While the regular session has come to an end, there is still work to be done in the legislature. At the conclusion of the 83rd legislative session, the Governor immediately convened a special session. We are also in the veto period, the 20 days following the regular session where the governor is allowed to veto bills.
Governor Rick Perry called the first special session of the 83rd legislature before the conclusion of the regular session. Special session is different from the regular session because it lasts up to 30 days and lawmakers may consider only those issues designated by the Governor in his "call.” The current special session was called May 27th and will last through June 25.
The Governor’s power to call a special session is granted by Article 4, Section 8 of the Texas Constitution. Only the Governor may convene a special session. Special sessions can be called for multiple topics and there is no limit to the number of special sessions that may be called. Since 2003, there have been 10 special sessions called by Governor Perry.
The 82nd legislative session passed new Texas House, Senate, Congressional and State Board of Education Maps required as a result of the 2010 census. Because Texas is one of a handful of states that must get pre-clearance for any changes to election maps, a federal court in Washington, D.C. began reviewing the legislative districts. While this review was underway, another federal court in San Antonio, at the request of numerous special interest groups, also reviewed the maps drawn by the Legislature in 2011 and declared them unconstitutional.
The San Antonio federal court drew their own version of the maps and those political boundary lines were used in the last election cycle and are still in effect today. Governor Perry and Attorney General Abbott are now seeking to make these lines permanent in order to bring certainty to our elections and to ratify maps that were court-drawn in order to end ongoing litigation.
The Redistricting Committees of the House and Senate are currently holding legislative hearings on these interim maps. Legislators will soon debate the proposals that emerge from this process and will vote on permanent maps to send to the Governor for his signature.
This week, Governor Perry added transportation funding, abortion restrictions and capital sentencing reform to the official agenda of the Special Session. The Governor requested action on each of these high-priority items during his State of the State address in January; however, the House and Senate did not reach a consensus on these specific reform efforts prior to the conclusion of the Regular Session.
For the remainder of this Special Session, the Legislature will focus on these important measures along with the ongoing redistricting efforts.
A list of special sessions, with their proclamations is here.
The Governor has 10 days after a bill has passed to veto or sign the bill into law. Legislation that is vetoed is returned to the legislature with an explanation of the veto. When the legislature is in session, they may override the veto with 2/3rds vote in favor of the legislation in each chamber.
If the legislative session ends within ten days of the Governor's receipt of any legislation, however, the Governor has another twenty days from adjournment to act on any such pending bills. There is typically a large amount of legislation passed at the end of a session, so the Governor has this extra time to consider the larger volume of bills. The Governor has until June 16th to veto bills that were passed at the end of the recently concluded regular session.
In Texas, the Governor has a line-item veto privileges on one bill, the budget. This power is not granted on regular bills. This allows specific funds to be vetoed without vetoing the entire budget.
A bill that does not receive a signature or veto becomes law at the end of the veto period.
A list of gubernatorial vetoes with their explanations may be found here.