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With The Clock Ticking, Prospects Are Looking Grimmer For Governor Abbott’s Agenda

Gov. Greg Abbott tasked the Texas Legislature with passing 20 items in 30 days. State lawmakers have completed 22 of those days so far, at a cost of $736,000 and rising. The grounds of the Capitol have played host to hundreds of amendments, dozens of hours of debate and numerous rallies. And zero bills have made it to Abbott’s desk.

The three leaders of Texas make nice at a short Cash Management Committee meeting in the Betty King Room of the Texas Capitol on July 18, 2017, the first day of the special session.

Let’s run through some numbers from the special session so far: Gov. Greg Abbott tasked the Texas Legislature with passing 20 items in 30 days. State lawmakers have completed 22 of those days so far, at a cost of $736,000 and rising. The grounds of the Capitol have played host to hundreds of amendments, dozens of hours of debate and numerous rallies. 

And zero bills have made it to Abbott’s desk

• The House and Senate appear to be ending the session just as far apart as when they started. The special session’s only must-pass legislation — “sunset” bills that would keep several state agencies from shuttering — is already through the Senate and is set for consideration on the House floor Thursday. But the two chambers are still at odds on issues such as school financetree regulations and property tax reform. And even though both have passed their own versions of bills related to abortion restrictions, public education and maternal mortality, it’s unclear which chamber’s legislation will make it to the next round.

• What about the “bathroom bill”? The highest-profile line on Abbott’s wishlist— a measure to regulate which restrooms transgender people can use — appears to be on life support. House State Affairs Chairman Byron Cook said earlier this week he wasn’t planning to give the legislation a hearing. 

 But team Abbott’s still confident — despite the fact most of his key priorities remain in limbo, in one chamber or the other. Aside from the governor’s steady stream of media hits, his office says Abbott’s top priority — property tax reform — has made more progress during the special session than it ever did during the 140-day regular session. The Senate cleared its preferred version of the legislation two weeks ago, but a House panel dramatically reworked the bill and upped the trigger that would set off elections if local governments planned to raise property tax revenue from 4 percent to 6 percent. And while that measure has yet to hit the floor of the lower chamber for a vote, other related legislation is floating around, too.

 One reminder: If Abbott isn’t happy with what lawmakers have done at the end of the 30 days next week, he can always call them back for more. And while he hasn’t said what might prompt him to call the Legislature back for a third round, several lawmakers say the failure of property tax reform might just do it. 

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