Eve of Special Session full of rallies, lawmakers speaking at public events

Gov. Greg Abbott and lawmakers are trying to make their stance on issues known on the eve of the Special Session.

AUSTIN - All was quiet inside the Texas Capitol Senate and House chambers the day before the state of the Special Session, but outside the Capitol, there was plenty going on.

The day started with business leaders from across Texas gathering on the steps to speak out against bathroom legislation.

Gov. Greg Abbott says he wants lawmakers to pass a bathroom privacy bill. During the regular session Senate Bill 6, which became known as the "bathroom bill", would require people use the restroom, locker room and shower according to the sex on their birth certificate in state owned facilities and public schools and universities.

The business leaders called it "state-sponsored discrimination" against transgender Texans. And cited a study by Angelou Economics that found by 2026, Texas could lose $5.6 billion if such a bill becomes law.

"As of today, we have been able to track $66 million in conventions and events that have already been canceled in Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Arlington simply because we're talking about discriminatory legislation," said Phillip Jones, President & CEO of Visit Dallas.

"We've seen first hand what's happened in North Carolina. They repealed the bill because it was such a bad idea. Why would we want to go down that road," he added.

A few hours after business leaders finished their rally, hundreds of Texas educators rallied against several bills the governor wants including raises for teachers with no extra state funding to pay for them, Education Savings Accounts or vouchers and ending payroll deductions of professional association dues.

"One of the things about the payroll deduction bill that's very interesting is a lot of groups are exempt from that. Police, fire, EMS and even charities continue to use that. But some of the politicians want to take that away from teachers. Why is that? It's to silence their voice here at the Capitol," said Gary Goodsey, Executive Director of the Association Texas Professional Educators.

"Vouchers, education savings accounts, tax credits; whatever the name they want to give it this time around it's still a voucher. It's still taking money from our public schools and putting it into private schools," added teacher Julleen Bottoms.

Abbott defended his conservative call while speaking at a Texas Public Policy Foundation event. While there, he also identified his top priority for the Special Session.

"Here's the bottom line, we have to cut property taxes in Texas. I would say this is the number one issue we must address," Abbott said.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was also there and laid out his education plan.

Meanwhile back at the Capitol, Senate and House democrats came together to speak about the Special Session.

"Everybody knows why we're gonna have that special session," said House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prarie). "It's because Dan Patrick threw a fit. He demanded we have a special session and Greg Abbott gave in to what he wanted."

The Texas Democrats also laid out their priorities for the session, calling it Real Solutions. Their plan is to focus on children, the economy, health and communities with a list of bills that include addressing maternal mortality, increasing the minimum wage, and a constitutional amendment to require the state fund 50-percent of the cost to educate public school children.

While outnumbered, the group says they will fight for their causes.

"This is not a time for us as Democrats to just roll over and say, yes, you know we want to get out of here, pass all your bad legislation. It's the contrary," said Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso).

Senators say the Lieutenant Governor wants to pass bills on all 20 items within the first 10 days. But to do that, all the Republicans and five Democrats will have to vote to suspend the rules and that is not likely to happen.

Both the House and Senate gavel in at 10 a.m. July 18.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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