Keyword: Greg Abbott
Most of the post-session coverage among the Texas political press has predictably focused on the politics of the big three and how much (or how little) of Greg Abbott’s agenda was acted on by the Legislature – coverage led by public signalling from both the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor. But a look at some of the lower profile aspects across the arc of both the regular and special sessions of the 85th Legislature reveals a lot about the nature of the for-now dormant legislature and, more broadly, Texas politics as the political mix shifts more heavily toward electoral politics.
The lowered expectations for the special session make sense if one looks at conservative and Republican attitudes toward the legislature and statewide leaders at the conclusion of the regular session of the 85th Legislature. While Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick, and the leadership of some of the state’s most vocal conservative interest groups have either suggested or implied widespread public demand for more action, polling suggests significant conservative contentment with the results of the 85th – and thus, little active demand for more legislation from the legislature at this time.
With the passage of Sunset Legislation out of the Senate, Governor Greg Abbott kept his promise this morning, adding 19 items to the Special Session call, and opening the doors for a more entertaining (if politics is where you find your entertainment) July and August than many of us would have expected at the start of the 85th Session.
Below is a list of the added items and, where available, any relevant public opinion data from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, with links to graphics of cross-tabulations for each item.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s press conference today was a textbook Patrick effort to garner media coverage in order to shape the legislative agenda after several weeks marked by the relatively predictable public assertions of Governor Abbott. The overall effort was geared at delivering a Republican approach to public education after a session in which Patrick and his allies focused primarily on creating a means of funneling public funds to private and parochial schools in the name of “school choice” as their major approach to improving public education. Here are some of the messaging components in the press conference, with some notes on how these messages might fall in the public opinion landscape among Texas Republicans.
Greg Abbott is expected to announce his intention to seek a second term as Governor tomorrow in San Antonio. In addition to what is already a formidable war chest of more than $34 million (with an increase in that number expected to be announced soon as well), Abbott also has high job approval ratings among the state's Republican majority.
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.
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.
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.
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?”