What Makes a Session a “Special Session?”

October 02, 2023  

Here’s What to Expect When Lawmakers Return in October 2023

The Texas Legislature typically convenes in odd-numbered years for 140 days, setting a two-year state budget and passing new laws impacting Texans’ lives and livelihoods. 

But, the Governor of Texas has the ability to call lawmakers back to Austin for 30 days to take up specific topics of his choosing. Per Article 3, Section 40 of the Texas Constitution:

“When the Legislature shall be convened in special session, there shall be no legislation upon subjects other than those designated in the proclamation of the Governor calling such session.”

Since Gov. Greg Abbott took office, he’s called five Special Sessions in 2021 and 2023. Previous sessions have focused on everything from election integrity to property taxes and local tree regulations

The Governor has made clear he intends to call the Legislature back into Session to once again take up vouchers and education savings accounts.

So, will there be any October surprises? 

The October 2023 Special Session Agenda

Instead of using taxpayer dollars to create a costly and unaccountable voucher scheme, we strongly believe now is the time to invest in our public school students and teachers, something lawmakers failed to accomplish in the original 140 days of the Regular Session.

Even with a historic budget surplus of $33 billion, school funding and teacher pay were lost in school voucher battles during the 88th Regular Session this spring. Texas ranks in the bottom 10 nationwide for per-student funding, around $4,000 per student under the national average. Our kids and their teachers deserve better. 

While vouchers, also called education savings accounts (ESAs), are almost certain to appear on the Governor’s call, what’s unclear is if his proclamation might also include school funding or other non-public education topics. The Governor can amend his call at any time during the 30-day special session. 

When lawmakers return to Austin this fall, it’s important to note that the shortened timeline of a Special Session impacts the tone, tenor, and cadence of lawmakers’ work —

  • Fewer hearings are held;
  • behind closed doors, deals are often cut before bills are even filed; and,
  • hearings may be less frequent or more limited in time.

While there are numerous legislative deadlines set up for regular sessions, no such provisions limit when and how quickly a bill can move through the process.

But, outside voices do still matter, and lawmakers need to hear from their constituents as the 30-day clock ticks down.

Raise Your Hand Texas firmly believes public dollars should remain in our public schools and that vouchers are bad policy for Texas.

What Should Be Accomplished During the Special Session? 

The Texas Legislature must act to address Texas’ current school funding crises. The Legislature should increase the basic allotment by at least $1,000 per student, helping to increase teacher pay and allow our schools to properly serve their communities. Additionally, the Legislature should protect school districts from rising inflation by adopting a permanent inflationary adjustment to the basic allotment.

Raise Your Hand Texas shared our position on these issues and other policy topics during a July public hearing of the Texas House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment. These solutions are some ways the Legislature can support our students and teachers through legislation this Special Session, paving the way for a successful future.

Given the fast-paced nature of a special session, we encourage you to sign up for our text alerts so you can track movement on key bills impacting public schools, students, and teachers and learn of opportunities to make your voice heard at the Capitol.

Another way to stay informed during the legislative session is to subscribe to our Across the Lawn newsletter. Every Friday during a session, Across the Lawn examines important issues, developments, progress, and more related to the session and our policies. During interim months and the interim year, the newsletter is monthly.

Tags: Advocacy policy school choice school funding vouchers

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