Last night, the House threw in the towel and adjourned a day early, leading to the Senate doing the same—after which the Lt. Governor held a hastily-called press conference to skewer the Speaker of the House once again for not getting with the program laid out by the (lieutenant) governor. This unanticipated ending was an exciting one for legislative nerds like us, but for the general public, the only thing you really need to know is that the two chambers are still not playing nicely with each other and things are going to get worse before they get better. (See the Quotes of the Week, below, for more on that.) For this reason, it’s unlikely the governor will call any additional special sessions anytime soon—but that doesn’t mean never.
Note also that the House Republican Caucus met this morning to discuss changing how the speaker is elected, but despite Freedom Caucus supporters favoring a Washington, D.C.-style intraparty-only election (in which only members of the GOP majority would get to choose the speaker), no changes were reported and Speaker Straus left the meeting in good standing. As a result, we expect a full-on bloodbath in the GOP primaries next spring as two competing wings of that party fight for supremacy—which may remind some of you old-timers of how the state’s Democratic party primaries used to be back before there were (m)any Republicans. All of this is yet further proof of the political adage that even when one party is in full control, there are still always two parties to fight over things (even if they share the same letter after their names). The more things change, the more they stay the same!
Yesterday, a three-judge federal redistricting panel found that two Texas congressional districts violated the federal Voting Rights Act. As a result, federal judges will have to re-draw U.S. House District 27 (held by Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi), U.S. House District 35 (held by Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin), and various neighboring districts unless the Legislature does it first—which would require yet another special session. No word yet on whether the governor intends to call the Legislature back for that purpose, but it certainly increases the likelihood of another special session at some point this fall or winter. It also raises the possibility that spring primary elections could be pushed back to accommodate the process of drawing and approving any newly-drawn districts. Right now, there are many questions and no answers, so keep an eye on this issue in your media outlet of choice.
More new legislation
Now that we’ve got all that political stuff out of the way, let’s review where things finally stand on the governor’s 20 agenda items:
Issues signed into law by governor
- Sunset renewal of various state agencies (Texas Medical Board, etc.)
- Abortion reporting (HB 13)
- Abortion insurance coverage limits (HB 214)
- Mail-in voter fraud enhancements and related changes (SB 5*)
- Municipal annexation reform (SB 5)
Issues sent to the governor but not yet signed
- Limits on municipal tree regulations (HB 7)
- Study on public school finance (HB 21)
- Supplemental funding for certain public schools (HB 30)
- Abortion reporting (HB 215)
- Do-not-resuscitate orders (SB 11*)
- Maternal health and safety, etc. (SB 17)
The asterisks denote bills we tracked because they either increase penalties for existing crimes or create new crimes, all outside the Penal Code. Everything else—bathroom/privacy, property tax reform, teacher pay raises, etc.—is dead.
Barring another special session called by the governor, future legislative updates will be issued on a monthly—rather than weekly—basis. (Sorry, but you’ll have to find another source of weekly quotes to keep you entertained.)
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Quotes of the week
“This has been twisted into something it’s clearly not. This bill was intended to prevent people and discourage people from blocking [a] high speed roadway.”
—State Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Frisco), defending HB 25, his bill to insulate certain drivers from civil liability for striking protestors in a roadway, after the recent vehicular death of a protestor in Charlottesville, VA.
“The ‘twenty-for-twenty’ thing has never been a consideration for us.”
—House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), when asked last week for his realistic assessment of the governor’s lengthy agenda for the special session.
“Thank goodness Travis didn’t have the speaker at the Alamo. He would’ve been the first one over the wall.”
—Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), complaining about the House leadership adjourning one day before the special session was to end.
“[T]here’s no evidence whatsoever that he’s going to change his mind on it, and that’s why elections matter.”
—Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Houston), on Speaker Straus’ opposition to the “bathroom bill” (and also issuing a veiled threat against a sitting speaker of the same political party, which was unheard of until recent times).
“The blame game is just beginning, and why I’d want to get between two groups of elephants, I don’t know.”
—State Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), longest-serving member of the Senate, on the aftermath of the special session.
“Just about the only time you’ll find bipartisanship in Austin is bipartisanship against ethics reform.”
—Brandon Rottinghaus, political science professor at the University of Houston, explaining why it is still legal for state legislators to make money off local government contracts.
“I thought we could raise some money for him very quickly and get him underway, but he just chuckled at me.”
—Arthur Schechter, Democratic fundraiser, on his failed attempt to recruit a well-known (but unnamed) Texas businessman to run for governor on the Democratic ticket.
“You can do what you want to do. I’m going to Italy.”
—State Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), upon hearing that the House adjourned to end the special session. [Amen, Madame Chairwoman!]