AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Gov. Rick Perry wouldn't say Friday whether there is too much unfinished business at the Texas Legislature to adjourn next week as scheduled. His record the last 13 years says lawmakers aren't going anywhere.
The regular 140-day session ends Monday. But with only the Memorial Day weekend left to work through reams of bills — including a new state budget stalled in down-to-the-wire turmoil — speculation intensified Friday that a special summer session is around the corner.
Settling voting maps that have been disputed in federal courts since last year will most likely keep the Legislature working into June. But Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst also wants to revive failed conservative efforts such as tighter abortion restrictions, looser gun laws and a harder cap on state spending.
Since becoming governor in 2000, Perry has presided over six regular sessions of the Legislature. Four of those times — 2003, 2005, 2009 and 2011 — he called lawmakers back to the Capitol to keep working.
When asked Friday whether another special session was in the works, Perry would only coolly reply, "We are headed for the end of this session."
But the number of lawmakers resigned to overtime is growing. Republican state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, called it a "done deal."
"I think (Attorney General Greg) Abbott has convinced many lawmakers we have got to certify the map," Eltife said. "From what I gather, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and Gov. Perry are convinced of that.
"As for all the other issues swirling around, that's totally up to Gov. Perry."
Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said he's been told by Perry that if there is a special session, the agenda will include addressing the state's beleaguered Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, the insurer of last resort for coastal property owners.
Dewhurst rattled off his legislative wish list in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He said he wants another crack at legislation that would require drug tests for welfare recipients, allow students with concealed-handgun licenses to carry guns into campus buildings and further restrict the availability of abortions.
Dewhurst told the newspaper he thought Perry was "seriously considering" calling a special session.
In an interview with The Associated Press earlier this week, Dewhurst expressed frustration that abortion measures had sputtered out. Anti-abortion conservatives saw all of their bills to make abortions more difficult fade away without a final vote. Republicans introduced 19 separate bills to impose greater restrictions and paperwork on doctors and clinics, which would have effectively shut down 90 percent of the existing abortions facilities in the state.
"Historically, both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have come together on pro-life legislation," Dewhurst told AP. "And for some reason, there seems to be a resistance by the Democrats to move forward on some of the pro-life legislation, which I think is important."
Republican state Sen. Ken Seliger, leader of Senate redistricting efforts, said all signs point toward a special session and Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said he's been told by the .
Sen. Kirk Watson, the Democratic leader in the chamber, grumbled that the issues Dewhurst wants are not critical to the state.
Democrats stand to lose the most in a special session because their power greatly diminishes. Republicans only need a simple majority in a special session to pass any legislation, and not the two-thirds threshold typically required.
The most highly anticipated political announcement this summer is whether Perry will seek re-election in 2014. Perry has said he won't publicly decide until after the Legislature is done.
"Many of the red-meat issues that the governor might add to the call are out of step with mainstream Texas," Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia said. "I think it hurts Republicans if those issues are brought forward in furtherance of the governor's political ambitions."
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