In a recent significant development in Texas politics, voters cast their ballots on 14 constitutional amendments. Key among these was Proposition 4, a measure for $18 billion in property tax relief, which garnered a robust 83% approval. Conversely, Proposition 13, intended to extend the retirement age for judges, did not pass.
Governor Greg Abbott also initiated the fourth special session of the legislature, commencing on November 7. This session focused on several pivotal areas:
Education: The legislature examined various educational aspects, including the creation of an education savings account program and legislation concerning the welfare of public school employees. This encompasses their certification, compensation, and health coverage, alongside the public school finance system. The session also delved into special education, educational grant programs, reading instruction, early childhood education, virtual learning, and accountability in public schools. School safety and relevant funding mechanisms were also on the agenda.
Border Security: Another significant facet of the session was border security, with proposed legislation aimed at curtailing illegal immigration. This included establishing criminal offenses for illegal entry and reentry into Texas, authorizing the removal of illegal immigrants, and providing indemnification and immunity for public officials and employees in these matters. The legislature also considered funding for the construction, operation, and maintenance of border barriers and additional resources for the Department of Public Safety’s border security operations.
The session notably focused on the contentious issue of school vouchers, part of Abbott’s prolonged campaign for “school choice”. Optimism was cautiously observed among some Republicans regarding resolving the voucher impasse. This included the introduction of a revised education package by the House Public Education Committee Chairman, which was slated for a two-day committee hearing. Furthermore, GOP members reached a consensus on border security issues, which had previously led to disputes.
This fourth special session is historic in the context of Texas governance, marking the first instance of a governor calling a fourth special session within the same year as the regular session.