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After Santa Fe shooting, prominent Texas House Republican asks Abbott to call special session on school shootings

House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook joined a growing chorus of Texas politicians who have already asked Abbott to call back lawmakers to weigh proposals on the issue.

State Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, during the first hearing of the House Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness on Nov. 15, 2017.

Three days after a 17-year-old Texas student killed 10 people in a shooting rampage at his high school, one of the Texas House’s most prominent Republicans called on Gov. Greg Abbott to order a special legislative session on school shootings.

State Rep. Byron Cook, a Corsicana Republican perhaps best known for blocking some of the governor’s top priorities through his role as chairman of the powerful House State Affairs Committee, asked Abbott in a letter sent Monday to reconvene lawmakers in Austin this summer to make policy changes before the next school year begins in August.

“I want to commend you on the immediacy of your actions on the school safety roundtable discussions beginning tomorrow,” Cook said, in a letter he also posted online. “However, much more must be done.”

Cook joins a growing chorus of Texas politicians who have already asked Abbott to call back lawmakers to weigh proposals on the issue. But as chair of the powerful House State Affairs Committee, he is the most prominent Republican so far to do so. Cook is retiring this year after more than a decade in the Legislature. A Republican primary runoff on Tuesday will determine his likely successor.

The Texas Legislature meets every two years for 140 days. The next regular session begins in January. The governor can call back lawmakers for special sessions of up to 30 days at any time. The last special session was last summer, when Abbott called lawmakers back to tackle 20 issues, including statewide regulations on property tax reform and which bathrooms transgender Texans can use.

Weeks after that special session, Abbott faced criticism for saying no special session was needed to address issues related to Hurricane Harvey. 

Chris Turner, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, has said publicly that the school violence issue merits the immediate attention of the Legislature, as did Andrew White, one of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates vying to run against Abbott in November. State Rep. Jason Villalba, a Dallas Republican who, like Cook, will not return to the Legislature for the 2019 session, said “If we don’t act we’re doing the people of Texas a great disservice,” the Dallas Morning News reported.

Neither Abbott nor Cook immediately returned a request for comment.

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Politics Public education State government Guns In Texas