Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has set a special legislative session in an attempt to pass a measure focused on the state’s election laws and regulations—coming weeks after Democrats blocked a Republican-backed election reform package from advancing by leaving the Capitol building.
The governor, a Republican, didn’t specify in the June 22 announcement the legislative priorities that will be included during the special session, scheduled to start on July 8. But Abbott has already said that he will ask state lawmakers to work on elections and bail bills that were halted by the walkout during the final hours of the previous legislative session on May 30.
“Agenda items will be announced prior to the convening of the special session,” Abbott said in a statement.
In May, the state Senate approved sweeping election legislation along party lines, which at the time drew condemnation from high-level Democrats as well as Marc Elias, a lawyer who has filed a number of election-related lawsuits on behalf of the Democratic Party. Echoing their criticism against GOP-backed election laws in other states, Democrats, including President Joe Biden, said the bill would suppress voter turnout rates and described it as an attack on democracy.
But state Sen. Bryan Hughes, the Republican who authored the bill, said the measure would keep Texas’s elections fair and honest.
“We want elections to be secure and accessible,” said Hughes when it was approved.
The voting measure would grant more power to poll watchers by giving them more access inside polling areas, while creating new penalties against election officials who restrict poll watchers’ movements. The proposal would also allow a judge to void the outcome of an election if the number of fraudulent votes could change the result.
It isn’t clear if lawmakers will make any tweaks to the bill during the special session, which may last as long as 30 days. Some Republicans signaled that they would change at least one provision that would modify a proposal regarding the window for early voting on Sundays, the Texas Tribune reported.
Abbott’s other priority legislation deals with how bail is handled, according to his recent comments to news outlets. The proposed measure, which was also killed by House Democrats last month, would make it more difficult for people who are arrested to bond out of jail without providing cash.
During a campaign call with supporters on June 22, the governor also said he wants to add legislation to deal with the Marxist-inspired critical race theory, the Dallas Morning News reported. Earlier this month, Abbott signed a bill that would bar the teaching of certain concepts related to race in public schools.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, has called on the Legislature to pass a bill that limits transgender athletes from competing in school sports. He’s also seeking the passage of a bill that would limit how social media companies operate in Texas.
”I fully expect to have a session where we will pass an election integrity bill, as well as bail reform,” Abbott told the Dallas Morning News in June. “Those are both needed and they both must pass. And as we get there, we may be adding some additional items.”