Chairman Dennis Bonnen is scheduled to convene the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday to discuss a handful of bills about taxes. Later in the day (after the House adjourns), the House State Affairs committee is scheduled to hear Rep. and Chairman Byron Cook’s fetal remains bill, HB 201
The week saw the stirring of politics in Texas not reducible to the ever-more-weird presidential race, as Texas’ voter ID law was back in the news after the state was forced into an agreement that was a de facto recognition of the law’s shaky constitutional status. Another shaky Texas political arrangement – the system of financing public education – and the polarized political responses that have stymied progress on revamping it, were also on display in a long meeting of the Senate Education Committee.The week saw the stirring of politics in Texas not reducible to the ever-more-weird presidential race, as Texas’ voter ID law was back in the news after the state was forced into an agreement that was a de facto recognition of the law’s shaky constitutional status. Another shaky Texas political arrangement – the system of financing public education – and the polarized political responses that have stymied progress on revamping it, were also on display in a long meeting of the Senate Education Committee.
The June 2016 University of Texas / Texas Politics Project Poll included a brief item that asks respondents a simple question about a complex issue: “Generally speaking, do you consider yourself pro-life, pro-choice, or neither?” This results may be of interest in the context of the Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, particularly given the case’s origins in Texas.
The Texas political world is all in a tizzy this week after Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses, using a combination of evangelical support, streamlined political science, crack campaign organization, and, of course, charm. Seems a sure thing that Marco Rubio will make a play in Texas, and to this end he announced his “Texas Leadership Team". Speaking of wanting to lead, aspiring Texas GOP-chair Jared Woodfill announced while on his day job that his client, the fake fetal tissue dealer David Daleiden of Planned-Parenthood-sting-gone-wrong fame, would not take a plea deal offered by the Harris County DA, presumably at least in part to use the trial as a forum to air his views on abortion (after all, he’s an activist). For those who really want the inside baseball on abortion politics, theDallas Morning News took a good look at the competing anti-abortion groups in Texas, pegging the story of dueling defenders of all things life to their taking sides in the fight between Pro-Straus and anti-Straus forces in the GOP primary. Their struggle inspired us to include a bonus video.
When Comptroller Glenn Hegar assured the Senate Finance Committee that he would “much rather be in this state than the other 49 states in this nation,” Dallas Senator Royce West captured the underlying tension in the Senate’s engagement with the economy, budget prospects, and taxes when he cracked back, “I just don’t want to be in a state of denial.” The finance committee’s worry about what the budget might look like was little in evidence the next day when the Select Committee on Property Tax Reform and Relief convened in San Antonio to wave a red flag on local taxation. The Senate State Affairs Committee explored how the state is muddling through implementation of the state’s new gun laws, while over on the House side, Republicans flipped a seat in the HD118 special election, triggering Democratic dismay and some public self-loathing. A Houston grand jury propelled Texas into the national headlines after reviewing the case of the surreptitiously filmed attempt to buy fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood and indicting the fraudulent would-be tissue peddlers rather than anyone at Planned Parenthood. Way back at the beginning of the week, Rick Perry also got back in the national news for about half a news cycle after leaking to Politico (take that, state press corps) that he would be endorsing Ted Cruz. Perry revealed that he apparently doesn’t know Cruz real well, but he former governor reported that the endorsement comes after they “spent some very appropriate time together."
As this particular case unfolds, one has to wonder: In a nationalized election year in which the Democratic nominee is (still) likely to be a woman, and in which the Republican nominee (whomever he may be) will likely have to at least attempt to deflect if not overcome the "war on women" charge, could the war on Planned Parenthood become the lightning rod that voter identification laws became between 2010 and 2012 for Democrats?
The attitudes revealed in polling provide ready frames for political leaders on the left and right to use in crafting their responses to the sad and troubling events in Colorado Springs.
Halloween is upon us, but it's already been a scary week for Jeb Bush and homeowners thinking about their property tax bills – but Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are trying their best to calm everyone down. Calm by nature, Dr. Ben Carson started the week off early causing a stir with his proclamation that he's against abortion in cases of rape and incest, while two of Texas politics' more animated politicians – Dan Patrick and Ted Cruz – essentially endorsed each other. Both Patrick and Governor Abbott also endorsed the legislature preventing so-called sanctuary cities in Texas, but not enough to require legislators to haunt Austin in a special session. Finally, President Obama followed the lead of Texas in pressing for a reduction in standardized testing – a treat for kids and their parents, who increasingly told pollsters they find frequent high stakes testing pretty ghastly.
The presence of Texas candidates for speaker notwithstanding, Paul Ryan decided he would take a stab at the least attractive job in American politics this week, leaving the state to make national news not by putting a Texan in the Speaker’s chair but by pushing the GOP’s ongoing attack on Planned Parenthood to a new level. Texas ideas nonetheless had their day in the Congress, as the Senate tried and failed to take up anti-Sanctuary City legislation. David Vitter at least probably appreciated the effort, but 2011 called and they want their issue back. In the presidential arena, House Republicans teamed up with Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb to give the Clinton campaign a good week, while over in the GOP George W. Bush is So. Over. Ted. Cruz. And wants you to know it, apparently. It didn’t seem, however, to do much good, as the GOP 2016 stories at week's end were about Carson surpassing Trump in Iowa polling while the Jeb! campaign moved to cut payroll costs.
Much of the week was filled with continuing storylines that are illuminated below with polling data and other graphics – attacks on Planned Parenthood, Ted Cruz's campaign for the Republican Presidential Nomination, more of Hillary Clinton's vexed run for the Democratic Presidential nomination, and another entry into the race for the House seat currently held by Speaker Joe Straus. The end of the week turned much more sadly serious with another mass shooting at a community college.