Dewhurst Calls for Conservative Priorities in Special Session

Gov. Rick Perry, c, talks with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus after a military memorial ceremony in the Texas House chamber on May 25, 2013.
Gov. Rick Perry, c, talks with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus after a military memorial ceremony in the Texas House chamber on May 25, 2013.

Updated, 6:30 p.m.:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst remains optimistic that Gov. Rick Perry will add the conservative priorities that he has requested to be placed on the special session agenda.

“I expect the governor to add more topics to the call, but I think he’s going to roll these out,” Dewhurst said.

The Senate gaveled into a special session less than an hour after adjourning Sine Die. So far, Perry has only put redistricting on the agenda.

Original story:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is urging Gov. Rick Perry to include a variety of conservative issues, such as the "fetal pain" and campus-carry measures, in the special session that Perry announced Monday. 

Before adjourning the Senate's regular session on Monday, Dewhurst had assigned a select committee on redistricting — the focus of the special session — to be chaired by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo.

Although he touted lawmakers’ work this session — “I think we’re on the eve of one of the most successful conservative legislative sessions in decades, ” Dewhurst said — he added that in a special session, he could override the two-thirds rule in the Senate that allowed Democrats to block some of his priorities during the regular session.

Dewhurst said that he had recommended to Perry that he “be as thoughtful as possible on a number of bills on the call, so that we can get in and pass them and get out of session.”

Dewhurst specifically asked that the Legislature be called back to consider “legislation that accomplishes other conservative principles that have been blocked this session,” including: the "fetal pain” measure to ban abortions after 20 weeks; the campus-carry measure to allow licensed citizens to carry concealed weapons on college campuses; a "school choice" measure to allow parents to choose private or charter schools and shutter failing public schools; a measure to drug-test recipients of federal assistance; and measures to reform the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. He also called for lawmakers to put in place a spending cap based on inflation and population growth.

“I’ve talked to the governor and his staff on these and again, the decision is up to the governor,” said Dewhurst, “but they listen and I’m hoping that they include if not all, most of these recommendations.”

Earlier this afternoon in the House, Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, adjourned sine die by praising members for tackling serious issues while also hinting at the prospect of a special session.

"With a strong economy and a rapidly growing population, we had a unique opportunity to address the major challenges facing our state," Straus said. He ticked off accomplishments including water funding, public education reforms, and increased transparency and accountability in the state budget.

"On these issues and many others, you showed that Texans from different parties and regions can come together to address our most pressing challenges," he said, adding that although challenges remain, "you can be proud of the work you’ve done to address the issues that matter to the people of Texas." 

He also said that while it had been an honor serving with his fellow representatives, he suspected that they would continue serving for "a few more days."

More than 60 House members have sent a letter to Perry also requesting that "pro-life" measures be considered in the special session.

“Despite an overwhelming pro-life majority in the House, not a single pro-life bill filed during this 83rd session reached the House floor,” the letter states. “Since pro-life values are fundamental to us, and since the majority of Texans share these convictions, we are not willing to give up the fight.”

Despite his plans to run for re-election — and the escalating number of conservative lawmakers lining up to challenge him for the seat — Dewhurst said his call for these conservative items in a special session agenda is not a politically driven.

“I’m not looking at the special session as an opportunity to do anything politically that I couldn’t do before,” said Dewhurst. “I just feel like it's good policy to get some of our priority bills passed.”

Reeve Hamilton contributed to this report.

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