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Abbott asks Tex. legislature for ‘special’ committees on school safety

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) arrives while President Biden and first lady Jill Biden pay their respects at a memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., on Sunday. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Wednesday asked state lawmakers to convene a pair of “special legislative committees” to address the issues of school safety and mass violence in the wake of the May 24 shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex.

During remarks last week to the National Rifle Association, Abbott ruled out new gun restrictions in response to the country’s deadliest school massacre in nearly a decade.

In his letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), who presides over the Texas Senate, and House Speaker Dade Phelan (R), Abbott asked that both chambers form committees to explore five issues: school safety, mental health, social media, police training and firearm safety.

“As leaders, we must come together at this time to provide solutions to protect all Texans,” Abbott said in his letter. “Accordingly, I hereby request that each of you convene a special legislative committee. I request that these committees review what steps previous legislatures have enacted, what resources the State has made available to local school districts, and make recommendations to the Legislature and the Executive Branch so that meaningful action can be made.”

Abbott did not provide a timeline for taking any actions or suggest any specific proposals.

If formed, the committees could hold hearings while the Texas legislature is out of session, but Abbott would have to call for a special session to consider bills. In Texas, the legislature meets for 140 days every other year, although three special sessions kept lawmakers tethered to Austin for a total of 227 days in 2021. The next legislative session begins Jan. 10, 2023.

Lawmakers have expressed some interest in a possible special session in the aftermath of the Uvalde tragedy, most vocally state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat whose district includes Uvalde. He asked Abbott to “call us back.” Neither Phelan nor Patrick immediately responded to a request for comment. In the days since the shooting, officials have faced criticism as details have changed, each time bringing victims and loved ones a new wave of pain.

Meanwhile, Abbott said, the Texas Rangers and FBI probes covering “every aspect of this heinous crime, as well as the response to it,” are ongoing. At the request of Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, the U.S. Justice Department is also reviewing the law enforcement response to the shooting.