This week brought a surprising (no really) amount of news on sanctuary cities enforcement and significantly quieter news on the franchise tax and ongoing budget negotiations between the Texas House and Senate. At the federal level, with President Trump's 100th day in office closing in, many have been inexplicably surprised (including House Republicans) by the frenetic energy emanating from the West Wing.
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.
No, That Really is Rain You Feel on Your Back: Texas Data Points from the Week in Politics, March 17, 2017
The House raised the bet in the budget poker game as the House and Senate also displayed differences on sanctuary cities legislation, one of the Governor's emergency items. On the other hand, rejecting Governor Abbotts' lead on pre-k funding is an area of increasingly rare agreement between the House and the Senate. Still pending is how the Senate will respond to the statewide texting-while-driving ban passed this week by the House after a pretty lively debate. SB 6 passed the Senate this week, even as Chairman Cook confirmed the general sense that the House leadership, like the public, per UT/Texas Tribune Polling, is much less interested in the legislature regulating bathroom access than the Senate leadership. Looking toward 2018, Congressmen Will Hurd and Beto O'Rourke took a roadtrip and live streamed the whole thing, much to the delight of the national media and Jonathan Tilove – but probably not Texas' Junior Senator.
The House General Investigating and Ethics Committee, chaired by State Representative Sarah Davis, is scheduled to consider over a dozen bills on government ethics. The Senate Business and Commerce Committee will hear a variety of bills on different topics when they convene today, though a highlight is sure to be Senator Charles Schwertner's SB 23, which would require contractors doing business with the state to use the E-verify system.
President Trump today signed a revised version his controversial executive order banning travel to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The updates exclude Iraq from the list of seven countries, removes a provision that prioritized immigration by religious minorities from those countries (aka Christians), and makes clear that it no longer affects people currently holding visas. As for the likely public reaction in Texas, February 2017 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Polling showed that among the Texas GOP, the President had little to fear, as they expressed favorable opinions towards his proposals (and some more extreme ones from the campaign trail).
In what should be expected to be a continuing trend, the last week saw national news not only dominate coverage, but also touch Texas directly, even as each chamber of the legislature got a little busier, albeit each at their own respective pace. Though there were no other signs of the apocalypse, the Lt. Governor called a press conference promoting a Politifact column in the local paper, where he also again invoked polling that he says supports SB 6. That claim is pretty complicated, but that’s another story. Read on for some data points that shed light on some of the week’s political developments.
If one examines the attitudes held among the voters that Trump's executive action is intended to excite, either regionally and/or within the broader national polling data hidden within the crosstabs, the results are far from ambiguous.
With President Trump expected to move forward on campaign promises to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and to curtail immigration through executive action/order today, here's a quick look at where Texans stand on some of these issues from recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune Polling.
Public Opinion in Texas at the Intersection of the Agendas of President-Elect Trump and the 85th Legislature
Whether one takes President Trump literally or seriously – or both or neither – the advent of unified government under the auspices of a Republican Congress and a Republican President (nominally, at least) will shift the context within which the 85th Texas Legislature meets to pass a budget and create laws and public policy for the state. After 8 years and four sessions of counting on having a Democratic president and his policies to use as default examples of bad policy and government failure on most every issue, the Republican leadership in Texas now finds the federal government, and their national party, led by a President who on many of the most salient issues to Texas Republicans took positions strikingly similar to those they have used to win a host of lesser offices in recent years.