Speaking to a gaggle of educrats and lobbyists Wednesday, House Speaker Joe Straus showed his contempt for conservative reforms and Gov. Greg Abbott, calling the governor’s agenda for the upcoming special session “horse manure.”
Earlier this month, Abbott announced he would be calling lawmakers back to Austin for a 30-day special session beginning July 18th in order to consider a robust agenda of reforms that lawmakers failed to pass during the regular session.
On Abbott’s agenda for a special session are major conservative priorities, including property tax reform, stronger spending limits, pro-life reforms, directing education dollars to the classroom, and eliminating the government collection of union dues.
By aligning himself with taxpayers in a big way, Abbott has set the bar high for legislators, but also for himself. Legislators have to choose: will they stand with taxpayers or against them? And if legislators refuse, does the governor have what it takes to make them deliver?
“Legislators have six weeks to prepare for this special session,” Abbott said at the time. “If they fail it will not be for a lack of time. It will be because of a lack of will.”
There’s no lack of will in the Texas Senate. As expected, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick quickly rallied to support Abbott and issued a full-throated endorsement of his agenda the same day.
“Almost every issue [Gov. Abbott] addressed today passed the Senate during the regular session and I am confident the senators are ready to hit the ground running to move these issues forward,” said Patrick. “The people of Texas have a right to expect that we will finish the job on these critical issues and I am happy to join with the governor in doing the work they elected us to do.”
Meanwhile on the other side of the rotunda, House Speaker Joe Straus showed he’s willing to defy the governor and kill conservative reforms once again. Indeed, Straus’ surrogates have already engaged in a campaign to delegitimize and disparage Abbott’s insistence on property tax reform, and this week Straus joined the chorus himself.
Speaking to the Texas Association of School Boards, Straus opened his remarks on the special session with a joke about a boy excited by “a room full of horse manure.”
“The boy said, ‘With all this manure, there must be a pony in here somewhere,'” Straus said. “So I’m going to take the optimistic approach to the special session and keep looking for that pony.”
In those remarks, Straus is making clear that he intends to fight against the governor’s pro-taxpayer agenda just as hard in the special session as he did in the Spring.
Will Abbott react? Does he have what it takes to make lawmakers deliver?