Post Date: March 2017
The House and Senate budgets are now fully gassed up and pointed at each other on a dark road outside of town, now that the House Appropriations Committee has sent its version of the budget to the House floor. On the other side of the building, Senator Taylor got the much-debated school choice bill passed by the Senate, though in much reduced form and with three GOP no votes. The Railroad Commission kept its name and won’t be enforcing bathroom access, at least per the House version of the much-lobbied TRC Sunset bill. In the wake of Governor Greg Abbott’s big rhetorical play on state sovereignty last week, Ross Ramsey wrote a smart column we wish we had thought of first, connecting that message with the governor’s play on a Convention of the State – all topped of with a clever Lord of the Rings reference that just seemed greedy. We had to settle for trying to explain the roots of Sauron’s power in public attitudes in the Burkablog at Texas Monthly. The week ended with Beto O’Rourke formally confirming he’s going to run for the Democratic Senate nomination to face off against Ted Cruz, though he didn’t take a road trip to do it. Data on all this below - don’t forget that the graphics are interactive, though maybe, like readers of The New York Times, you don’t care.
The Senate Budget bil is expected to hit the floor of the upper chamber today, while the House is expected to vote on the heavily lobbied Texas Railroad Commission sunset bill. A slew of amendments have been filed on that bill, but it seems unlikely to be derailed at this point. Polling and recent commentary provide some context for today's busy agenda in the 85th Texas Legislature.
Joe Straus, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, was our guest in the Texas Politics Speaker Series on Friday, March 24, 2017. Here is a complete video of the interview, along with short excerpts on key topics including the budget, education policy, his own political future, and, of course, bathroom access.
As the bill meant to repeal Obamacare faces a close floor vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, results from the February 2017 University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll illustrate the cross currents in the Republican Party that are forcing Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump to furiously whip the first major vote of the new administration.
The February 2017 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll asked battery of questions about public education policy that included two items related to vouchers that provide context for the March 21 Senate Education Committee hearings on SB 3, the omnibus voucher/school schoice bill sponsoered by Senator Larry Taylor. The bill, which is the vehicle for Lt. Governor Patrick's efforts to introduce more private options into the k-12 education system, includes a form of educational savings accounts as well as scholarship set asides that parents can use for private school options. Below are some key results on the questions we asked, followed by brief comments Josh Blank and I wrote about the results shortly after the poll was released.
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.
With all the bills that are going to get filed now in the system, the committees in both chambershttp://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/85R/calendars/html/S120170313.htm will get even busier, and there is likely to be at least some drama in the Senate as one of the headline-grabbing pieces of legislation thus far in the session hits the intent calendar in the upper chamber starting Monday. There will also be some other matters that have been on the public's mind, too.
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.
The House Education Committee began hearings on HB 21 this week, the bill sponsored by Committee Chair Dan Huberty, intending to begin the process of changing Texas' beleaguered school financing system. Also released with the bill are were the "runs" for 2018 and 2019, the tables of legislative lore which show how the proposal would impact the operating budgets of each district compared to current law, including the impact that it would have on per student funding (according to the weighted average daily attendance for each district, aka the WADA). We worked a little with the data in the run, and produced some maps and a table.