Keyword: Dan Patrick
Governor Greg Abbott’s state of the state speech to the Texas Legislature provided the big event of the week, and it yielded the emergency designations that enabled Senate committees to propel two of the four emergency items – sanctuary cities legislation and ethics reform – out of committee. This meant an early-session, late night meeting of the Senate State Affairs committee, punctuated by heated feelings from the gallery likely spurred on by the polarized national reactions to Donald Trump’s delivery on his campaign promise to halt the flow of Syrian refugees, and more broadly to stem the entry of Muslims into the country, which, in effect, he did last week with his executive orders. The week also saw Lt. Governor Dan Patrick preside over the unveiling of Senator Larry Taylor’s SB 4, the long awaited school choice bill providing for educational savings accounts and a scholarship program for private school students funded by redirected insurance premium tax funds. No sign of the v-word here! Read on for data related to the week in Texas politics.
As the week ends with a historically unique presidential succession, politics in Texas have a more familiar ring as set pieces of the legislative session play out safely removed from that nasty Washington, D.C. swamp. Kind of. The week saw attempted mobilization of interest groups in the continuing efforts to shape the agenda, budgetary politics between the two chambers of the Legislature, fuel for the never-ending speculation on the next election cycle in Texas, the unveiling of committee assignments in the Senate, and a ruling in the running court battle over Planned Parenthood’s participation in Medicaid in Texas.
For those of us awaiting the updated campaign finance reports of Texas' top officials, the day has finally arrived! Here's a look at the account balance of each and their approval numbers from the October 2016 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
We're with the Lt. Governor on using UT/TT polling data in political and policy coverage in which public opinion data contributes to informing the public. In the wake of his claim that "I think all of the bills we've released as priorities are supported by Republicans and Democrats" in an interview with Evan Smith, we've gone through our data archive and found polling results relevant to fifteen of the Lt. Governor's declared priorities, including extensive crosstabs.
The first week of the New Year brought with it an unsurprising uptick in political signaling in the run-up to the advent of the 85th Texas Legislature. Speaker Straus gave an interview that sent some selected signals to both legislative chambers, while the Lt. Governor, having released a few lists of priorities before the holiday break, zeroed in on bathroom access Friday. In more indirect moves, Attorney General Ken Paxton released some strong fundraising numbers and an Austin-resident, ABC pundit, and scold of the two parties confirmed rumors that had circulated all through the fall that he was considering running in 2018 as an independent for the Texas Senate seat currently held by Ted Cruz. On the national front, the Senate Armed Services Committee held hearings in which testimony confirmed (along with a newly released report) that US intelligence agencies largely agreed that Russia intervened in the US election with the goals of de-legitimizing the process in the eyes of the world (and, presumably, Americans, it would seem), and also to aid Donald Trump.
Nonetheless, pre-election polling in Texas reveals a group of conservative voters who do report feeling left behind by changes in the economy, while also holding attitudes that cohere with broader elements of Trump’s rhetoric-- and, crucially, with the appeals of the most conservative factions of the Texas GOP. The beginning of the Trump presidency will come 10 days after the opening gavel of the 85th Texas Legislature. While the internal dynamics of the state’s political system traditionally drive most policy and politics in the session, Trump’s ascension to the presidential bully pulpit, at the head of one-party rule in Washington, markedly changes the national context and its possible impact.
It’s not lost on participants in the legislative process, from members to their staffs, from the lobby to the state agencies, that the maneuvering to shape the agenda of the 85th Texas Legislature is well underway. While the 2016 presidential election dominates political coverage even more than usual, outside the spotlight the pace and volume of efforts to get issues on the state legislature's agenda increase daily. The Texas Tribune’s annual festival at UT Austin weekend before last generated lots of clues about what issues might rise to the surface -- and glimpses of how the friction between the chambers, as well as within and between the parties, is shaping the jockeying for position in Austin.
Trump’s candidacy has cut across the right–far ideological presentation of the Tea Party brand that has helped define acolytes in Texas and frame the internecine fights in the Texas GOP as a battle for the mantle of “true conservative.”
The week started with a public memorial service for the police officers killed and injured in Dallas, which included President Obama visiting the state and former President and Texas Governor George W. Bush making a rare public speaking appearance. The news media channeled troubled thoughts about the deep structural politics of last week’s events as the usual partisan politics were largely muted early in the week. There were, of course, exceptions, including a prominent one who holds statewide office here.