Skip to main content

The latest Texas legislative session proves elections have consequences

By Ross Ramsey

The biggest change in the Legislature this session was the shift in who the lawmakers fear most.

Just a few years ago, the Tea Party wave put the most conservative factions of the Republican Party in the pilot’s seat. For several legislative sessions, word that those restive activists were watching a vote could — and sometimes did — influence what the Legislature was doing and how it was talking about issues.

But another faction, focused on public schools, has come into power, turning the heads of Republican leaders. A 2018 election put more Democrats in office, changing the temperature in the Capitol. And a fat state bank account made it possible to do the kinds of expensive things that lawmakers rarely get to do.

Many issues dear to the far right got only fleeting attention from the 86th Legislature. Lawmakers passed a bill protecting babies born alive after abortion attempts — a rare circumstance — that was a political goal of anti-abortion groups. But the state didn’t join in efforts — like those in Missouri, Alabama and Georgia — to pass “heartbeat” abortion laws limiting legal abortions to the first few weeks of a woman’s pregnancy. They did succeed with legislation barring cities from doing business with groups that provide abortions, such as Planned Parenthood.

Another skirmish in the culture war was waged via the so-called Chick-fil-A bill, with lawmakers ultimately passing a watered-down measure preventing public entities from acting against businesses and people on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs. And an effort to throw out municipal non-discrimination ordinances undermined an otherwise surefire bid to ban sick-leave laws passed by local governments.

Proposals to allow gun owners to carry guns without permits — an idea popularly known as constitutional carry — fell apart after an enthusiastic advocate decided to help the cause by visiting the private homes of legislators while those legislators were in Austin. The lawmakers saw that as threatening behavior and shut down both the visits and the legislation those visits were intended to promote.

Budget writers temporarily threw another $100 million in spending at the Texas-Mexico border, adding it to — and then quickly deleting it from — the appropriations bill on the last weekend. The governor’s office wanted to put emergency money into those efforts but needed to tap into the state’s rainy day fund to do it; that grab was blocked by Democrats in the House.

The big new spending item in the next budget is the $11.6 billion going into education and property taxes — a number that includes, to the delight of the right and others — $5 billion for property tax relief. Lawmakers hope that will show up as an 8-cent reduction in your school property taxes the first year, and a 13-cent reduction the second year. Some Democrats would rather have spent that money on public schools, but that was the compromise. State leaders tried, at one point, to sell everyone on a sales tax increase that would pay for a property tax cut, but the swap turned out to be unpopular on a bipartisan basis. It never came up for a vote in either the full House or the full Senate.

The success of the education/property tax package is testament to the last elections. Everyone in the Legislature was hearing about property taxes from Texas homeowners and businesses. And the cultural conservatives who’ve dominated Republican primaries for the last decade were effectively shunted to a political siding this time as the education train moved through.

The House had a new speaker, but that’s not enough to turn a government around. It takes some turned heads in the other two offices — governor and lieutenant governor — to get the change in direction Texans saw in their Capitol this year.

More voters showed up last November, and while Texas remained red, it was less red than recent history led people to expect. Republicans nervous about Democratic advances were looking over their shoulders and thinking about the 2020 election cycle.

Noisy suburban Republicans demanded more attention on the public education systems that drew many of them to the suburbs in the first place; some Republican incumbents had unexpected turbulence in their elections. That turned heads, too.

And the comptroller started this legislative session with good news for anyone seeking solutions to expensive political problems like schools and property taxes: The state had plenty of money — at least for the next two years.

This article originally appeared at the Texas Tribune.


Popular posts from this blog

Biden's connections to Chinese money under scrutiny

President Joe Biden is under investigation for holding on to classified documents from his time in the Obama administration, but now lawmakers have a new question: did Chinese money influence Biden’s policies? The question arose when news broke that some of the classified documents were reportedly found in a closet at the Penn Biden Center, which House Oversight lawmakers say has taken millions of dollars from “anonymous Chinese sources.” “The Penn Biden Center appears to have acted as a foreign-sponsored source of income for much of a Biden Administration in-waiting,” House Oversight Chair Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., said in a letter to Mary Magill, the group’s president. “Between 2017 and 2019, UPenn paid President Biden more than $900,000, and the university employed at least 10 people at the Penn Biden Center who later became senior Biden administration officials. This level of access and opportunity raises questions about who had access to the classified documents found at the Penn

Randall County gives update on area flooding and road closures

According to the National Weather Service, rain is likely for the Central and East Texas Panhandle this afternoon, and will affect Randall County and the City of Canyon. The severe storm threat will be from 1:00 pm to 10:00 pm today, which will bring flash flooding, golf ball size hail, and strong winds. Because rivers are high and soil is saturated, there is an elevated chance of flooding due to these storms. The flood watch is expected to last from 1:00 pm today until 7:00 am Saturday morning. Randall County and City of Canyon officials, including leadership from the Villages of Lake Tanglewood, Timbercreek Canyon, and Palisades, are currently working to remove debris near dams and waterways in an effort to keep spillways working as designed, mitigate damage to these structures, and keep floodwaters from pooling in areas where property damage or hazardous conditions could result.  Due to a large amount of debris, high water levels, and swift-running water, all lakes will remain clo

Texas House adjourns special session after passing property tax, border legislation

The first special session of the 88th Texas Legislature lasted one day for the House as it adjourned sine die after expediting filing and passage of its property tax and border-related bill. Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session immediately after the regular session ended Monday evening without a property tax bill having passed. He placed two items on the call: provide property tax relief solely through compression of school district Maintenance & Operations rates, and pass an criminal penalty increase for human smuggling and operating a stash house. Both chambers expedited their priority bills on the two issues, passing them to their opposite chamber. But whereas the Senate adjourned until Friday after passing its pair, the House adjourned sine die, ending its first special session this year after one day. “When Governor Abbott declared a special session yesterday evening, we had every intention of gaveling in this morning, fulfilling the Governor’s call, and gaveling out,” S

APD investigating Sunday morning shooting

Early Sunday morning, Amarillo police officers responded to a shooting the 3100 block of Westhaven Drive. When officers arrived, they found one person had been shot with a shotgun. The victim was taken to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. APD violent crime detectives and patrol officers obtained statements from witnesses on the scene and this incident. No arrests have been made and this shooting is still under investigation.

Guess what? People want affordable energy

So how is Joe Biden’s war on conventional energy and “things that work” shaping up so far? If you ask the people in the administration and the various climate alarmists around the country, things are going swimmingly.  Bans on gas-powered vehicles are being enacted in multiple states and issuance of drilling permits for oil and gas remain locked up in bureaucratic red tape. Wind farms and solar arrays funded by massive and unsustainable subsidies that burden taxpayers continue to be erected.  But how is this all sitting with the public in general?  According to the most recent polling presented by the American Energy Alliance, not very well at all: The American Energy Alliance and the Committee to Unleash Prosperity recently completed a nationwide survey of 1000 likely voters (3.1% margin of error) executed in the first two weeks of May.  A full slide deck of the results can be found here. As Mike McKenna of MWR Strategies notes, there are a few salient points worth noting. “First, and