DALLAS – Before a friendly crowd who offered applause, Governor Greg Abbott issued a threat of sorts to state lawmakers who do not stake out conservative positions on controversial issues.
"I'm going to be establishing a list. You all or other organizations may be establishing a list. We all need to establish lists that we publish on a daily basis and call people out. Who is for this? Who is against this? Who has not taken a position yet? No one gets to hide. No one gets to play neutral. Everyone has to be all in,” said Abbott to the Texas Public Policy Foundation before the audience interrupted him with applause.
"It's a threat of a kind,” said Ross Ramsey, co-founder and executive editor of the Texas Tribune. “It requires the governor to say specifically what he wants. If he's going to keep score on this, if he's going to give everybody a report card on this, they need to know exactly what he wants and make their decisions on whether they're exactly with him or not."
“He’s not going to accept one or two items passing and the House adjourning early so I think that is a sort of a veiled reference at the primaries that this sort of go-along to get along, support every incumbent under any circumstances operating theory is not one he’s going to do going forward. I think he’s trying to show these members he’s watching closely. He wants to work with them. He wants them to be productive and if they’re not he’ll have to consider other options going forward,” said Matt Mackowiak, Potomac Strategy Group, and chairman of the Travis County Republican Party.
Tuesday morning marks the beginning of the special legislative session that the governor called to renew the budget for the Texas Medical Board and consider 20 additional items Abbott considers important.
Among the additional legislation, lawmakers will debate ways to reduce property taxes, give teachers a $1,000 pay raise, and reconsider the so-called bathroom bill.
IBM joined major corporations opposing the bathroom bill on Monday, writing in a Facebook post “10,000 IBMers live in Texas. Bathroom bills would hurt business and our ability to attract and retain talent.”
If the bathroom bill is defeated, that will happen in the House. But Democrats aren't holding out much hope.
"Well, if it reaches the floor in the House, I think it will pass. It's not that people believe in it. It's just that a lot of people are concerned about their primaries,” said state Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas.
She said the concern about getting re-elected will likely force moderate Republicans to support it.
Abbott is likely not that worried about his own re-election. His campaign announced the governor raised $10-million in the last 12-days of June which brings “cash on hand” to almost $41 million.
"He is unrivaled right now in politics. He's running for re-election. The lieutenant governor is running for re-election. They're both going to be in very good shape,” said Mackowiak.
That kind of money makes Abbott tough to beat, he added.
"Yeah, I don't see a challenge there. The fact we are, let's say, four or five months from the filing period closing, the Democrats have no idea who their candidate for governor is says a lot about how strong Greg Abbott is right now,” explained Mackowiak.
The special session begins at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday and will last 30-days. Gov. Abbott can extend it if he wanted but with a cost of several million dollars to taxpayers, an extension is not likely.