Here’s a quick recap of what happened over the last week:
Special Session Update
From my updates earlier in the week, recall that Gov. Abbott called an immediate special session that began at 9PM on Monday, which was the final day of the regular session. The call of the special session was simple: 1—reduce property tax rates solely by compressing (reducing) the tax rate local jurisdictions can charge; and 2 – enhancing penalties for anyone involving in the smuggling of persons or the operations of a stash house involved in smuggling of persons.
The House convened on Tuesday and immediately passed legislation related to both issues. The Senate passed a property tax relief bill on Tuesday that related to compressing the rates, but also contained a provision to reduce the homestead exemption. Upon receipt of the Senate version, the Speaker ruled the Senate version was not germane to the call of the session, and said the Senate measure would not be considered during this special session. The House, having completed their business for the session, then adjourned sine die, meaning they were done for the special session. Sine Die means “without another day” and is the legislative term for completion of duties for the session.
Gov. Abbott immediately praised the House action and declared he looked forward to signing the bills once (or if) they reached his desk. But that did not stop the Senate from moving forward, saying they had the leeway to go outside the bounds of the call for legislative purposes and that they would not accept the House version that did not contain the homestead exemption language. Problem is, there does not seem to be any recourse to bring the House back once they have adjourned Sine Die. The Senate convened earlier today, and immediately adjourned until Tuesday after conducting no business. So the question remains, where will the special session go from here? Seems like – for now – the only option is for the Senate to accept the House version of the property tax and human smuggling bills or adjourn and start over.
Latest on Paxton Impeachment
The Texas House has assembled its prosecution team for the Senate trial. In addition to 12 members of the House that will serve as managers for the process, the House has hired two prominent House defense attorneys – Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin — to serve as lead prosecutors for the House. DeGuerin you may recognize from his defense of former US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, as well Branch Davidian Leader David Koresh. Hardin has been involved in high profile cases of sports figures DeShaun Watson, Roger Clemens, and Calvin Murphy. Most recently Hardin defended Victoria Olsteen – wife of TV evangelist Joel Osteen – in a civil lawsuit against a flight attendant that claimed Osteen pushed her on a flight.
Needless to say, having attorneys of this magnitude will bolster the House’s case. Hardin got right to work yesterday, declaring at a news conference that the allegations not only represent a pattern of misconduct and abuse, but are “10 times worse than what has already been made public”.
Yesterday, Comptroller Glenn Hegar confirmed that Paxton will not receive any of his $153,750 annual salary while he is suspended. Paxton was suspended immediately after the House voted to impeach him on Saturday. He will remain suspended without pay until the outcome of the trial.
Speaking of Paxton, Gov. Abbott has appointed former Secretary of State John Scott has his replacement pending the outcome of the impeachment trial. Scott, from San Antonio, was Texas Secretary of State from July of 2021 through December of 2022. He also served as a top assistant to Abbott during his tenure as Texas Attorney General from 2002-2014.
The special election to replace former state Rep. Bryan Slaton will be held November 7th, which is the uniform general election day for 2023. Slaton was expelled by the House in May when it was discovered he had an inappropriate relationship with a 19-year-old intern. The district is solidly Republican and includes the counties of Hunt, Hopkins, and Van Zandt and already has five announced candidates.
Austin state Rep. Gina Hinojosa has been named to head the House Democratic Caucus Campaign Committee, which is the campaign arm of the House Democratic Caucus. Hinojosa takes on the role of chair of the group that has had very little success in recent election cycles. The Republicans currently hold an 86-63 partisan advantage in the 150 member House. Hinojosa’s father, Gilberto, is currently head of the Texas Democratic Party.
The Senate convened earlier today, referred the two bills the House passed to committee, and adjourned until 6PM Tuesday. The only option they have is to pass exactly what the House passed. It remains to be seen if they will do that.
We are also in what is known as the “veto” period, where Gov. Abbott considers all of the legislation passed by the Legislature. He has until Sunday, June 19th to consider the over 1,200 pieces of legislation sent to his desk. By that day, he has the option to sign or veto the bills, or let them become law without his signature.