Matters of intense partisan contention at the state and federal level – LGBTQ rights, voting rights, the President’s travel ban, and abortion – are getting attention from the judicial branch this week. Our polling in Texas has yielded a lot of data on the issue at hand that might be useful in thinking about how they made it onto the public agenda in the first place, how specific politics and laws that are now being contested in the courts came to be, and how actions taken by the courts will be interpreted by the broader public here in Texas
When it comes to legal cases in general, and legal rights in particular, it's important to note that public opinion can often act as a poor guide to a just outcome, and in many cases, may have no relevance on particular legal proceedings. With that caveat aside, public opinion is useful in determining how elected officials, including the Attorney General, might react to court decisions, and further, whether the state chooses to push ahead in the legal process in the face of adverse decisions.
The week drew to an end with a meeting about how to treat the past, after the Senate Finance Committee looked to the future as it pondered life after Harvey. Several rounds of court battles resulted in an undocumented teenager in federal custody receiving the abortion she had requested and the Trump administration had tried to block. Trump himself came to Dallas on Wednesday, but his visit got knocked off the front page in Texas by the unexpected announcement of Speaker Joe Straus that he wasn't running for re-election next year, though he was staying in his seat -- and the Speaker's office. Read on for fresh public opinion data related to this week's news from the just-released October 2017 University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll. (See hundreds of graphics from the poll results at our latest poll page, too.)
Chairman Dennis Bonnen is scheduled to convene the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday to discuss a handful of bills about taxes. Later in the day (after the House adjourns), the House State Affairs committee is scheduled to hear Rep. and Chairman Byron Cook’s fetal remains bill, HB 201
The week saw the stirring of politics in Texas not reducible to the ever-more-weird presidential race, as Texas’ voter ID law was back in the news after the state was forced into an agreement that was a de facto recognition of the law’s shaky constitutional status. Another shaky Texas political arrangement – the system of financing public education – and the polarized political responses that have stymied progress on revamping it, were also on display in a long meeting of the Senate Education Committee.The week saw the stirring of politics in Texas not reducible to the ever-more-weird presidential race, as Texas’ voter ID law was back in the news after the state was forced into an agreement that was a de facto recognition of the law’s shaky constitutional status. Another shaky Texas political arrangement – the system of financing public education – and the polarized political responses that have stymied progress on revamping it, were also on display in a long meeting of the Senate Education Committee.
The June 2016 University of Texas / Texas Politics Project Poll included a brief item that asks respondents a simple question about a complex issue: “Generally speaking, do you consider yourself pro-life, pro-choice, or neither?” This results may be of interest in the context of the Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, particularly given the case’s origins in Texas.
The Texas political world is all in a tizzy this week after Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses, using a combination of evangelical support, streamlined political science, crack campaign organization, and, of course, charm. Seems a sure thing that Marco Rubio will make a play in Texas, and to this end he announced his “Texas Leadership Team". Speaking of wanting to lead, aspiring Texas GOP-chair Jared Woodfill announced while on his day job that his client, the fake fetal tissue dealer David Daleiden of Planned-Parenthood-sting-gone-wrong fame, would not take a plea deal offered by the Harris County DA, presumably at least in part to use the trial as a forum to air his views on abortion (after all, he’s an activist). For those who really want the inside baseball on abortion politics, theDallas Morning News took a good look at the competing anti-abortion groups in Texas, pegging the story of dueling defenders of all things life to their taking sides in the fight between Pro-Straus and anti-Straus forces in the GOP primary. Their struggle inspired us to include a bonus video.
When Comptroller Glenn Hegar assured the Senate Finance Committee that he would “much rather be in this state than the other 49 states in this nation,” Dallas Senator Royce West captured the underlying tension in the Senate’s engagement with the economy, budget prospects, and taxes when he cracked back, “I just don’t want to be in a state of denial.” The finance committee’s worry about what the budget might look like was little in evidence the next day when the Select Committee on Property Tax Reform and Relief convened in San Antonio to wave a red flag on local taxation. The Senate State Affairs Committee explored how the state is muddling through implementation of the state’s new gun laws, while over on the House side, Republicans flipped a seat in the HD118 special election, triggering Democratic dismay and some public self-loathing. A Houston grand jury propelled Texas into the national headlines after reviewing the case of the surreptitiously filmed attempt to buy fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood and indicting the fraudulent would-be tissue peddlers rather than anyone at Planned Parenthood. Way back at the beginning of the week, Rick Perry also got back in the national news for about half a news cycle after leaking to Politico (take that, state press corps) that he would be endorsing Ted Cruz. Perry revealed that he apparently doesn’t know Cruz real well, but he former governor reported that the endorsement comes after they “spent some very appropriate time together."
As this particular case unfolds, one has to wonder: In a nationalized election year in which the Democratic nominee is (still) likely to be a woman, and in which the Republican nominee (whomever he may be) will likely have to at least attempt to deflect if not overcome the "war on women" charge, could the war on Planned Parenthood become the lightning rod that voter identification laws became between 2010 and 2012 for Democrats?
The attitudes revealed in polling provide ready frames for political leaders on the left and right to use in crafting their responses to the sad and troubling events in Colorado Springs.