TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It was the moment Texas lawmakers had been looking forward to: adjourning Thursday night after a long summer that included not one, but two special sessions.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said the second special session was driven by Governor Greg Abbott’s 2022 primary race.
“It was a session that was convened by Governor Abbott in order to shore up his base with the Republican Party and get ready for his reelection campaign now that he has two right-wing Republicans running against him,” Hinojosa said.
Both challengers – former State Republican Party Chair Allen West and former State Senator Don Huffines of Dallas – have questioned the governor’s policies and conservative bonafides.
The current Republican Party Chair, Matt Rinaldi, dismissed Hinojosa’s criticism.
“We’ve been campaigning on these issues for 20 years and consistently winning majorities in Texas, implementing these policies that have brought scores of people over from states controlled by Democrats to make Texas one of the fastest growing states in the country,” he said.
Since the end of the regular legislative session in late May, Democrats have made national headlines by breaking quorum and later flying to Washington, DC.
But after enough Democrats returned to the Texas Capitol last month, Republican majorities in the House and Senate were able to approve the controversial elections integrity bill that Democrats had worked to block.
This week, a bill that passed during the regular session also became national news. The fetal heartbeat law took effect and remained so after the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to block it.
In the final days of the session, lawmakers also OK’d a bill that will prohibit doctors from giving abortion-inducing drugs to women after they’re seven weeks pregnant.
That’s three weeks earlier than the law allows now.
“Democrats are fired up, especially Democratic women. All women in [the] state of Texas who believe in a woman’s right to choose what to do with your body, are really fired up and angry. I think it’s going to put ourselves, put Democrats in the position of taking statewide offices,” Hinojosa said.
Rinaldi said, “What we’ve seen in the past is Republicans aren’t as energized when we don’t deliver. What Texas Republicans tried to do this session is deliver. I think they’ve done that, more than any session before. So we think Republicans are going to be extremely energized.”
Among the other bills passed during the second special session are virtual learning for K-6 public school students, a 13th check for retired teachers, restoring the legislature’s funding that Gov. Abbott vetoed and bail reform.
The House and Senate also decided to spend an additional $1.8 billion for border security in the next two-year budget. That’s on top of the $1 billion they approved during the regular session.
Much of that money, $750 million will go toward the governor’s border wall and barriers.
As of Tuesday, private citizens from across the country have donated more than $54 million to the state’s border wall.
Democrats are blasting the need for a border wall while Republicans blame the federal government for not keeping people from entering the country illegally.
Rinaldi said he thinks the wall is a positive step, saying, “I think we need to do even more. If you look in poll after poll, the University of Texas poll that just came out today or yesterday, shows border security is among the top three state issues that concern Texas residents.”
Hinojosa said the wall is another example of the governor playing to his conservative supporters.
“A wall that everybody knows, is illegal, that we cannot build in the state of Texas, because the issue of immigration enforcement is solely a federal matter. But it doesn’t matter, because the right-wing of the Republican Party wants this wall.”
There will be another special session for redistricting.
Lawmakers will have to approve new maps for Congressional districts, along with State House and Senate districts.
Both Democrats and Republicans are expecting political and legal battles ahead.
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