On August 30, a federal court in San Antonio issued a temporary injunction halting the September 1 implementation of part of Senate Bill 4, the so-called anti-Sanctuary Cities bill passed during the regular session amid much controversy, including heated confrontation on the floor of the Texas House on the last day of business. The decision temporarily blocked implementation of provisions designed to force local authorities to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and to mete out various punishments to local governments and specific individuals that enact policies limiting enforcement and cooperation, but let stand the provision guaranteeing the ability of law enforcement officers to inquire about the citizenship status of anyone they have lawfully detained. In the June 2017 University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll, we asked Texans about the two sets of provisions treated in this week's decision. To the extent that concern might be thought of as overwhelming, it was not in the direction the ruling took.
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.
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.