Jim Henson

Public Opinion Notes on Gay Marriage and Discrimination in the Wake of the Texas Supreme Court Ruling

June 30, 2017
By: 
Jim Henson
Joshua Blank

The Texas Supreme Court appears to have slowed down the progression in LGBTQ rights since the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision that ruled gay marriage constitutionally protected. Per Alexa Ura's coverage in the Texas Tribune, the Texas Supremes have remanded "a lower court ruling that said spouses of gay and lesbian public employees are entitled to government-subsidized same-sex marriage benefits" back down the chain in order to clarify whether and how much the state can limit benefits associated with marriage. The June 2017 University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll included the latest version of our standard gay marriage question, as well as an item on whether religious beliefs should be a legal rationale for exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.

Texas Data Points From the June 2017 UT/Texas Tribune Poll

June 23, 2017
By: 
Jim Henson
Joshua Blank

The June 2017 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll underlined both the Lt. Governor’s success at getting his name out there, but also the continuing strength of a better known Governor. An increase in the salience of legislative efforts to regulate transgender people’s access to bathrooms among conservatives in the GOP is a testament, though, to Patrick’s ability to capture the imagination of his base. Or maybe it’s hearts and minds, judging by some of the patterns of support for another conservative cause, so-called conscience exemptions. You don’t need to practice much pattern recognition, though, to pick up on the odd fact that, for all the declarations that some people in the legislature let conservatives down in the 85th, the Tea Party faction seems pretty pleased with the achievements of the legislature and its leadership. One thing no one seems interested in is throwing legal voters in jail, even if they fail to use their photo id when they vote. Seems there are limits after all.

Austin is Not Alone: Local Government is a Good Foil for the State’s Republican leadership

June 20, 2017
By: 
Jim Henson
Joshua Blank

The increasing efforts to use state government to pre-empt the power of local governments emerges from a confluence of state and national politics that is much bigger than Austin, even though the Legislature has a history of treating Austin as a liberal burr under an ever more conservative saddle.

Even as Washington troubles mount, Donald Trump stands tall with Texas Republicans

June 20, 2017
By: 
Jim Henson

Whatever his origins outside the GOP establishment, Donald Trump has taken his place in the eyes of Texas Republican voters as the figurehead of their party. The June 2017 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll reveals direct signs of the Texas Republican voters’ embrace of Trump as well as signs of his indirect influence on the attitudes of Republican voters. This pattern of attitudes suggests a secure position among Texas voters and also means that, for better or for worse, Trump and Texas Republicans fates, for the present, are tightly intertwined.

Giving (Some of) the People What They Want: 85th Legislature Endgame Edition

May 17, 2017
By: 
Jim Henson
Joshua Blank

The to-and-fro between Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick this week provides the latest development in the Austin political press corps’ favorite plot line, the personal relationships among the Big Three.

Texas GOP Leaders Face Budget Choices Amidst Vague Public Attitudes

May 11, 2017
By: 
Jim Henson
Joshua Blank

 The public — in particular the part of the public that matters most in practical terms, Republican voters — likely remains to be persuaded of the best path forward, holding attitudes that are not especially well-informed or fixed. In particular, given that the sticking point seems to be whether or not to tap the Economic Stabilization Fund, commonly called the Rainy Day Fund (RDF), only a plurality hew to a reflexive reluctance to tap the fund, with a decisive chunk of voters not having any opinion as of February.   

Public Attitudes Fuel Sharp Partisan Conflict on Sanctuary Cities Bill

April 26, 2017
By: 
Jim Henson
Joshua Blank

Amidst a legislative session largely defined by intramural conflict among Republicans – which has muddled the progress of other causes near and dear to the hearts of the conservative activists in the party while remaining divisive among the broader ranks – sanctuary cities legislation is, for the most part, a chance for some good old-fashioned partisan politics between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans will hold advantages in both numbers in the legislature and, critically, the support of their base in fighting Democratic efforts to procedurally derail SB4 and to otherwise sabotage the bill using the amendment process.

Texas data points of order for the week of April 7, 2017

April 7, 2017
By: 
Jim Henson
Joshua Blank

Most of this week's focus in state politics was on the budget bill coming to the floor in the House, and the debate was filled with the usual theater, hijinks, and even a few surprises (we're looking at you, Texas Enterprise Fund).  Meanwhile, the Trump administration got their man nominated to the Supreme Court and lobbed some cruise missiles at an isolated (and probably forewarned) airport, though many (especially the not-consulted U.S. Congress) wonder what the strategy in Syria is beyond some missile-based signaling.

Marijuana Attitudes in Texas May Portend Change – Not Right Now Though

April 6, 2017
By: 
Joshua Blank
Jim Henson

While it’s unlikely that the Texas Legislature will lessen penalties for marijuana use in the 2017 session, HB 81, a bill that would decrease the penalty for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana to a ticket and a Class B misdemeanor, was passed out of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Monday on a 4-2 vote with two Republicans in favor of the measure. Coincidentally, the first Democrat to jump into the 2018 race against Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, is the co-author of a book on the failures of the war on drugs, prompting Texas Monthly’s R.G. Ratcliffe to ask: “Is Texas Ready For Statewide Candidate Who Wants To Legalize Marijuana?”

A Document with All House Budget Amendments Searchable by Keyword

April 5, 2017
By: 
Jim Henson
Joshua Blank

This pdf document combines all of the amendments to the House budget bill scheduled for debate on Thursday April 6, converted so that you it's searchable by keywords.  The document is a large pdf posted to Google drive, so you can simply download it if you so desire.  (You could save it to iBooks if you have an iPhone..) These are the amendments without numbers, and you can't search by member given that most have the members names handwritten on the document.  But if you're trying to figure out who's done what, it's a start.  

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