Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called a special session of the state’s legislature to begin next month, a step that will likely inflame debate over a restrictive voting rights bill that floundered in May after Democrats staged a last-minute walkout to block the legislation.
Abbott’s office didn’t immediately announce what items would be on the special session’s agenda although the voting rights bill is widely expected to be a main focus. The New York Times, citing a GOP legislative staff member in Texas, confirmed that voting laws would be on the docket as well as other efforts, including an overhaul of the state’s bail system.
The new session will begin on July 8 and could last as long as 30 days.
The move comes just weeks after a dramatic, 11th-hour walkout when Democrats departed from the statehouse en masse, leaving the legislature short of the 100-member threshold needed for a quorum. The effort was largely a symbolic delay tactic as Republicans control both chambers of the legislature.
Abbott was furious with the move and vowed to veto part of the state budget that funds the legislature. He did so earlier this month.
Senate Bill 7 was expected to be one of the most restrictive voting rights bills in the country, imposing new restrictions on absentee voting, empowering poll watchers from political parties and banning drive-through voting and 24-hour polling places.
The bill would have also made it easier to overturn an election.
Although many of those provisions were successfully enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic, Republicans have, without evidence, lambasted them as mechanisms for voter fraud.
Lawmakers will be required to start any new legislation from scratch; however, they could use the final version of Senate Bill 7 as a framework and quickly move ahead.
The restrictive bill is part of a nationwide push by the GOP to rein in access to voting, an effort critics say will unduly target low-income Americans and communities of color. Republicans in the U.S. Senate also blocked debate on a landmark voting rights bill, called the For the People Act, on Tuesday.