Gov. Greg Abbott says special legislative session on “school choice” coming in October

The governor promised political consequences if lawmakers cannot pass legislation allowing for publicly subsidized school vouchers before March primaries.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott
Texas Governor Greg Abbott(NBC News Channel)
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 4:36 PM CDT
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AUSTIN, Texas (TEXAS TRIBUNE) - Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday his long-awaited special session on “school choice” will start next month while promising political consequences for lawmakers who stand in the way of his priority legislation.

“There’s an easy way to get it done, and there’s a hard way,” Abbott said on a tele-town hall about the issue. “We will take it either way — in a special session or after an election.”

Lawmakers have long expected the special session to start in October, but this is the most specific Abbott has been about the timing yet. And his blunt remarks about the politics mark an escalation of pressure on Republicans in the Texas House who have been a roadblock to the proposal.

“If we do not win in that first special session, we will have another special special session and we’ll come back again,” Abbott said. “And then if we don’t win that time, I think it’s time to send this to the voters themselves.”

“We will have everything teed up in a way where we will be giving voters in a primary a choice,” Abbott added.

Abbott entered this year more determined than ever to pass “school choice,” a proposal to let parents use taxpayer dollars to take their children out of public school. The idea has long encountered resistance in the House, where a coalition of Democrats and rural Republicans have blocked it.

That coalition remained strong enough during the regular legislative session to keep any school choice proposal from reaching the House floor.

When the regular session ended, Abbott vowed to call multiple special sessions on unfinished business, including school choice. Divisions between the House and Senate have only deepened since then, with back-to-back special sessions on a property tax stalemate and then the impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The trial ended Saturday with the Senate clearing Paxton on 16 articles of impeachment after the House overwhelmingly voted to impeach him in May. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick bashed the House’s impeachment process after the verdict, while House Speaker Dade Phelan, a fellow Republican, fired back that Patrick was biased all along.

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