Why did Gov. Abbott have to call a special session?

Restroom sign.

With Republicans in control of all statewide offices in Texas and holding big majorities in both houses of the Texas Legislature, you may be wondering why Gov. Greg Abbott needed to call a special session to pass the so-called “bathroom bill.”

It’s a centerpiece of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's political agenda. The bill would require people to use public restrooms based on the gender that's listed on their birth certificate. Opponents call the legislation a direct assault on transgender Texans, while supporters say it’s about protecting children and privacy rights.

Patrick essentially forced Abbott to call the special session, by not passing a key bill during the regular legislative session that's needed to keep a handful of state agencies operating, such as the Texas Medical Board, which licenses doctors.

The lieutenant governor couldn't pass the bathroom bill during the regular session because his Republican counterpart in the Texas house wouldn't allow it to go to the house floor for a vote.

The New Yorker magazine reports, when a Patrick ally approached House Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio about scheduling a vote on the bathroom bill, Straus told him,"Tell the lieutenant governor I don't want the suicide of a single Texan on my hands."

The state's increasingly conservative Republican leadership promises to go after Straus's seat in next year's election if he doesn't support the bathroom bill during the special session.

We'll now see what happens. But Straus also said this to the New Yorker about the special session, "We're under no obligation to pass anything."

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