A Reactive Legislature

Despite a budget (that almost passed) without new taxes, this legislature generally did little to advance a proactive conservative fiscal agenda. Much of their work was reactive, even with an historic super-majority in the House. Not surprisingly, legislators ended the regular session failing the Fiscal Responsibility Index.

The Fiscal Responsibility Index uses votes on core issues to rate the performance of lawmakers. Legislators are notified in advance of the issues and legislation that will be scored.

(The scores on the Index currently take into account only the regular session that adjourned today, but should be considered preliminary. The expected call of a special session by the governor will do doubt affect the final scores. As such, we won’t release the individual scores until the expected special session is completed.)

All session it felt as though the legislature was merely responding, not taking proactive action on major issues and popular reforms. And even when it did, the members seemed reluctant.

Significantly, in this most fiscally-conscious of times the legislature failed to take on key pocketbook issues such as improving the state’s spending limit measurement, making permanent the small-business exemption to the Gross Margins Tax, reforming the GMT overall, enhancing local government transparency, or even banning tax-funded lobbying, among many others.

Recommendations totaling more than $20 billion in savings on systemic reforms put together by the Texas Conservative Coalition — a legislator-led organization, no less — were all but ignored.

With a super-majority in the Texas House, one would have expected much of the conservative movement’s legislation to have made it to the floor with relative ease, if not passed immediately to the Senate. Instead, legislative initiatives were left unaddressed.

Hopefully, the governor and legislative leadership will take swift action to address this short-coming in the contemplated special sessions.

Coming out of the regular session, the average score on the Fiscal Responsibility Index for all 181 House and Senate members was a failing 58.6.

(Check out the summary tables for the 82nd Regular Session.)

Republicans overall have a passing 79% (81.1% in the House, 69.8% in the Senate), while Democrats average a failing 18.6% (18.4% in the House and 19.7% in the Senate).

The committee chairs in the chambers are a reflection of the leadership of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus.

The House committee chairs currently have a 61.5 score. (The GOP chairmen average a 76, well below their caucus.)

The Senate committee chairs scored a 49.2. (Senate GOP chairs had a 64.4 — also below their caucus average.)


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Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael is the CEO of Empower Texans. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capitol 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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