The Special Legislative Session has only just begun in Austin and the air is already thick with political tension. There is a sense of an impending showdown looming.
After our successful work during the regular session earlier this year, THSC is back in Austin along with Texas legislators after Gov. Greg Abbott called a 30-day special session to address 20 conservative priorities that lawmakers failed to pass during the regular session.
Since Monday, July 17, the THSC Policy team has been on the ground preparing for the special session. Our preparation has included reading legislation, meeting with political offices, and testifying on bills.
THSC is actively supporting three of the reforms that relate to parental rights and homeschooling. These include the Texas Privacy Act, reforms to Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders, and School Choice legislation.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who leads the Senate, has actively supported the Governor’s agenda along with the Texas Republican Party and countless conservative leaders. However, unmistakable battle lines have been drawn in the House of Representatives.
Special Legislative Session: The Opposing Sides
The battle lines were drawn by House Speaker Joe Straus, who has strongly and vocally opposed the 20-item agenda presented by Governor Abbott. Earlier this year, Representative Straus and his leadership team were responsible for killing many of the same reforms during the regular legislative session.
The confrontation has escalated into what can only be described as a full-fledged political battle. Even local Republican Party groups have called for Representative Straus to be removed from his leadership position because of his continued and open opposition to the Republican Party Platform and the conservative agenda of Governor Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick.
The outcome of this conflict will likely depend on the number of bills that House leadership successfully stymies and whether Governor Abbott is willing to force lawmakers back to Austin again to ensure that Speaker Straus is not successful stalling the reforms.
Governor Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made it abundantly clear last week during a gathering at the Texas Public Policy Foundation that they expect all 20 reforms to be passed. To promote their mission, both are using the hashtag “#PassThemAll” on social media.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) July 18, 2017
During the event, Governor Abbott also called on Texans to hold their lawmakers accountable and establish lists of where each legislator stands on the issues, stating clearly that “no one gets to hide.”
In a move putting feet to this aggressive rhetoric, the Texas Senate filed, held hearings on, and voted out of committee 17 of 19 remaining priority items. (The 20th item already passed the full Senate.)
This was all accomplished within the first week of the special session. By contrast, the Texas House is just now scheduled to begin hearings this week.
THSC’s three supported bills have already passed their respective Senate committees following public hearings on Friday, July 21. You can view THSC’s testimony on behalf of parental rights regarding two of these important issues below:
Now the question is whether the House will follow suit on these important bills.
Or, will the special legislative session be the latest chapter in an unfortunate series of events involving Representative Straus?
A History of Conflict Between Conservatives and Speaker Straus
For years, conservatives have fought to defeat Rep. Joe Straus after he was elected speaker in 2009 when 65 Democratic members joined 11 liberal Republicans to put him in power.
Since then, Representative Straus and his leadership team have been the number one obstacle to priority reforms filed by THSC on behalf of parental rights and homeschooling. He has also been responsible for appointing critical House committees where liberal-leaning legislators have blocked key reforms and other conservative bills.
At the moment, it is unclear whether the next few weeks of the special legislative session will drastically affect the long-term political landscape in Texas. However, there is a looming showdown involving Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Speaker Straus. This appears to be the pinnacle of an 8-year battle that the Speaker has waged against conservatives.
There is tremendous tension in Austin during the special legislative session. The political pressure will only become greater and the battle lines will become more clear as lawmakers take their sides in the conflict.
THSC will be in the thick of the action advocating for homeschoolers and Texas families as part of our mission to continue Keeping Texas Families Free.
Do you support THSC’s work to protect homeschooling and parental rights in Austin? Consider giving $35, $50, $100, or $200 to support our legislative efforts. Thanks to a generous donor, donations up to $5,000 will be matched during the special legislative session. We appreciate your support during this critical time for Texas!