AUSTIN - Texas lawmakers returned to the Capitol Tuesday for the start of the Special Session.
The two chambers of the Texas legislature operate differently and Tuesday was no exception. Both the House of Representatives and Senate gaveled in at 10 a.m. but it was clear the chambers would operate at different paces.
In the House, representatives made proclamations, announcements and Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) answered questions about when bills can be filed.
"The only thing we're working on right now is what the Governor has given us currently to work on," said Straus.
The only item Governor Greg Abbott placed on the current special session call is the sunset legislation that failed to pass during the regular session. It would allow several boards, including the Texas Medical Board which licenses doctors, to continue to operate.
The House version of that bill, House Bill 1, was referred it to the State Affairs Committee. The committee plans to hold a public hearing on the bill Wednesday after the House adjourns.
The feeling among many Democrats is they want to pass that legislation and Sine Die, or end the special session.
"Believe me, there's very few of us that actually want to be here today," said Austin Representative Celia Israel (D).
"The reality is that my colleagues are coming from all over the state, they're leaving their businesses, leaving their families during summer to come back and fight over divisive issues that we had to struggle with in 140 days. So what's going to happen in a 30-day session that's any different," she added.
While Democrats in the Senate may feel the same way, some were even wearing pins that read "Sunset and Sine Die," Republicans seemingly want to fast track sunset bills to move forward with the rest of the Governor's agenda.
Not long after the Senate gaveled in, Senator Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) moved to suspend three Senate rules and allow the Business and Commerce Committee to meet right away to hold a hearing on the Senate versions of the sunset legislation, Senate Bill 20 and Senate Bill 60.
Senate Bill 20 had been tagged by Senator Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso). That's a rule that basically states any Senator can tag a bill, placing a 48-hour hold on the bill before it can be discussed.
"Once a tag has been duly filed, as I have done this morning, and once we follow precedent which basically states that an individual senator can tag a bill requesting 48-hour notice, not only so that the senator can prepare, but so that the public can have notice," Rodriguez said on the Senate floor while objecting and raising a point of order on the motion.
The motion led to snappy exchanges between Senators and the Lieutenant Governor before the motion passed.
The Senate took a short recess, allowing the Business and Commerce Committee to meet and they voted out the sunset bills, sending them to the full Senate for a vote.
"That's not right. I mean this is all about transparency. This is all about, should be, giving people the democratic right to participate in this legislative process," said Rodriguez.
When the Senators came back, Patrick didn't call the bills up for a vote as expected. Rodriguez says that's likely because in order to vote, four-fifths of the Senators would have to vote to suspend the three-day rule. That means five Democrats would have to agree and Rodriguez said Patrick didn't have the votes.
Senators are expected to vote on the bill Wednesday.
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