AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed 20 bills during the legislative session, marking the fewest vetoes he’s issued since he was elected Governor in 2014.
Bills can earn a veto for any reason the Governor determines. Often, the explanation relates to a conflict with existing statute, precedent on previous legislation, or unintended consequences he thinks the new bills may cause.
Of the 9,999 pieces of legislation filed between the House and Senate this session, 3,803 bills were passed by both chambers. According to Texas Legislature Online and confirmed by the Governor’s office, Abbott signed 1,034, vetoed 20 and allowed 105 to become law without his signature.
One of the bills he vetoed was House Bill 686, which would have allowed Texas prisoners serving lengthy sentences to have their cases reevaluated after serving half of their sentence. The bill, known as “second look” legislation, specifically applied to people convicted of first-degree and capitol felonies that were committed when they were younger than 18.
“The bill, which addresses parole eligibility for juvenile offenders, admirably recognizes the potential for change and encourages rehabilitation and productiveness in the young offender population,” Abbott wrote in his veto statement. “As written though, the bill’s language conflicts with jury instructions required by the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, which would result in confusion and needless, disruptive litigation.”
Abbott also claimed HB 686, which was one of the few criminal justice reforms with bipartisan support this session, would “cause disparate results in parole eligibility for juvenile offenders by failing to account for all circumstances in Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 42A.054.”
State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, who authored the measure, shared his thoughts on the veto Saturday night on Twitter.
“Defeated is a word. Tired is a word. Exhausted is a word. The word I choose tonight is determined. I also choose the word undeterred. We will get there. Today is not the day, but that day will come,” Moody wrote.
Abbott noted he looked forward to working with Moody to pass “meaningful reform on this important matter.”
Among the other vetoes Abbott dealt was a bill to update the state’s hazing laws.
Senate Bill 36 would have created a higher education task force focused on mental health services and hazing. SB 36 aimed to add law enforcement officers to the list of groups that a report could be submitted relating to school-related hazing, and the offense would no longer have had to be made in writing. The bill also would have protected people reporting hazing incidents.
Abbott called the plan a “worthy effort to further clarify the anti-hazing statute,” but argued the House added an “unnecessary provision” that would “simply grow government” by creating the task force.
“It is important to ensure that students receives mental-health services, and Texas’s existing agencies and institutions can already study the issues that would be addressed by this vast new bureaucratic entity,” Abbott wrote, noting that the Senate author’s “good idea” was “undercut” by the House sponsor.
Abbott also vetoed a bill to expand animal cruelty laws, calling it “micro-managing.” He also nixed a plan to toss out hypnotically-induced statements in a criminal trial, citing a late addition in the House that would have expanded the scope. Additionally, he vetoed a bill that would have added criminal trespass to the list of offenses for which law enforcement can cite and release Texans as a Class B misdemeanor, rather than arrest. He explained the bill might tempt agencies to mandate cite-and-release policies rather than allow officers to arrest.
His other vetoes included SB 1109, requiring public schools to provide instruction on child abuse prevention, as well as information about family violence and dating violence.
“These are important subjects and I respect the Senate author’s good intentions, but the bill fails to recognize the right of parents to opt their children out of the instruction,” Abbott stated.
The Governor has line-item veto power in the budget, which is the only piece of legislation in which he can yield that power. He signed the entire budget, but vetoed Article 10, which funds the Legislature, as retribution for Democrats walking out on the second-to-last day of session, which caused the elections overhaul bill not to pass.
Abbott vetoed 58 bills in the 86th regular session, and vetoed 50 bills in the 85th regular session. He vetoed 42 pieces of legislation in his first session as Governor, the 84th regular session, in 2015.