The 85th regular session of the Texas Legislature ended dramatically last week, and the drama's not over: Lawmakers will return to Austin next month for a special session. Two members of the state House, Democrat Rafael Anchia and Republican Jason Villalba, stopped by KERA to talk about a session they say was unlike any other.
"I think the divisiveness is what really struck me as something that was unusual," said Villalba. "There were so many moments were I was staring out the window in the chamber and thinking 'My God, what have we done? What are we doing today for Texas?'"
Both pointed to the night the anti-sanctuary cities bill, Senate Bill 4, passed.
"Of the seven sessions I've served, this one was the most emotionally draining, the most physically taxing," Anchia said. "I had a real tough time talking to some of my colleagues on the floor after the vote on the 'papers please' bill."
A packed special session
That wouldn't be the last time emotions would run high over SB 4. The session ended on a dramatic note when several lawmakers got into a scuffle after Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving) said he called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to pick up protesters in the House gallery.
The legislature will return for a special session on July 18. The first order of business is sunset legislation to keep certain state agencies open. Once that's passed, Abbott has a 19-item wish list of issues. Anchia says the only way to keep the special session off the rails is strong House leadership.
"Frankly, I don't hold any hope that the Senate is going to provide leadership," he said. "The governor is scared of the lieutenant governor running against him and that's why we're coming back."
Villalba pointed to the special session as a chance to take on school finance and property tax reform, both items on the governor's agenda. But a special session time limit will make that a challenge.
"I do sense that we're going to be pushing off the table at the end of the 30-day period some of the items that may be more controversial, and I think that's just a matter of timing out."