Following Gov. Greg Abbott‘s formal announcement of the agenda for the special session that is set to begin on Thursday, though critics have accused the governor of leveraging the legislative session for his own political gain.
State Rep. Chris Turner, the chair of the House Democratic caucus in Texas, responded to the declaration in a statement in which he denounced the governor and highlighted his failure to address the instability of the electric grid, falling vaccination efforts, and inaccessibility of affordable healthcare.
“The governor’s agenda for the special session shows he is more concerned with pandering to die-hard Trump supporters and right-wing extremists than he is with serving everyday Texans. Abbott’s agenda proves one thing: he is clearly panicked about his upcoming primary election,” Turner said. “We have real crises in this state — hundreds of Texans died because the governor couldn’t keep the heat on last February, millions of Texans are still unable to access basic medical care and our COVID-19 vaccination rates have plateaued. That’s what a real leader would focus on.”
The governor’s agenda focuses on issues that will largely appeal to conservative voters, notably funding for the border wall which he had already announced would receive $250 million from the state’s general revenue. Abbott is up for re-election next year, when he will face a challenge from his right in the Republican primary race, though there has also been speculation regarding a potential presidential bid in 2024.
Across the state, Democrats have taken aim at the governor for prioritizing a conservative agenda over more pressing issues in Texas
“I’m furious and I’m embarrassed for the state,” said state Rep. Erin Zwiener in response to the governor’s second attempt to bar transgender student athletes from competing in sports. “None are those are the issues we are focusing in on. Instead we’re talking about a bill that attacks some of our most vulnerable children to make a culture war point.”
In recent weeks, Democrats have been joined by Republican voices criticizing the governor over his decision to veto funding for the Legislature as a punishment for the Democrats’ decision to flee the Capitol over the voting bill. Among them, Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan has expressed concerns for the impact on staffers and legislative agencies. Abbott included the issue of funding in his agenda, prompting Democrats to highlight the risk posed.
“What we think he’s done is definitely unconstitutional,” said state Rep. Rafael Anchía. “He’s trying to blackmail us to pass his agenda by defunding the legislative branch.”