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.
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
It’s hard not to see the late-breaking addition of the Public Education Committee chair Dan Huberty’s just-filed HB 21 to the committee's agenda Tuesday as a bit of a chess move against both voucher advocates and the Senate, where the State Affairs Committee will be holding a high profile hearing on SB 6, the bathroom access bill championed by the Lt. Governor.
President Trump today signed a revised version his controversial executive order banning travel to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The updates exclude Iraq from the list of seven countries, removes a provision that prioritized immigration by religious minorities from those countries (aka Christians), and makes clear that it no longer affects people currently holding visas. As for the likely public reaction in Texas, February 2017 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Polling showed that among the Texas GOP, the President had little to fear, as they expressed favorable opinions towards his proposals (and some more extreme ones from the campaign trail).
The Senate State Affairs Committee hearing tomorrow on Senator Lois Kolkhorst’s Senate Bill 6 has triggered three press conferences today and will no doubt be the focus of a large chunk of tomorrow’s news media coverage in Texas – and probably some national coverage, too. Much of the extant coverage has missed how conflicting public attitudes provide an essential context for understanding the politics among the leadership. Recent results from the February 2017 University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll confirm that while Texans’ attitudes convey the expected conservative tilt, only a minority – 39 percent – think it is important for the legislature to act on this issue now.
With the 60-day bill filing deadline looming on Friday March 10, it will be a busy week in the Texas Capitol. We’ve pulled out a few highlights from recent polling to provide some context for some of Monday’s hearings -- Senate Finance, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III, the House Energy Resources Committee, and the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.
The week was barely underway when the new Public Education Chair in the Texas House illustrated just how much style and personality can make the same position feel really different when it comes from a Huberty rather than an Aycock. The House managed to make a fight out of the one issue that there seemed to be universal agreement on in the Legislature, while the Texas Supreme Court decided they want to hear arguments about gay marriage after all. Meanwhile, in the commanding heights, Governor Abbott was invited by the other two-thirds of the big three to have a fight with one of them, but it was no cigar. Instead, the Governor was plenty happy to take the resolution passed by the Senate joining the call for a Convention of the States, though conservatives are not all of the same mind on whether that’s a good idea or not. If the governor has to change their mind, maybe he ought to ask the President, who seems to have done a good job of moving Republicans toward a more open-minded position on the President of Russia -- though it turns out Attorney General Sessions may have jumped the gun on that front at least a little.