Session Begins With A Whimper

While some were hoping the 83rd Session to start with a bang, a nascent challenge by State Rep. David Simpson to incumbent House Speaker Joe Straus fizzled with insufficient will among the members to fight about leadership. Hopefully they will be in a fighting spirit when it comes to the policy battles ahead.

Joe Straus
Joe Straus
For those activists disheartened by what might be perceived as a lack of political courage on this first day (and even — especially — for those lawmakers who did not want the fight), just remember that there are even bigger fights, with bigger stakes, in the 139 days remaining in the legislative session.

As Rice University professor Mark Jones summed it up in today’s Austin American Statesman: “Speaker Straus will be able to be more aggressive than he has in the past in pushing through his policy agenda.” Hopefully lawmakers know what that agenda is, now that they have bought it!

Obviously, there are liberal Democrats and moderate Republicans who will be pushing to increase spending to the max — and perhaps even more. Meanwhile, there will be calls (from Democrats and Republicans) to create new revenue sources while hiking taxes and raiding the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, the so-called “Rainy Day Fund.”

On the other hand, an overwhelming majority of Texans want strict spending limits put in place, and strongly oppose the implementation of new or higher taxes. Speaker Straus has thus far refused to allow such legislation to even get a hearing; perhaps this is the session his opposition will be overcome?

The left wants to restore taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood, and there are indications some GOPers are willing to horse-trade on the issue. Educrats, as always, want more unaccountable money flowing into their opaque, unreformed coffers.

Rent-seeking cronies will be looking to the Lege for special deals, hand-outs, and protection from competition.

Small businesses, struggling less in Texas than elsewhere, are nonetheless overburdened by the inefficient gross margins tax — while establishment interests are more interested in keeping funds flowing into government coffers so it can be redistributed to them through sweet-heart contracts.

In a preemptive move, some legislators have pre-filed legislation proposing great things; even great things which have been long opposed or mocked by the Speaker and his closest allies.

Some no doubt filed the bills merely as a post-session talking-point placeholder for the folks back home, with no intention of actually fighting for the issue during the session. We see that every time; it’s nothing new.

But others are truly committed to the cause of liberty. They will be identified not by the words or press releases, but by their actions during the real fights ahead. The proof of the legislative session will come not from the proclamations of political personalities on the first day, but will be found in the policy results on the last day.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael is president and CEO of Empower Texans, and its premier project, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capital Hill staffer, think tank vice president and an Eagle Scout, Sullivan is married with three children. He divides his time between the Metroplex, the rest of Texas, and Austin.

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