Not so special

Last week, Governor Greg Abbott announced a special session of the Legislature to begin on July 18th. I talked about it on WFAA’s Inside Texas Politics on Sunday (spoiler alert: I don’t think this session will be very special).

What could be so important that Governor Abbott would call the Legislature back for its first overtime session since 2013?

Would it be to finally fix our broken school finance system, the one that increasingly shifts the cost of education to property taxpayers while state government continues to shirk its responsibility at the expense of 5.3 million public school students?  I could sure get behind a special session to improve public education – but alas, that’s not what the governor wants, unless you count a meaningless “study” of school finance.  

Perhaps, instead, Governor Abbott has finally recognized it’s his and the Legislature’s duty to do something about the shameful fact that Texas has the highest number and rate of uninsured of any state in the nation and it is past time we improve healthcare access and affordability for Texans?  Well, you’d be dreaming if that were the case.

Oh, I know – is Governor Abbott alarmed about the fact that the Texas economy has steadily worsened on his watch? After all, our economy has slipped from #3 to #21 in the last couple of years and our GDP growth has slowed to a crawl while housing prices continue to rise.  But no, if you thought that was the reason for the special session, you’re sadly mistaken.

No, Governor Abbott has decided we need a costly special session to address a Tea Party wish list of crazy ideas: new attacks on women’s reproductive rights, the discriminatory “bathroom” bill, an assault on unions, private school vouchers and myriad efforts to upend cities’ ability to…well, be cities.

There is one must-pass bill: the measure that would keep the Texas Medical Board, the agency that licenses doctors, operational.  (It didn’t pass in the regular session when Lt. Governor Dan Patrick sabotaged it so he could force Governor Abbott to call this special session). We could pass that bill in two days, go home, save the taxpayers a lot of money and the state of Texas a lot of embarrassment.

This is the new normal in the Republican Party in the age of Trump – serious problems are ignored while Republican politicians create new ones to placate their Tea Party base.

It’s a shame, because the people of Texas deserve much better.