The next legislature will meet in the midst of an economic nightmare. What could possibly go wrong? – Texas monthly
This article is part of our July 2020 “The Pandemic Has Changed Everything” package. Read more here.
Editor’s Note: The following events did not actually happen. Still.
March 24, 2021—Yesterday marked the midpoint of Texas’ Eighty-seventh Legislature, one of the craziest and most controversial we have ever seen. We have made seventy days, and we can, with the grace of God and infinite patience, make seventy more. Here’s your weekly recap:
–House Speaker Tracy O. King prematurely ended her chamber work on Friday to call a weekend retreat for the House Democratic Caucus, to a ranch near her hometown of Uvalde, in. south Texas. The confab hasn’t gone well, caucus sources say, and not just because it’s difficult to keep 76 lawmakers six feet from each other. Three months after King’s shock election as President, House Democrats remain deeply divided. It wasn’t meant to be that way.
In the November 2020 election, Democrats won 9 seats, winning control of the lower house of the Legislative Assembly, 76 seats to 74. A New Day in Texas! Those modest hopes were dashed, however, when the session began and most of the House Republicans and a handful of conservative Democrats voted for King, a conservative rural Democrat who has been described as alternately “quietly confident” or “silent. “. (The King, you may remember, changed his vote halfway, fueling a rumor that he was unaware of the plan to elevate him to President.)
Uvalde’s meeting has on several occasions turned into screaming matches, as lawmakers struggled to be heard over long distances. Progressive lawmakers have taken turns against pro tem President Greg Bonnen, the Republican brother of disgraced former President Dennis Bonnen, and House Whip Ryan Guillen, whose main plan this session has been to protect a tax break for the yacht buyers he helped get through last session.
There is still a lot of fighting ahead, especially over the apocalyptic budget situation, but at least the long-awaited bloodshed over redistribution has been postponed, thanks to the delay in releasing census data. Democrats returned to Austin on Sunday very hoarse.
–Thursday saw one of the biggest protests of the session to date. Usually, these events feature roving gangs of gunmen, including State Representative Briscoe Cain, who began dressing in a buckskin outfit and carrying a black powder rifle with load-loading. the mouth engraved with “Beto, Come and Take It”. But Thursday’s protest was organized by a group called Patriot Mothers Against Future Vaccines, which aims to pressure Lege to pass legislation to prevent a potential COVID-19 vaccine from becoming mandatory.
Amid a crowd of protesters carrying placards denouncing Bill Gates and George Soros and 5G, former state representative and PMAFV advisor Bill Zedler stood firm with a gang of mothers. A reporter asked: What’s the name? “Well,” Zedler replied, “the first vaccines were good, and the vaccines we have now are dangerous,” coughing every few words. “If you plot this on a graph, it stands to reason that future vaccines would be the worst of all. “
–Behind the scenes, with next week’s debate on the House floor approaching, negotiators continue to discuss how to close the $ 20 billion hole in the state’s biennial budget. The calculations are so unpleasant – deep cuts to public education, health care, transportation, etc. – that the budget drafters were initially reluctant to come up with any plan.
Major lawmakers now agree on the main lines: Empty a good chunk of the $ 8.5 billion Rainy Day Fund, add the billions the federal government has given to Texas in direct aid, and earn a few billions more from the $ 8.5 billion Rainy Day Fund. Lege budget and accounting tips. adore. Still, the hacksaw is going to have to be used. To mitigate the damage, left-wing political analysts are calling for tax hikes that are unlikely to escape even the Democratic-controlled House, while conservative lobby groups like Empower Texans are pushing for tax cuts. 20% in all state agencies. Lawmakers are aware that the fallout from the Great Recession of 2008 did not really hinderhe the state budget until 2011, when the economy was still in the doldrums and federal stimulus money was exhausted. If $ 20 billion is the preliminary shortfall in 2021, what new horrors could the state await in 2023? This thought has led some conservative lawmakers to reconsider withdrawing from the Rainy Day Fund. The state might need it next time, they argue. But that would mean even bigger cuts this year. So the main question before the legislature is simple: who is going to be blamed for this? Expect this dance to take center stage in the final months of the session.
–It has now been 76 days since Governor Greg Abbott was seen in public, after abruptly ending his ritual weekly press conference and withdrawing from sight. Months of unchecked executive power, repeatedly wielded during the pandemic, appear to have wreaked havoc on Abbott: January 7, shortly before the start of the session and the return of a branch of government that is theoretically proposing control of power from the governor, Abbott issued a cryptic statement that said, in part, “I’m tired of these people.” I’m tired of being caught up in the entanglement of their lives. His fate and that of his dog, Pancake, are currently unknown, although executive orders continue to be issued by his office at an accelerated rate.
–Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s Senate continues to pass legislation overturning the ability of cities and counties to regulate themselves at an astonishing rate. The bills include efforts to deprive mayors and county judges of the authority to enact broader public health orders than those issued by the governor and the legislature, as well as preemptions of all kinds of ‘other regulatory powers – from limiting the ability of cities to deny building permits to overturning local payday lender regulations.
But the most recent bundle of bills shocked even jaded insiders on Capitol Hill. State Senator Charles Perry, who represents West Texas, on Wednesday introduced legislation to abolish Harris County Commissioners’ Court and place Greater Houston under state custody control from Texas. Another bill puts the city of Dallas in a form of receivership; the mayors of the outlying towns of the Metroplex would make the decisions for the urban center. When asked at a press conference whether the measures violated the once-sacred principle of “local control,” Patrick told reporters he had simply changed the emphasis of the sentence to reflect his true intention: “the premises, controlled”.
–Tensions around efforts to protect lawmakers from COVID-19 continue to mount. Lawmakers are by and large much older than the average Texan, and some have serious health issues that put them at high risk. Senators continued to debate the legislation in the grand floor of the upper house, though Patrick banned Senate reporters.
The remote system that allows House members to vote from their desks has helped keep lawmakers at risk away from the usually crowded floor. But technical glitches with the system derailed votes throughout the session, sometimes forcing MPs to go to the House chamber. The problem: Some reps still refuse to wear masks. On Monday, a scuffle almost broke out when a member of the House Freedom Caucus, without a mask, came too close to State Representative Senfronia Thompson, 82. Some members expressed concern that House management could place sick members near the back chamber microphone. budget night to deter dissidents from “gossiping” or talking at length to kill the bills.
VScommittee hearings were a little easier, but still far from optimal. Thanks to a change in House and Senate rules, marathon hearings are typically held on Zoom. A Houston Chronicle This week’s analysis reported that about 34 percent of a recent meeting of the House Pensions, Investment and Financial Services Committee was devoted to the issue of mic etiquette. Eyebrows rose when State Representative Dan Flynn called his grandson for technical assistance at a hearing, believing his microphone was off. The grandson said later Quorum report, a Capitol insider post, “Paw-paw calls me three or four times a day, but he usually just dials ass.”
–On Tuesday was the first Senate hearing of State Representative Tom Craddick’s House Bill 74, also known as the Keep Texas Safe Act, which would require the state to purchase large amounts of Permian Basin crude for the purpose of to disinfect surfaces in public spaces, which, the Midland Oilman told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, which was most favorable, could include sidewalks and roads.
With disinfectant still insufficient, Craddick said, there is no economic way left to eliminate the threat of COVID-19 on Texas bitumen. Critics say the bill is simply a way to support demand for oil. But even Craddick’s staunchest critics concede that COVID-19 likely cannot survive sustained contact with fossil fuels, and the bill, backed by a wide range of industry groups, is expected to cross Lege and land on the governor’s office.
Tomorrow means there are 69 days left until death sine die. Stay strong, Texans. It will all be over soon.