Politics make an unexplored intrusion into the special session
Let there be no doubt – we have just started a special legislative session not because of a state of emergency, but because of politics. I know, it’s shocking to read that politics has made its way into the legislative process, but honestly, I’ve never seen it be so daringly intrusive in the work we do.
Because Democrats used a procedural tool to deny a quorum, a horrific election bill was killed during the regular legislative session. Because this particular bill was deleted, Governor Greg Abbott vetoed the part of the budget that includes my salary and the salaries of the more than 2,100 government employees who staff our offices: The Library of State, House Administration and Legislative Council (the legal scholars who support our work). It’s 2,100 employees who are now wondering if they will be paid with the new fiscal year starting September 1. In my mind, this is cruel and mean on the part of the governor. It simply means the uncertainty of pay and health care for non-partisan staff. They are librarians, researchers and staff who help voters with vital concerns.
Election bills like the one at the heart of this conflict have toured states across the country and are intended to appease an extreme subsection of the electorate who refuses to accept the validity of the last presidential election. I have served on the House Elections Committee for two previous sessions and I am monitoring the matter closely. The bill we killed by rule – breaking the quorum – would have made it easier to quash an election, turned election workers into criminals for making minor mistakes and tied the hands of county officials who would like to make a calendar creative to enable more Texans to take advantage of early voting. It was not just a bad bill, it would have set a horrible precedent for the rest of the country.
We are therefore now in another extraordinary session in which there are no real urgencies on the agenda. You could make the case that we are living and have experienced several emergencies at the same time. We’re ranked last in percentage of Texans with health insurance, we have a new strain of COVID harming more Texans as too few of us get the vaccine to prevent the spread, and we’ve just experienced a polar vortex revealing the weaknesses of our electricity network. However, none of these elements came up at the governor’s call.
Historically, the governor has used special session power in times of emergency like public school finances, for example. This year, Abbott has chosen to put politics before people and convene a special session on broadly social issues already discussed in the regular session.
I have already written about my late mother who instilled in me respect for public service. She felt very special because she was a typist at the White Sands Missile Range with top-secret clearance. She was gesturing with her hands, putting thumb and forefinger together, to pronounce the words and smile through the words “top-secret”. She was not sufficient, she just found it extraordinary to serve her country in this way and she was immensely proud of this status. Somehow, over the years, I have developed the same respect for public service. Whether you are elected or have a role in the public sector, it is an honor to serve the public.
Nowadays, our policy seems to shed light on the peculiarity of public service. Because this peculiarity is diminished, I am particularly irritated that the actions of Governor Abbott result in threats to good government employees who are caught in the crosshairs of politics.
As we move forward on the path of a particularly partisan and political special session, pray for us, pray for Texas, and hope that we can stay focused on the really important issues so that our state employees can move forward in their work. work and take care of their families.
Representative Celia Israel represents House District 50, which includes Pflugerville. Follow her on Twitter @celiaisrael, or like her on Facebook at fb.com/CeliaIsraelTX.