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The Texas Legislature Is Back For Its Special Session

And they’re back: State lawmakers return to the Capitol today to tackle business left unfinished during a divisive legislative session that ended in May. But a seven-week break doesn’t appear to have mended their ill will.

From left: Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are shown on May 21, 2015.

And they’re back: State lawmakers return to the Capitol today to tackle business left unfinished during a divisive legislative session that ended in May. But a seven-week break doesn’t appear to have mended the ill will that plagued lawmakers during the regular session. So where are the battle lines drawn as the curtains raise at the Texas Capitol? Here’s what you need to know: 

A quick refresher: Gov. Greg Abbott was forced to call the session after the House and Senate deadlocked on legislation to keep several key state agencies, such as the Texas Medical Board, in operation — amid episodes of bickering over property tax reform and legislation regulating which restrooms transgender Texans could use. While the governor was at it, he directed lawmakers to work on another 19 items — everything from boosting teacher pay to putting more restrictions on abortion. The Legislature has 30 days to first pass the legislation they jeopardized last session before they can turn to the other high-profile issues Abbott has said he wants on his desk. But it’s unclear whether tensions between Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, and House Speaker Joe Straus will leave the Legislature once again at a standstill

“No one gets to hide,” Abbott told the crowd at a Texas Public Policy Foundation event Monday, saying he planned to make a daily list keeping tabs on which lawmakers supported his 20 items — and which didn’t. The governor, who appears to be laying the groundwork for a larger political footprint at the Capitol, made more news when he plucked property tax reform from the set of issues he wants the Legislature to pass and dubbed it the “No. 1 issue” of the special session. Patrick and others on the far right have vocalized their support for Abbott’s agenda in recent weeks, pushing the “20 for 20” pass-them-all approach. But Abbott faces a challenge in the House, where Straus has made clear he’s no fan of “bathroom bill”-esque proposals. 

Democrats — and teachers — aren’t thrilled with what’s coming down the pipe. Democrats have filed their own proposals for the special session,such as increasing the state’s minimum wage and closing the gender wage gap, but they’ll likely spend their time playing defense on measures like the “bathroom bill” — it’s like déjà vu all over again. Slight chatter on the sidelines has left some wondering if Democrats could run a play from their 2003 book and flee the state; if one-third of either chamber is absent, the body can’t meet to vote on legislation. Meanwhile, amid an education-heavy special session, Texas educators are saying “no thanks” to a handful of Abbott’s agenda items — including the “bathroom bill” and yes, even a $1,000 pay raise for teachers. 

The show starts at 10 a.m. today. Follow Texas Tribune reportersMorgan SmithAndy Duehren and Shannon Najmabadi, who will be at the Texas Capitol covering the ins and outs of both chambers as the special session kicks off. The Texas Tribune’s Twitter account will be chock-full of tweetstorms, breaking news and more, and if things get especially frenzied, head over to our Facebook page for a livestream and play-by-play analysis. Round two of #txlege is just beginning, but we’ll be here for it all — bringing you the latest news around the clock.

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