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Texas This Week: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick discusses upcoming special session

Texas lawmakers will head back to the Capitol for the fourth time this year later this month.

AUSTIN, Texas — In this edition of Texas This Week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick discusses why he wants legislation banning transgender public school students from playing on sports teams according to the gender identity.

Three things to know In Texas politics

The Justice Department sues Texas

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a lawsuit Thursday against the State of Texas for its new law that bans doctors from abortions once fetal cardiac activity is detected. Garland calls the Heartbeat Act unconstitutional. The law is enforced through civil lawsuits rather than criminal penalties and allows almost anyone to sue a doctor or person who helps a woman get an abortion and be awarded $10,000. Garland said the law turns citizens into bounty hunters.


Gov. Greg Abbott signs election reform bill

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the hotly debated GOP election reform bill into law on Tuesday. The law makes several changes to the election code, including: 

  • Requiring early voting for at least nine hours on weekdays instead of the county clerk's business hours
  • Allows polls to be open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. rather than 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
  • Bans 24-hour voting 
  • Bans drive-thru voting
  • Adds an ID requirement for mail-in ballots and mail-in ballot applications
  • Makes it a crime for local election officials to send out unsolicited mail-in ballot applications
  • Gives partisan poll watchers free movement inside the polls


Gov. Abbott calls third special session 

Texas lawmakers will return to the Capitol for the fourth time this year. Gov. Abbott announced the third special session will convene at 10 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 20. The governor sets the agenda for special sessions and lawmakers can only pass bills he puts on the call. The big item, and driving factor as to why there is a third special, is redistricting. Lawmakers will draw new political maps based on the 2020 census data. They'll also decide how the State should spend nearly $16 billion in federal COVID-19 relief dollars from the American Rescue Plan. The governor is also asking lawmakers to decide whether government entities can mandate COVID-19 vaccines and if so, what exemptions should apply. He's bringing back an item he vetoed, letting lawmakers make a few changes to the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, which outlines treatment of dogs. He put one of the lieutenant governor's priority bills on the call, legislation requiring public school students play on sports teams according to their biological sex at birth.

RELATED: Third special session agenda shows Gov. Abbott's stance on COVID-19 vaccine mandates could be shifting

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick discusses upcoming session

Critics say the legislation Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants passed in the special session unnecessarily targets transgender Texas children, but he says it's about protecting girls. Patrick joined Texas This Week to talk about his stance on that and the upcoming session.

Ashley Goudeau: Another bill that you asked the governor to put on this next call, and that's a bill related to the transgender sports. The legislation passed the Senate more than once, as you pointed out, one of those bills that you passed. But it doesn't seem to really be the will of the House to pass that measure. So why keep pushing for that legislation?

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick: "Look, it's just basic fairness. We're not trying to be against anyone and their lifestyle. That's their decision. But we also can't take away the rights of girls and women, and allowing boys to play girls' sports is just unfair. Boys can run faster, hit the ball longer if they're playing softball, hit three point shots and rebound better. They can beat girls in track and field. As I said, they can run faster. They could beat them in wrestling, that's already happened in Texas, because they're stronger. It's just not fair. I mean, I have boys and girls in my family, kids and grandchildren, boys have an unfair advantage. And it's not right that girls might not get a spot on the team, not get a chance to play, not get a scholarship. It's just not right, and that's the reason that bill is important to me. It's the right thing to do for girls and women. And by the way, not only does it have overwhelming support, 90% with Republicans, but has overwhelming support with independents, 70% or more in our polls. And depending on the poll that you look at, Ashley, 25% to 35% or 40% of Democrats support this. Fathers, mothers, they know it's just not right for boys to take their girl's spot on the team and take their opportunities away."

Goudeau: Lawmakers have to redraw those political maps. The process is called redistricting, for folks who aren't familiar, but there are two senators who are part of a lawsuit that are challenging the third session with the argument that redistricting has to happen during a regular session, that that's the language in the Constitution. What are your thoughts on that argument? 

Lt. Gov. Patrick: "You know I never step in front of a judge on what decision they're going to make or on appeal. We think it's frivolous, because the Constitution, the federal constitution, says we have to redraw the lines, every state, every county, every jurisdiction, we have to redraw the lines every 10 years based on the census. Now, the Biden administration really slowed down us getting the census data this time. I don't know who was behind it, maybe just incompetence. I'm not sure. But we normally get those numbers in April or May so we can draw the lines in a normal session. We just got the numbers about 10 days ago, so we're kind of up against the clock. And so these two senators, and it's in their right, anybody can go to court and find a lawyer to file a lawsuit, they're saying that we can't draw these maps until the next regular session, and there are many of us who just disagree. But it's up to the courts to decide on that."

Goudeau: Lieutenant Governor, do you have any final thoughts for our viewers just on kind of the state of politics right now in Texas?

Lt. Gov. Patrick: "I will say this, that most of what we pass is bipartisan. For example, the bail bond reform to keep murderers in jail and not let them out on bond. Now, I'm surprised it didn't get more Democrats' support, but we did get four, four or five senators to vote for that. On our education bill to fund virtual schools for children who need it, we want to get kids back in the class but some kids still need it, that was a bipartisan bill. The election bill, even though we didn't have the Democrats vote for it, that's going to help all voters have more access in the mail-in ballots to be sure their ballots are cured if there's a mistake. So there are always a few bills each session, Ashley, that there's going to be Republicans-Democrats are split on because that's why there are two parties. There's a difference of opinion on legislation. But last session in 2019, out of 1,800 bills we passed roughly, I believe the number is, and I'm going to give a ballpark number but it's pretty close, less than 30 bills passed only with Republican votes out of 1,800. And my guess is when we total up the bills this session, and we've passed fewer bills this session for many reasons, mainly because we started late because of COVID, we took a little slower and we don't have as many committee meetings and everyone just decided to slow the pace down, but my guess is we passed between 1,300 and 1,500 bills. And again, I bet you not more than 25 passed with only Republican votes. So in Texas, despite the Democrats walking out and going to Washington, despite all the hubbub over, you know, two or three bills that got a lot of attention, most of what we do is govern in Texas as two parties. And that is still a hallmark that I'm proud of in the Texas Legislature."

You can watch Ashley Goudeau's full interview with Lt. Gov. Patrick here: 

The Last Word

In this week's The Last Word, Ashley explains why Gov. Greg Abbott's statement that survivors of rape or incest have "at least six weeks" to get an abortion under the Heartbeat Act is factually incorrect. 


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