Well, here we go again. The war against the Professional Political Class returns to the Texas Capitol, but now within the context of government response to a pandemic. This WILL be a DIFFERENT session, and always realize the the Professional Political Class will use ANY crisis to strengthen their position. So let’s set the stage.
POST-ELECTION POLITICAL TERRAIN
Fortunately, the Texas Democrats got REALLY disappointing statewide on Election Day. Instead of taking the House as they hoped, they ended up exactly where they were last session in the House (83R – 67D) and gaining only 1 in the Senate (18R – 13D). The senate is complicated by current rules requiring 19 votes to bring anything to the floor but I suspect those rules will be changed to get things considered with a majority. The GOP lost their most liberal House member (Sarah Davis) and an number of ‘problem’ liberal members retired.
But the slight increase in the conservatism of the House has pretty well been negated by the selection of Dade Phelan as Speaker of the House. Dade has a more liberal record than Dennis Bonnen had- and stronger direct ties to the Professional Political Class and is not know for ‘strength of will’ (or ‘being such an azzhole’, depending on your perspective) as Dennis was. As this is written, we are fairly certain the discussions are on to try to replicate last session’s ‘Kumbaya’ session, in which the Democrats were pretty happy with all they got. However, they are monetary reasons it’s unlikely that Kumbaya at the same level is possible this session. The money simply isn’t there for the drunken sailor spending that was possible- and done- last session.
Budget/Spending: The pandemic-related depression has significantly dropped current tax revenue a wholly different situation than the record revenue increase of last session. That’s means lots of Democrat screaming of ‘slashing budgets’. Education will be a special battlefield, especially in light of significant enrollment drops in many districts, as the pandemic disruption had a number of parents finding alternative- and staying with those alternatives. Two major efforts to expand revenue will be marijuana legalization and casino gambling. These will NOT be socially beneficial, will result in short-term relief, nor generate anywhere NEAR the amounts of tax they’ll claim. The shortfall is an excuse to get them done.
COVID: The pandemic will substantially impact how the sessions is operationally done, especially the testimonial phase in committees. How will they deal with many hundreds wanting to testify? Apparently, Lt.Gov Dan Patrick is pretty terrified by the virus; the rules they are setting are looking like a reflection of his fears. Several offices are demanding you get a rapid test before you can even talk to them. However, does ANYONE think the bigger glad-handing lobbyist will think THEY need to change how they schmooze through the Capitol? They are the greatest risk of all in terms of becoming ‘super-spreaders’. I certainly hope they have to abide by at least the same rules as the ‘unwashed masses’.
But COVID also will have profound legislative impact. The Democrats naturally will attempt to leverage it into more Texas money for public health, despite the trillions DC is spending. Expect a demand for race-based funding on this issue to sell the Democrat’s normal narrative, as everything is about race.
Redistricting: The 800 pound gorilla under the Pink Dome. Talk right now is that they’ll move it to a specific special session and that, frankly, is a good approach at dealing with this effort whose main priority will be bipartisan incumbent protection- as it almost always is. There will likely be 3 new congressional district to fight over as well. Doing it outside of the regular session will let everyone focus on regular business without the pressure and heat of drawing districts.
Tax-funded Lobbying: An attempt will be made to pass this. I expect them to pass a ridiculously toothless version of this to try to appease the masses without impacting the high-life that lobbying provides our electeds in Austin. More on this later, as it obviously be a focus for us..
Election Integrity: Part of the COVID response was to significantly alter how voting was done. The Democrsts want as much as an expansion of mail-in ballots as possible, because they have a unique machine’ for cranking out Democrat votes. The inability to properly validate a ballot delivered by mail is considered a feature, not a bug. Democrats want all the the expanded vote mechanisms left in place.
Second Amendment: The Democrats have filed a BUNCH of efforts to take those rights away, and Constitutional Carry will be on the plate again. Not sure any of it will get much traction & likely to be zero-sum of at best some minor victory for gun rights but we’ll see.
Social Issues: Abortion will likely center on heartbeat bills, there will be some effort to assure institutionalized people (nursing home, assisted living, and disabled) have guaranteed access to at least ONE family member on a regular basis. Gender transition of minors through puberty blockers could be be a flaming hot issue.
Government over-reach: This one will focus mainly one the massive emergency power abuse by Abbot, County Judges, and Mayors during COVID. Expect a limitation of 30 days without calling legislative session of passing ordinances at the local level.
X factor: who knows what else will come up? Stay tuned to this space.