Texans were spoiled by 14 years of a very active governor. For better or worse, one never wondered where former Gov. Rick Perry was or what his stance was on an issue.
And lawmakers knew that if they didn’t deliver on his marquee items, he’d call them into special sessions until they did.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has taken a decidedly different position. His advisors have quietly told lawmakers and the Capitol crowd he won’t call special sessions, seeing it as an admission of failure.
But an unspoken failure has been the Texas House essentially ignoring his priorities. While Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Texas Senate quickly passed Abbott’s emergency items within weeks of them being announced, they’ve mostly languished in the House.
It was only this week that the House finally passed one in its entirety – the Senate’s ban on sanctuary cities. Even then, the measure that passed out only truly lived up to Abbott’s promises thanks to conservative State Reps. Matt Schaefer and Matt Rinaldi amending and improving it on the floor. (The House’s Democrat-enabling GOP coalition leadership had tried to water down the Senate’s strong measure.)
Yet through it all, Abbott has been mostly silent. He called on the lawmakers to balance the budget without “looting” the rainy day fund. He said nothing, though, as the Texas House voted to spend down the state’s savings account.
Abbott also called on lawmakers to quickly act on his call for an Article V Convention of States to rein in the federal government. The Senate did so. Yet the House isn’t scheduled to consider it until next week, and even then they are debating a provision that saw a “poison pill” inserted to muddy the waters.
Even commonsense ethics reform for legislators – something the Senate passed unanimously in the early days of session – is getting slow-boated by the House. Rather than take up the comprehensive package of reforms that passed in SB 14, the House is choosing to move a series of House bills instead, making them more susceptible to parliamentary pitfalls and legislative gamesmanship on their way to the governor’s desk.
The author of several of those bills, Republican Charlie Geren of Fort Worth, has already removed a key provision of the package prohibiting lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving office.
Conservative lawmakers are growing restless, wondering if Abbott intends to back up their efforts promoting his agenda. Some are grumbling privately that maybe he doesn’t believe the conservative rhetoric he espouses. A writer for the Austin American Statesman has gone so far as to note “Abbott tweets like Patrick but governs like Straus.”
It’s unclear when Abbott will speak out, but if he wants his legacy to include results as strong as his rhetoric, he should do so sooner than later.