Texas Lawmakers Are Too Busy Focusing On Abortion Restrictions To Get Anything Else Done

CREDIT: Alice Keeney/Associated Press

Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX)

Just over an hour after Texas legislators concluded their second special session — an extra lawmaking session they used to enact sweeping abortion restrictions — Gov. Rick Perry (R) called them back for a third one. An outstanding highway funding bill is the only item on the agenda. “When it comes to transportation, the stakes facing our state could not be higher,” the governor noted in a statement.

Perry cited that same transportation measure as one of the reasons he believed it was necessary to call the first special legislative session at the beginning of June. But instead of focusing on getting that done, the governor demonstrated a different set of priorities — adding a slew of anti-abortion provisions that were unable to advance during the state’s regular session to the docket.

The focus on abortion restrictions sparked a national outcry. Thousands of grassroots protesters rallied at the state capitol, Democrats in the legislature successfully delayed a vote on the omnibus measure, and state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) ultimately ran out the clock with a dramatic 11-hour filibuster. But that didn’t deter the abortion opponents in the state. Perry simply called a second special session, and the GOP-controlled legislature made the abortion bill their top priority to ensure it wouldn’t be blocked again. They passed it in mid-July, about halfway through the second session, and Perry signed it into law shortly afterward.

That dogged focus on restricting reproductive rights means the Texas legislature must return for another month-long session to get back to that unfinished transportation initiative. Elected officials will continue to work until the end of August, despite the fact that the regular lawmaking session ended back in the middle of May. “This third special session is an expression of failed leadership,” Davis tweeted on Tuesday.

Although Perry has indicated he would prefer to stick to the highway funding bill, that doesn’t guarantee lawmakers will stop filing abortion-related bills in the third special session. On the final day of the second session, state Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) — the only Senate Democrat who supported the recently approved omnibus anti-abortion bill — filed a measure to require women to complete a mandatory adoption certification course before they may seek an abortion. Lucio has suggested he will attempt to keep pushing that measure during the third session.