Lawmakers move quickly in second special session

Lawmakers are moving quickly on legislation dealing 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 current session after lawmakers failed to pass those bills during the first special session in June.

"I am calling the Legislature back into session because too much important work remains undone for the people of Texas," Perry said in a statement June 26.

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 tag includes $150/per diem pay 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.

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

The first round

The regular session of the 83rd Legislature adjourned on 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 the bill was bogged down in the session's final hours. An 11-hour filibuster by Fort Worth Democrat 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

The opening day of the second session was marked by thousands of abortion-rights activists wearing orange shirts who descended on the Texas Capitol to protest a package of anti-abortion bills that some say could shut down all but five of the state's abortion clinics.

The legislation requires clinics to meet the same standards of care as ambulatory surgery centers—a law already on the books in nine other states—and bans abortions after 20 weeks gestation.

Supporters of the bill showed up in counter-protest, wearing blue shirts with pieces of red tape on their shirts or over their mouths. Many had written the word "life" on the red

A House committee passed the bill after a contentious hearing in which thousands signed up to testify. The House could take up the abortion limits in a floor vote as early as this week.

Transportation, juvenile justice

Meanwhile, senators used the first week to get the 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 the state's roads, but lawmakers have been stymied on how to find that funding 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 could go to the floor for a vote soon. The bill 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 into 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.