Governor Abbott expanded the call of the 3rd called special session on October 31, 2023 to include additional education, school finance, and school safety measures. See proclamation. The Governor announced that he had “reached an agreement on the vouchers with the House Speaker. The Speaker’s Office replied “the Speaker’s Office thanks the Governor for expanding the call and looks forward to a robust conversation. All members will have an opportunity to have their voices heard.”
Texas House and Senate action.
The House did not have a quorum to conduct business Monday and Tuesday.
After Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan announced members would not be back on the floor until sometime on Monday of next week at the earliest, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday afternoon criticized Speaker Phelan about school vouchers, border security, and more. The Lt Governor also cast doubt on the chances of House Bill 4 by Rep. David Spiller, a proposal that was said to be “Abbott’s” border security bill..
Speaker Phelan pushed back on Patrick, focusing on border security. “Patrick’s baseless critique of House Bill 4 is a transparent attempt to deflect from his chamber’s own impotent response to the growing crisis at our border — a crisis demanding decisive action, not the ineffective strategies being peddled by the Senate,” Phelan said. “The House bill was carefully designed with the Office of the Governor to effectively repel illegal border crossings and swiftly return migrants to their point of entry, whereas the Senate’s pro-illegal immigration bill would house undocumented immigrants for up to 99 years, shouldering Texas taxpayers with the exorbitant costs of their long-term detention, including healthcare, housing, and meals,” Phelan said. “The Lt. Governor’s statement is a desperate bid to salvage what’s left of his credibility on border security this special session after the Senate significantly watered-down House Bill 4, the strongest border legislation that has ever been passed out of the House,” Phelan said. ‘In light of this, when can the House expect the Senate to take decisive action on House Bill 6, which allocates $1.5 billion for border security and has inexplicably stalled in the Senate for over a week?” Phelan asked. “Texans are watching and waiting for the Senate to match their words with action.
Earlier this week, Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, substituted HB 4 with his version of the legislation, changing key language. Birdwell’s version of HB 4 would also create a state crime to enter the country illegally from Mexico. Police, however, would incarcerate the immigrant, who would await prosecution for a misdemeanor or felony. If convicted, after the immigrant serves their sentence, a judge would order an unspecified state agency to transport the immigrant to a port of entry to be turned over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for removal.
Lawyers say both versions of the bill are unconstitutional because the U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled that immigration matters are solely the responsibility of the federal government. They also say that under Spiller’s version, it would be illegal for Texas to deport immigrants to Mexico, especially if they are not Mexican citizens. In Birdwell’s version, the lawyers said that holding someone in custody after serving their sentence is a civil rights violation. They also said that a state judge can’t order a federal immigration agent on what to do with an immigrant.
Spiller and Birdwell have said the bill is meant to target people who recently crossed the border illegally and not undocumented immigrants who crossed through another state and currently live in Texas or have been here longer than two years — the statute of limitations for misdemeanors.
Both chambers have also passed separate bills that would fund $1.5 billion for new border barriers. But with little time in the special session it’s unclear if either piece of legislation would be approved by both chambers on time.
The House version, approved last Thursday, would use the money to erect a fence along various parts of the 1,200-mile Texas-Mexico border and lay out a water barrier like the 1,000-foot-long buoys currently in the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass.
Instead of advancing that bill, the Senate this week chose to advance its own version, which would also appropriate most of the money for border barriers and allocate $40 million to pay for state troopers to have a presence on Colony Ridge, a Houston suburb that far right publications have said, without showing evidence, is a magnet for undocumented immigrants.
Time is running out for the Legislature to reach an agreement on the bills. The Senate met briefly Thursday and recessed until Sunday afternoon — two days before the deadline for the special session to end. The House, meanwhile, has indicated it will only convene again after the Senate passes out its two border bills.