Keyword: 85th Legislature
As the week ends with a historically unique presidential succession, politics in Texas have a more familiar ring as set pieces of the legislative session play out safely removed from that nasty Washington, D.C. swamp. Kind of. The week saw attempted mobilization of interest groups in the continuing efforts to shape the agenda, budgetary politics between the two chambers of the Legislature, fuel for the never-ending speculation on the next election cycle in Texas, the unveiling of committee assignments in the Senate, and a ruling in the running court battle over Planned Parenthood’s participation in Medicaid in Texas.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick announced today the Senate committees for the 85th Legislative session. Here's a look at what's changed and what's remained the same in one handy table.
We're with the Lt. Governor on using UT/TT polling data in political and policy coverage in which public opinion data contributes to informing the public. In the wake of his claim that "I think all of the bills we've released as priorities are supported by Republicans and Democrats" in an interview with Evan Smith, we've gone through our data archive and found polling results relevant to fifteen of the Lt. Governor's declared priorities, including extensive crosstabs.
The Legislative Success of the Anti-Straus Voters in 2015 and Their Gambit on the Speaker Vote in 2017
The only somewhat interesting question amidst the opening ceremonies of the of the 85th Legislature is whether the House of Representatives will re-elect San Antonio Republican Joe Straus Speaker of the House by acclaim or by a record vote. The latter would require House dissidents who have endeared themselves to conservative activists in the interest group universe and in their districts by criticizing Straus to make a tough choice. Voting for Straus as Speaker on the public record creates a potential liability among the anti-Straus interest groups who are active participants in GOP primary elections. A recorded vote against Straus provides a public sign of opposition and invites being marginalized by the leadership in things like committee assignments and the treatment of their bills – which also potentially affects a member’s reelection prospects.
The first week of the New Year brought with it an unsurprising uptick in political signaling in the run-up to the advent of the 85th Texas Legislature. Speaker Straus gave an interview that sent some selected signals to both legislative chambers, while the Lt. Governor, having released a few lists of priorities before the holiday break, zeroed in on bathroom access Friday. In more indirect moves, Attorney General Ken Paxton released some strong fundraising numbers and an Austin-resident, ABC pundit, and scold of the two parties confirmed rumors that had circulated all through the fall that he was considering running in 2018 as an independent for the Texas Senate seat currently held by Ted Cruz. On the national front, the Senate Armed Services Committee held hearings in which testimony confirmed (along with a newly released report) that US intelligence agencies largely agreed that Russia intervened in the US election with the goals of de-legitimizing the process in the eyes of the world (and, presumably, Americans, it would seem), and also to aid Donald Trump.
Given the overall range in which the Speaker’s approval and favorability have moved, which you can peruse in search results for the speaker at the Texas Politics Project data archive, “non-notoriety” seems to be a good label for where the Speaker is dwelling, though we’ll be watching to see if he stays in range of the slightly more recognized when we do our usual poll in the early days of the 85th Legislature.
It’s not lost on participants in the legislative process, from members to their staffs, from the lobby to the state agencies, that the maneuvering to shape the agenda of the 85th Texas Legislature is well underway. While the 2016 presidential election dominates political coverage even more than usual, outside the spotlight the pace and volume of efforts to get issues on the state legislature's agenda increase daily. The Texas Tribune’s annual festival at UT Austin weekend before last generated lots of clues about what issues might rise to the surface -- and glimpses of how the friction between the chambers, as well as within and between the parties, is shaping the jockeying for position in Austin.
The era of “what, me worry?” when it comes to the effects of the oil boom came closer to the end this week with the comptroller’s downward revision of his revenue estimates, a revision based largely on the effects of the collapse in oil prices. The Lt. Governor followed with his serial interim charge announcements calling for “options to further reduce the tax burden on property owners.” On the national stage, the vacuum created by the recognition that being Speaker of the U.S. House is a one-way ticket out of electoral politics led some GOP members to launch trial balloons. Meanwhile, over in the Democratic Presidential nomination race, Hillary Clinton reminded Democratic voters that she’s the pro in the race with a mostly sharp, funny performance that also showed her shrewdness by effortlessly getting to Bernie Sanders’ left on guns. Speaking of guns, the media was buzzing – and in some cases seemingly altering their policy on language appropriate for family newspapers – with the announcement by some activists at UT-Austin of a protest against the new campus carry law that will involve the open carry of dildos.