against this effort, but once the Senate stripped out the money from the state’s savings account, the caucus members supported the bill.

During House debate on the property tax reform bill—Senate Bill 1, Republicans disagreed on the lasting impact and scope of the bill. An added provision would have limited the bill’s power to only certain jurisdictions, incurring criticism from the Freedom Caucus for not going far enough. The caucus ultimately supported the bill, but it did not pass because the Senate did not agree to House amendments.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick—the Senate leader­—critiqued Straus for blocking many of Gov. Greg Abbott’s key special session priorities. Freedom Caucus members appeared to agree, calling for the election of a new House speaker.

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson is a recent transplant to the Austin area from Houston, Texas, where she started with Community Impact Newspaper in May 2016. Donaldson started covering public education in Cy-Fair ISD, the third largest school district in the state of Texas, and then she transitioned into her role as the company's legislative reporter, providing statehouse coverage for all 22 editions. Currently, she reports on the city of Round Rock, Round Rock ISD and Pflugerville ISD for the Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto edition. Donaldson graduated from the University of Missouri with bachelor's degrees in magazine journalism and political science.

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