AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott joined KVUE live on Monday at 6 p.m. to discuss topics related to the special session, primarily the Texas Democrats fleeing to Washington, D.C., Monday in response to the elections bills moving through the session.
The special session started on July 8, one day after Abbott released the agenda.
Here's a full transcript of the live interview:
Does this mean there's now no way for Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3, the election and voting reform bills, to be passed during this special session? And is there anything you as governor can do to get the Democrats back to Texas?
"Sure. Let me answer those questions in sequence first. There still remains plenty of time to pass not just the bills that you mentioned, but there's a lot of other bills on there that I know for a fact that your viewers right now, they care a whole lot about, such as property taxes. Property taxes are sky high in the Austin area and we have a bill to reduce those property taxes. I know that your viewers care a whole lot about the children who are going through foster care. We have additional funding to provide for foster care as well as for our retired teachers. And as you know, we need more law enforcement to keep our streets safe. We have funding for law enforcement in high-crime areas such as the Austin area. All of those issues are important not just to your viewers but, for a fact, they're important to constituents of Rep. [Vikki] Goodwin, Rep. [James] Talarico, Rep. Weiner. And so if they do not return to work, they are risking losing their jobs as state representatives for not showing up.
"Answering your second question, yes, there is something the governor can do. First of all, I'll tell you what the House of Representatives can do. What the speaker can do is issue a call to have these members arrested. In addition to that, however, I can and I will continue to call a special session after special session after special session all the way up until election next year. And so if these people want to be hanging out wherever they're hanging out on this taxpayer-paid junket, they're going to have to be prepared to do it for well over a year. As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done. Everybody who has a job must show up to do that job, just like your viewers on watching right now. State representatives have that same responsibility."
Is the time for compromise over it? Sounds like you guys are ready to play hardball, but are Republicans willing to meet Democrats somewhere in the middle when it comes to election reform in Texas?
"So, listen, what I'm about to tell you is very important. And that is there were a couple of issues that not just Democrats but even Republicans wanted to achieve. And that was to make sure that the Souls to the Polls would still be allowed to have expanded voting on Sundays, as well as not have the provision in there that would overturn elections. That said, it's also important to point out this law that we are seeking to pass adds more hours, not fewer hours for people to vote. And so we still have the same 12 days of early voting, but more hours during that early voting. And get this, we have far more hours of early voting than in the state where President Biden votes in Delaware, where they have exactly zero hours of early voting. Anyone who suggests this deprives anybody the right to vote is just simply flat-out wrong. This provides more hours to vote than ever before allowed under law in the state of Texas."
Why is there a need for these bills when you say that there was fraud involving 24-hour voting locations or mail-in ballots in the state? Has there been some widespread issues that you all have found?
"So you need to understand that actually there is a federal district judge appointed by Barack Obama who wrote what I'm about to tell you, and a legal opinion involving voting in Texas, where she wrote that voter fraud occurs, "in abundance with regard to ballot harvesting and mail-in ballots in the state of Texas." That is an Obama-appointed federal judge saying that. And that is exactly why the one issue that the legislature is focused on about making the voter election system more sound does involve mail-in ballots. I will add that members of the Texas House of Representatives on the Capitol floor have said that mail-in ballot situation is one that has the possibility of fraud, and that is showing up is a way to ensure election integrity. So this is something that does have bipartisan support."
Now, governor, I know lawmakers, they're spending time on election and voting issues. You say they would have looked at things involving foster care, foster children and property taxes. But what about the electrical grid? So many Texans say that is something that needs to be addressed right now. They want to know what's going to keep Texas from suffering another massive failure and having more Texans die because of it.
"Sure. So first, during the regular session, there were so many laws that were passed by the state legislature that addressed the electrical grid and it empowered the Public Utilities Commission as well as ERCOT. ERCOT sent me a letter that we made public today, earlier today, that talked about these things that ERCOT is working on. ERCOT has already ensured they have increased electric power generation. They have increased more reserves compared to last year. They're adding additional reserves during uncertain weather conditions and they're installing protocols to ensure price certainty during weather challenges. And tomorrow, I think it is, you will see that ERCOT announces its 100-day plan to ensure stability and certainty in the power grid in the state of Texas."
Here is a full list of the items on the special session agenda:
- Legislation to reform the bail system in Texas.
- Legislation to "strengthen the integrity of elections in Texas." The governor supported a group of bills in the regular session that he says will enhance "election integrity." But critics say the bills suppress voters.
- Legislation that addresses the censorship of social media companies.
- Legislation "providing appropriations to the Legislature and legislative agencies in Article X of the General Appropriations Act".
- Legislation that requires schools to provide education to middle schoolers and high schoolers about dating violence, domestic violence and child abuse, "but that recognizes the right of parents to opt their children out of the instruction."
- Legislation identical to that of Senate Bill 29 in the regular session, which bars students from competing in UIL competitions designated for the sex opposite of the students' sex at birth.
- Legislation that "prohibits people from providing abortion-inducing drugs by mail or delivery service, strengthens the laws applicable to the reporting of abortions and abortion complication, and ensures that no abortion-inducing drugs are provided unless there is voluntary and informed consent."
- Legislation "relating to a 'thirteenth check' or one-time supplemental payment of benefits under the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.
- Legislation concerning critical race theory.
- Legislation providing appropriations from additional available general revenue for property tax relief, enhanced protection of children in Texas' foster care system and to better safeguard the state from potential cybersecurity threats.
"The 87th Legislative Session was a monumental success for the people of Texas, but we have unfinished business to ensure that Texas remains the most exceptional state in America," Abbott said in a statement after calling the special session.
Democrats made it clear they are not fans of most of the topics on the special session call, but tensions ran on both sides. On the first day of the special session, lawmakers took a few swipes at each other on the House floor.
"[The governor has] given us an opportunity to kind of fix what he sees are problematic items within each bill as to where they can become law," Phelan said. "We left with some unfinished business. And that's why we're back here today. But that's not uncommon to come back and finish some priorities that members of the House and Senate left undone."
For a historic look at previous special sessions in Texas, click here.
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