Keyword: Texas Legislature

Feeding the property tax beast

| By: Jim Henson and Joshua Blank

One of the final acts of the third special session of the 87th Texas Legislature was the negotiation of SJR 2, a measure that, if approved by voters in May, would increase the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $40,000 beginning with the 2022 tax year. Property taxes have been a perennial source of griping, especially in areas of Texas experiencing rapid population growth, rapidly rising home values, and the corresponding increase in property tax bills. Of course, as policy makers have been frequently reminded during the long real estate boom in Texas, in Texas’ growth obsessed but revenue-constricted political economy, efforts to reduce property taxes enough for voters’ to actually feel the effects of legislative action are severely constrained. 

While the primary driver of that constraint is fiscal, another major constraint is public opinion. A decade of polling on property taxes illustrate that many voters notice those rising property tax bills, but are likely to be unimpressed with what ultimately amounts to legislative tinkering in efforts to validate some sort of claim that the incumbent government is addressing voters’ concerns.

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The Second Reading Podcast: How Far Right is Too Far for the Texas GOP?

Second Reading Podcast: Texas attitudes toward the Texas Legislature in the latest UT/Texas Politics Project poll

New UT/Texas Politics Project Poll finds Texans dour and deeply divided

| By: Jim Henson and Joshua Blank

The latest University of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll finds Texans in a dour mood colored by a resurgent COVID-19 virus, an economy recovering yet roiled by its impact, and state politics driven by increasingly entrenched and in many instances extreme partisanship, which is being accentuated by the Republican monopoly on state government. Texans expressed more worry about the surging pandemic and its effects than in June, and gave Governor Abbott the lowest job approval rating of his tenure in office. A majority – 52% –  said the state is headed in the wrong direction, the worst assessment of the direction of the state since the inception of this polling project in 2008.

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Some #TxLege-focused takeaways from the new Texas Politics Project / UT Energy Institute Poll

| By: Jim Henson and Joshua Blank

While our joint venture with colleagues at the UT Energy Institute focused primarily on research questions related to Texans’ experiences during the winter storm and the infrastructure outages that followed, the results also provide rich context for the legislative wrangling over the appropriate policy response(s) to the storm and the multidimensional politics surrounding it. The data is fresh and there’s more drilling down to be done, but here are some initial impressions, with more to come after the holiday break. You can find all the results and hundreds of graphics on our latest poll page, and if you want to take a look at the questionnaire and topline results or take your own deep dive into the crosstabs (or even the data itself), it can all be found in our polling data archive.

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Depends what you mean by “integrity"

| By: Jim Henson and Joshua Blank

"Election integrity" legislation proposed by the majority party this session as well as the rhetoric used to justify their proposals illustrate that Republicans have not completely ignored their critics or the lack of evidence of voter fraud that has long accompanied their efforts. This session's rhetorical justifications and proposals tap into two central sets of attitudes among Republican voters that deflect attention away from the general lack of evidence of widespread election irregularities: the ideas that the current system makes it too easy to vote, and the lingering skepticism of election results cultivated by Donald Trump before, during, and after his presidency.

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The Second Reading Podcast: The State of the State Address, 2021

The Second Reading Podcast: A Conversation with the Dallas Morning News' Lauren McGaughy About Vaccinating Texas Legislators and More

| By: Jim Henson

In this week's Second Reading Podcast, Jim Henson talks with investigative reporter Lauren McGaughy about her recent story for the Dallas Morning News unpacking Austin Public Health interim medical director Mark Escott's efforts to offer vaccinations to members of the Texas Legislature and both the origins and aftermath of Escott's efforts. The conversation also turned to Attorney General Ken Paxton's recent political fundraising, which McGaughy wrote about in the latest in a long string of investigative resporting on Paxton across his career, and to pandemic measures limiting press access to the 87th Texas Legisalture.

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Five Snapshots from the Opening week of the Texas Legislature (Plus One)

| By: Jim Henson and Joshua Blank

Even as unprecedented challenges to the Constiutional order unfold in national politics, the policial world in Texas was focused on the convening of the 87th Texas Legislature in Austin amidst a surging pandemic, a faltering economy, and shockwaves of Donald Trump's political imposion rippling through Republican Party politics at all levels. Here are five snapshots from the week the legislature came back to town.

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Big picture considerations as the 87th Texas Legislature convenes amidst multiple crises

| By: Jim Henson and Joshua Blank

After spending a dramatic interim mostly on the sidelines of the policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its ill effects on the economy and the lives of Texans, state legislators now have their chance to respond to the impact of the crises in Texas as the 87th Legislature convenes in Austin this week. While they are empowered to legislate, they do so in conditions not of their own choosing – and those conditions are at best difficult, at worst grim. Below we explore the most important factors forming the context of legislators' attempts to address the problems facing the state, from the big structural factors like the pandemic, the economy, and racism to more mundane political conditions like the images of the state's leadership among the public and the politics of federalism after the election.

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