Currently, redistricting is the only item on the special session agenda set by the governor but more could follow.
After a legislative session described as — if not necessarily bipartisan — at least collegial, the next 30 days may be anything but.
Bob Stein is a professor of political science at Rice University. He expects redistricting to be a contentious issue.
“Most of the Democrats are now saying, let’s wait till the Supreme Court makes their decision in June and then come back and visit whether or not we want to redraw those boundaries or district lines. But this can get very ugly.”
Stein says lawmakers of both parties worked together on such issues as the state budget and education funding during the regular session. The more controversial issues were not addressed.
“That kind of collaboration or bipartisanship would have been tremendously eroded, had the Legislature considered something like redistricting or even the abortion debate. In fact, most of those abortion bills were put off. School choice got a modest change but nothing what, I think, Dan Patrick that sponsor, wanted.”
But Republicans have a better shot at passing their favored legislation in the special session, because unlike during the regular session, they won’t need a two-thirds majority to pass a bill. Republicans hold 95 House seats against the Democrats’ 55, and 19 out of 31 Senate seats.
Stein says the special session will also help some Republicans on the campaign trail.
“A lot of this is setting up for the primaries, telling the party faithful each of these legislators and elected officials are faithful to some of the core issues of the Republican party: abortion, gun control or no restriction on guns, and particularly beefing up the strength of the Republican party in congressional and state Senate and state House seats.”
Sylvia Garcia is a Democratic state Senator from Houston. She says if no other items are added to the agenda, the special session should be over in less than a week. Revisiting some of the issues that have been suggested would be wrong, she says.
“Because all of the things that (Lt.) Gov. Dewhurst put on the list in his letter to the governor — all those issues were issues that were dealt with in the regular session. They just didn’t like the outcome.”
Garcia says she would prefer to wait for the courts to rule on the redistricting maps. But she says the governor and other politicians want to have a permanent map in place before the start of the primary season.
KUHF contacted three different Republican lawmakers but none was available for comment on the special session.