Why a Special Session Would Be Awkward For Rick Perry

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It seems unlikely that Senator Wendy Davis and Tea Party Republican Jonathan Stickland would agree on something but the humanitarian crisis of thousands of unaccompanied children flooding across the Texas border has prompted them both to implore Governor Rick Perry to call a special session to address the issue.

So far Perry has not heeded that call, and it would probably not be good news for the Texas GOP or Perry's presidential aspirations if he did.

For starters, Perry is just finishing a round of cringe worthy appearances on national TV trying to explain his comparison of homosexuality to alcoholism, and his party's addition of “gay conversion therapy” to its platform. So, the last thing the Texas GOP needs right now is a deep examination of its immigration policy, which would surely be dominated by the most extreme and conservative members of the Tea Party.

See reason number 2 why Perry won't want to call a special session that could affect his run for the White House…In her call for a special session Wendy Davis said,

“In the absence of federal action, local communities need state assistance.  The purpose of this session will be to hear from first responders – city and county officials, police, fire, EMS, public health leaders and the faith based organizations – on the challenges they face; assess those needs; and pass emergency appropriations to provide local agencies with the resources they need in order to do their job in protecting local communities and provide appropriate care for these individuals and families.”

The big 3 (Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Joe Straus) have pledged $1.3 million a week for efforts to secure the border — possibly through the end of 2014.

Some critics including the Texas Civil Rights Project say that money would be better spent addressing the humanitarian crisis. State Representative Sergio Munoz agrees and added,

“as for the recent call for a special session, of the Legislature, I believe anything we can do to draw resources and funding from our federal and state governments to help our local agencies recoup their costs is well worth the effort.”

Some Tea Party conservatives see this as a continuation of the calls for border security and view money spent on humanitarian efforts as a part of the problem — an open call for immigrants who want want government assistance.  

Rep. Jonathan Stickland wrote on his a plea for citizens to “act immediately -call Governor Perry's office and demand a special session right now.” His comments come after taking a tour of the border situation by DPS. He admits that the the drug cartels, as opposed to the Obama Administration which was the first target of GOP attacks, are responsible for the influx of unaccompanied mostly Central American children. Along with his calls for a special session he gave some suggestions:

“All the magnets attracting folks here must be turned off. No more benefits or special perks for illegal immigrants. We must secure the border immediately and make sure not one more makes it past us without being captured. A message must be sent to the countries and families of these unaccompanied children. We will no longer pay for the transportation of their children, wherever they wish, in America. We will hold them and take care of them until we are able to return them to their country.”

That of course is more complicated than it sounds. Many of the children were sent from Central American countries with tumultuous political conditions. They are also not disease infested as Dan Patrick once suggested and is now being perpetrated through rightwing blogosphere.

In her piece on the matter for Texas Monthly Erica Grieder reported that,

“They are not, for example, disease-infested. Tony Lopez, who was volunteering as a medic, said that half of the health problems he's encountered thus far could be cured with Pedialyte. Other than dehydration, he added, the most common ailment among the migrants is seasonal allergies, which he was suffering from himself at the moment.”

Immigration is an issue that is tearing at the fabric of the GOP splitting traditional, business friendly and Tea Party members who differ on reform including whether to include a guest worker program or a path to citizenship. A special session would broadcast the internal debate far past the convention walls into an actual state policy discussion. That would not bode well for Perry who will need to appeal to a national audience if he is serious about being President.

The other major issue looming in the backdrop of a special session is impeachment of Perry appointee, UT regent Wallace Hall. An uneventful summer would make it more difficult for House Speaker Straus to call a special session to deal with this one issue, but, if Perry calls members back over the border issue, Straus can easily make the call.

According to Texas state statute the House could take up the issue during the called special session or Straus could call one for that expressed purpose at the conclusion of an ongoing one.

Sec. 665.003.  IMPEACHMENT WHEN HOUSE IS IN SESSION.  (a)  The house of representatives may conduct an impeachment proceeding at a regular or called session at its pleasure without further call or action.

(b)  If the house is conducting an impeachment proceeding at the time a session expires or ends by house or senate adjournment on legislative matters, the house may:

(1)  continue in session to conduct the impeachment proceeding;  or

(2)  adjourn to a later time to conclude the impeachment proceeding.

(c)  If the house adjourns under Subsection (b)(2), it may continue the impeachment proceeding through committees or agents.

Added by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 268, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1993.

That certainly puts Perry in an awkward situation. He has to placate to his Tea Party base and look strong on border security and risking the embarrassment of having his appointee impeached, or simply hope that waving his fist at the federal government will hold over the Tea Party until next session when he'll leave this mess for the next Governor to deal with.

You can follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

About Author

Joe Deshotel

Joe was born and raised in Beaumont, Tx, but live music and politics brought him to Austin. He has worked in and around government and elections for over a decade including for a member of US Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Mayor of Austin. He currently serves as Communications Director for the Travis County Democratic Party. He is most interested in transportation, energy and technology issues. He also likes Texas Hold'em and commuting on his electric skateboard. Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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