A fast-moving Senate gave unanimous early approval to critical “sunset legislation” on Wednesday afternoon, using two bills to extend the life of five state agencies held political hostage at the end of the regular legislative session.
The special session’s Senate Bill 20 and Senate Bill 60, authored by state Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, would reauthorize the Texas Medical Board and four other state agencies. Gov. Greg Abbott has said he won’t add other hot-button items to legislators’ agenda until after they keep those agencies afloat.
The Senate will reconvene one minute after midnight, when lawmakers in the upper chamber can take a final vote on both bills.
“I will bring the pizza and the soda pop,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick joked.
If the bills pass, as expected, they’ll head across the hall to the Texas House, which has made clear it’s not motivated by a speedy timetable.
Senators also announced that several committees would hold public hearings Friday, including on the controversial “bathroom bill” that has yet to be filed.
State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, said Wednesday that he expects the sunset legislation will be passed overnight and sent to the House, which could allow lawmakers to begin considering other items. The reason for the midnight meeting, he added, is that public hearings can begin taking place as soon as Friday morning. Legislative rules require that a 24-hour notice be given for a public hearing during a special session. Bettencourt added that lawmakers made announcements Wednesday about committee hearings Friday to give “as much notice as possible.”
The House State Affairs committee on Wednesday approved sunset legislation of its own — House Bill 1 by Round Rock Republican Larry Gonzales — which would leave the five state agencies open for another two years. It’s unclear how soon that bill will head to the full chamber.
The House would also need to pass House Bill 2 to fund the agencies.
Andy Duehren contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2017/07/19/senate-gives-preliminary-approval-sunset-legislation/. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.