Keyword: 86th Legislature
Judgments about the actual policy achievements of the 86th necessarily await their implementation and evidence of sustainability. In the meantime, legislative incumbents will hope to bask in the faint praise they earned in 2019, while worrying that they might well be drowned out in another election year defined by the deafening volume of chaotic national politics.
Why is the Lieutenant Governor Killing the House’s Buzz on Marijuana Decriminalization and Medical Cannabis?
Talk of the Texas Legislature passing some legislation to lighten the state’s traditionally harsh marijuana laws have been in the air since long before the 86th legislature got underway in January. The expectations, cultivated by a combination of optimistic advocates and click-seeking news outlets, were fleetingly validated with the House of Representatives’ passage of Rep. Joe Moody’s bill (ultimately watered down) containing reduced misdemeanor penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and lowering the threshold for having those convictions expunged from one’s record.
The euphoria among supporters, however, was short lived.
The Texas Senate’s rejection of the much-hyped proposal by the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the House to ask voters to approve a 1-cent increase in the state sales tax has produced what passes for high drama in the Capitol. The Senate’s outright rejection of an approach promoted by its presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, only worsened the already obvious problems in the House, where Democrats are publicly unified in their opposition amidst lower-key but palpable skepticism among House members who have to run in GOP primaries next year. (Shortly after the original version of this post appeared in TribTalk on May 7, the House sponsor of the bills pulled them from consideration, all but guaranteeing the death of the sales tax increase.)
We've made the new runs released by the House committee available in a spreadsheets for 2020 and 2021 via Google Drive, should you want to interact with the data yourself.
The Texas House will take up HB3, the omnibus school finance bill years in the making, on Wednesday. As with any attempt to tweak the school finance system in Texas, the attention of legislators in the House has shifted to the "runs", the document produced by the Legislative Budget Board outlining how funding will change for each member's school districts. Old timers in the process will remember how, in the past, when new runs were released, members walked around with sheafs of paper, looking for the small handful (or less) of members who could walk them through the implications.
Ah, technology! For those who enjoy looking at the data themselves and maybe even playing with it, we have converted the .pdf's released by the LBB into spreadsheets and shared them for easy access.
For those following the debate in the Texas House of Representatives today on HB 1, the appropriations bill, here's a searchable pdf of the pre-filed amendments, via Google Docs. If you're not a regular Google Docs user:after you follow the link, there's a download icon in the upper right that will download the pdf to your device, then you can open using whatever you're used to using.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick released 30 priority bills for the current legislative session Friday, conveniently mapped onto the numbering of Senate Bills 1-30. We published a similar list when Governor Abbott used the power of the governorship to shape the legislative agenda with his declaration of emergency items in February, prior to the most recent University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll. The overlap between the Lt. Governor’s priorities and those previously announced by the governor means that several of the items below provide a useful update for that post, too.
The latest University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll, which Ross Ramsey wrote about in a batch of stories released through the week, covered a range of subjects and issues with an emphasis on the current legislative session. As always, we’ll continue to mine the data and connect it with happenings at the legislature as the session kicks into a higher gear, but below are a first set of observations, hopefully more than hot takes but certainly less than the in-depth treatment we’ll give them in coming weeks.
Set aside the hand-waving and vague muttering that “elections have consequences,” and the evidence for a public mandate on school finance and propert taxes is pretty thin. It likely has more to do with the new governing dynamic among Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and Dennis Bonnen.
Governor Greg Abbott delivered the state of the state speech today, and as expected declared a set of emergency items, enabling the legislature to move bills on these subjects through the legislative process more quickly. These items are school finance reform and increasing teacher pay; school safety; mental health; property tax reform (with a seeming nod toward electing tax appraisers); and disaster response.
Abbott’s emphasis on public education and reforming the property tax system largely echoed priorities already under discussion by the state’s political leaders as the legislative session has unfolded. He ended with an embrace of the seeming Era of Good Feeling that state leaders keep declaring in the Capitol in the wake of the 2018 election ("I am inspired by the comradery and collaboration that have infused this session. I feel it myself."). The causes and reality of this narrative beyond waving at the 2018 election results deserve to be examined more closely; for now, here are some touchpoints in public opinion for the emergency items that the governor has declared in his bid to set the legislative agenda.