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Texas Politics - The Executive Branch
Special sessions of the legislature Special sessions of the legislature
special session
5.3    Special Sessions

Governors can also attempt to shape the legislative process by invoking their constitutional authority to call special sessions of the Legislature. The purpose of a special session is to focus attention on a particular problem or to respond to a particular crisis. These sessions may last no more than thirty days and may only consider agenda items specified by the Governor. This places a premium on the precise wording used when the Governor calls for a special session. A carelessly worded order for a special session could provide legislators with an opportunity to subvert the governor's intentions and consider legislation of their own choosing.

Legislators, as a rule, have little enthusiasm for calling special sessions, and this can work to a governor's advantage. Legislators earn only a part-time salary from the state, and so any extra time in session takes most of them away from their primary occupations and from other parts of their personal lives. Consequently, the threat of a special session may spur action in the legislature. For their part, legislators can call a governor's bluff and use a session to outmaneuver the governor - for example, by passing legislation that the governor will not sign or forcing the governor to sign legislation inconsistent with his or her goals.

This can turn into a complicated game of chicken, with legislators and the governor waiting for the other side to turn away from confrontation. Not surprisingly, special sessions are unusual, and many of them have yielded political wrecks.

Texas Politics:
© 2009, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin
3rd Edition - Revision 115
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