Gov. Abbott mum on special session plans as he reviews legislative priorities

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — With lawmakers gone from the Texas Capitol, Gov. Greg Abbott spends much of his June determining whether to sign or veto the more than 3,000 bills they left him.

He has until June 20 to decide what to do with bills passed in the final days of the legislative session.

“One thing that is occupying my time right now, is in part what’s behind my desk,” he said in a Thursday interview at his office, pointing to the growing stack of bills awaiting his signature on his desk.

Sitting next to that stack rests a box of pens and a rubber stamp with the letters “VETO” on it.

“We look at ‘is this a good law, is it not a good law? Does it potentially conflict with some other goals that we are trying to achieve?’ Things like that,” he explained. “We look largely — ‘is this good for our fellow Texans, is going to make our state better?'”

He believes state lawmakers managed to create new policies that will fulfil that mission, despite the challenges of a pandemic and a winter storm that derailed legislative activity before and during the session.

“When you consider that context, and when you see all the things that were passed, it’s a remarkable session,” he said.

“There were legacy-based issues that people have been clamoring for for a long time that finally got across the finish line,” he said, citing permitless carry of firearms and measures to punish communities that divert funding from law enforcement.

Lawmakers attempted to find a fix for the state’s power grid following the fatal February freeze that left thousands of Texans cold and in the dark.

“It’s horrific that anybody had to go through a winter storm like that,” Abbott said.

Highlighting a series of changes lawmakers tackled, Abbott referenced reforms to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

“Second is weatherization — we don’t call it winterization, because we need the grid to work both in the summer and the winter,” he said, confident that locations which shut down during the storm “will not shut down” as a result of the weatherization programs.

He also said there would be new enforcement mechanisms for entities that don’t weatherize and mentioned the state plans to harness more power-generating capacity. Those measures combine with a renewed effort to communicate problems to consumers.

When asked if there was more work to do to fix the grid in a special legislative session, Abbott said lawmakers were “very pleased” with the results of the electricity reform bills, but “we will talk about that between now and the special session to see if there were any items that were missed.”

Abbott was mum on how many special sessions he plans to call, when they’ll be and what items he would add to his session call.

He previously shared he planned to bring lawmakers back to the Capitol in the fall to address redistricting as well as distribution of federal stimulus. He declined to say further on Thursday whether he planned to incorporate additional priorities into that special session or plan more legislative activity in the summer.

“You’ll have to stay tuned,” he said.

Two items he wants lawmakers to tackle in some form are changes to election rules and bail reform. Bills to update both processes failed in the final days of the session.

“There’ll be more that we will be announcing later,” he said, nothing, “we’re not putting anything on the table or off the table other than those items that I mentioned.”

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