Second Special Session: Terms you need to know

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Editor's Note: The Texas legislature started the second special session on Monday, July 1, without much fanfare. But following the dramatic ending to the first special session, there are sure to be dramatic moments in the coming days. Lawmaking is a messy and confusing business, and it is easy to get lost in the sea of terms and vocabulary. The Daily Texan has thus prepared a glossary of terms you need to know to survive the second special session. You can try to memorize this list now, or just refer back to it throughout the session when you have questions. 

Filibuster: A filibuster is a type of legislative procedure that typically aims to talk a bill to death. If a lawmaker can keep the filibuster going until time runs out, a bill will die.

During a filibuster, a lawmaker must remain standing. They cannot lean on anything, eat any food or drink any liquids. They also may not use the restroom. If a lawmaker breaks any rule three times, the filibuster ends. Other lawmakers must point out a broken rule first with a point of order.

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, made an 11-hour filibuster on the abortion legislation in the first special session. Filibuster records are not necessarily well kept, but many believe the longest filibuster in United States history was by Texas Judge Bill Meier when he was a Texas Senator in 1977. Meier’s filibuster lasted for 43 hours, and was on a bill relating to open records law. The bill Meier tried to stop passed shortly after his filibuster ended.

Gallery: Both the House and the Senate have an upper deck where people can gather to watch the legislative process. The rules forbid screaming, clapping or cheering from the gallery.

During the first special session, people watching the Senate’s gallery started to scream and chant during the final moments of the last day. Many attribute the crowd as one of the reasons the abortion legislation did not pass. Some have criticized the crowd, accusing them of “hijacking democracy” and behaving like a mob.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst said he will clear and empty the gallery if the crowd is loud again in the special session.

Germane: During a filibuster, lawmakers must stay on topic, meaning the issues they discuss must be germane to the bill up for consideration.

House Bill 2: Filed by Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, HB2 is very similar to SB5 from the first special session. Just like SB5 from the first special session, Senate Bill 1 will ban abortion after twenty weeks, place restrictions and more safety measures on abortion clinics in Texas and add additional restrictions to abortion-inducing drugs.

Parliamentary Inquiry: A parliamentary inquiry is a question directed at the residing president, officer, speaker or lieutenant governor about procedures or rules. These inquires can be made when a lawmaker is confused about a law or a rule, and seeks clarification. Parliamentary inquiries can also be used as a means to filibuster or delay a vote on a bill.

Point of Order: A point of order can be raised at any time during the legislative process. Points of order are raised by a lawmaker when they believe a rule has been broken. The point of order must be resolved before procedures continued.

During a filibuster, points of order were raised against Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, for going off topic and receiving assistance with a back brace.

Senate Bill 5: SB5 was the abortion-related bill that failed to pass the Texas Senate during the first special session. The bill would have banned abortion after twenty weeks, placed restrictions and more safety measures on abortion clinics in Texas and added additional restrictions to abortion-inducing drugs. This bill failed to pass in the final minutes of the first special session. SB5 was filed by Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy.

Senate Bill 9: SB9 would place restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs. The restrictions in SB9 are similar to those in SB5, from the first special session. SB9 was filed by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston.

Senate Bill 1: Senate Bill 1, filed by Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, is referred to as "the Senate Bill 5 of the second special session." Just like Senate Bill 5 from the first special session, Senate Bill 1 will ban abortion after twenty weeks, plac restrictions and more safety measures on abortion clinics in Texas and add additional restrictions to abortion-inducing drugs.

Senate Bill 2: Senate Bill 2, filed by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, has to do with juvenile sentencing. The bill would create a life sentence without parole for 17-year-olds who committee a capital felony. Juvenile sentencing is one of the issues Texas Gov. Rick Perry placed on the call for the second special session.

Senate Joint Resolution 1: This resolution would create a state constitutional amendment that would create the transfer of certain general revenue to the state highway fund. Transportation funding is one of the items Texas Gov. Rick Perry wants lawmakers to consider during the second special session. This resolution was filed by Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville.

Special Session: A special session is a 30-day long legislative period. Only Texas Gov. Rick Perry can call a special session, and during the session, only items the governor chooses can be considered. The governor can call a special session at any time. All bills die that don’t make it through the legislative process to Perry’s desk before 30 days.

During the first special session, Perry told lawmakers to consider legislation on redistricting, transportation funding, juvenile sentencing and abortion restrictions. Only redistricting passed through both the House and the Senate. Legislation on transportation funding, juvenile sentencing and abortion restrictions all failed to make it through the Senate on the last day of the 30-day session.

The day after the first special session ended, Perry called a second special session. He said legislation on transportation funding, juvenile sentencing and abortion restrictions were all to be considered in this second special session.

Since taking office, Perry has called 11 special sessions.

#Stand4Life: This is the hashtag that has been commonly used on Twitter to show support for abortion legislation and restrictions. Supporters of the bills have been wearing the color blue.

#StandWithWendy: This is the hashtag that has been commonly used on Twitter to show support for Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. Supporters of Davis and opponents of the abortion legislation have been wearing the color orange.

Two-thirds rule:  In the Senate, bills are brought up in the order they pass through committee. Lawmakers typically file “blocker” bills, which are on top of the calendar and can block other bills from being considered. In order to get a bill pass this “blocker” bill, the Senate has to suspend this rule, which takes a two-third vote.

This is the rule that prevented abortion legislation from passing in the regular session.  While Republicans in the Senate have the simple majority needed to pass abortion legislation, they don’t have enough two-thirds votes needed to suspend the rules. The “two-thirds rule,” however, can be suspended during a special session.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst kept the rule out of the first and second special session.