Texas Data Points from the Week in Politics: “OMG, The New Yorker is Paying Attention to Us!” Edition
The Fourth of July came and went this week, and by Thursday the invocation of self-evident truths had given way to the U.S. Department of Justice deeming Senate Bill 5 a good enough fix to the deficiencies in Texas' voter ID law. The center right and leftward embraced Lawrence Wright's telling of the tale of the 85th Legislature in The New Yorker, which at 20,000 words or so had lots of space for close observations by a good writer, though the actual argument about Texas and the U.S. promised in the hed ("America's Future is Texas") seemingly remains to be made in the forthcoming book.
Public Opinion Notes on Gay Marriage and Discrimination in the Wake of the Texas Supreme Court Ruling
The Texas Supreme Court appears to have slowed down the progression in LGBTQ rights since the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision that ruled gay marriage constitutionally protected. Per Alexa Ura's coverage in the Texas Tribune, the Texas Supremes have remanded "a lower court ruling that said spouses of gay and lesbian public employees are entitled to government-subsidized same-sex marriage benefits" back down the chain in order to clarify whether and how much the state can limit benefits associated with marriage. The June 2017 University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll included the latest version of our standard gay marriage question, as well as an item on whether religious beliefs should be a legal rationale for exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.
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.
Whatever his origins outside the GOP establishment, Donald Trump has taken his place in the eyes of Texas Republican voters as the figurehead of their party. The June 2017 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll reveals direct signs of the Texas Republican voters’ embrace of Trump as well as signs of his indirect influence on the attitudes of Republican voters. This pattern of attitudes suggests a secure position among Texas voters and also means that, for better or for worse, Trump and Texas Republicans fates, for the present, are tightly intertwined.
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.
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.