You know that feeling, that mixture of excitement and exhaustion when everything comes together at the end of a major project? The final full week of the Texas Legislature’s 85th Regular Session has left us feeling like that… we just don’t know if the final product will be enough to keep the client from demanding still more.
All our still-viable priority bills passed, and the one remaining “bad bill” we opposed was so completely altered as to become benign, a vehicle for an interim study, possibly even leading to support of “Right to Repair” legislation next session, a priority of this session that fell short.
That nagging question mentioned at the end of the first paragraph — “will this session’s work product be enough to keep our hypothetical client (i.e., the Governor) from demanding more” in the form of a called Special Session — stirred the political brew as 2017’s regular session raced for its Memorial Day denouement. The answer to that will likely decide what happens in the 2018 primaries 10 months from now, that and a federal redistricting case scheduled to begin in July. Regardless of either or both those things’ outcomes, politics will almost certainly continue being more polarized and more expensive.
Will or won’t Governor Abbott call a Special Session to seek “bathroom bill” and property tax legislation more like what passed the Texas Senate, something suggested by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick? The answer to that will supposedly determine whether or not Governor Abbott will be challenged in the 2018 Republican primary — by the Lt. Governor. (Some pundits say Patrick’s running regardless, and that his reason, whether a Special is called or not, is Abbott’s lack of leadership. If Abbott doesn’t call one, it will prove that Patrick must offer himself as the Republicans’ “true conservative”; if Abbott does call one, it will only be because Patrick made him do so, proving Abbott’s lack of “true conservative convictions.”)
The “Freedom Caucus” in the Texas House, of whom much has been written already, called for Record Votes far more often than ever before, supposedly to provide its wing of the Republican Party evidence of “true conservative” apostasy. As many challenges as social-conservatives have instigated against business-conservatives during the past three elections, I predict you will see even more in 2018.
On the flip side, though again exacerbated by Freedom Caucus maneuvers, this session showed the extent of a partisan (and gender) divide that may lead to future Republican losses as shifts in the state’s demographics reduce numbers within the ‘Republican base,’ and its advantage in terms of the percentage of Texas voters. (A caveat of this purported demographic reality, however, is the effect the recently passed “Sanctuary Cities” law has on Latino voting. Will there be an immediate reduction of Hispanic registration and voting resulting from fear of aggressive enforcement of SB 4? Or will there be an obvious and strong backlash against Republicans for their party-line votes that were cited by Latinos as evidence of anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic Republican beliefs and behavior? I can argue it either way, as others already have.)
Mix in the prospect that federal judges may cause legislative and congressional district lines to be redrawn to undo perceived redistricting bias against minorities dating back to 2011, and the 2019 political landscape could be altered significantly — even in Trump-friendly Texas.
Where do you stand on transgender bathroom issue? Do you think there should be automatic rollback elections if local taxes increase by 5 percent or more annually? If Governor Abbott calls a Special Session on these issues, should we publicly take a stand on behalf of the profession? And would your opinion be to support or oppose the Governor’s call for stronger legislation? Please let us hear from you — share your views, recommend a preferred future.