Texas Political Update 7-27-15
Greetings from balmy Austin, Texas. We hope your summer is going well and has included some vacation time. While business has slowed since the Texas Legislature adjourned last month, there’s plenty to report from the Texas political scene:
Most Texans don’t vote: last year’s primaries drew fewer than 2 million of the state’s 19 million adults, and only 4.7 million voted in the 2014 general election. But turnout is usually better in a presidential election year and Texas could have an uncharacteristic influence on the Republican nomination because the race may still be wide open next March… subsequently, we might see a voter turnout spike.
Texas’ two U.S. Senators clashed in a rare weekend session in Washington D.C. yesterday. Junior Sen. Ted Cruz — TEA Party favorite and presidential candidate — accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) of lying to GOP senators about procedural moves to renew the charter of the Export-Import Bank. In his capacity as the Republican’s #2 ranking senator, senior Sen. John Cornyn took the floor immediately after Cruz on Sunday, backed McConnell’s maneuvers, and questioned the legitimacy of Cruz’ charges.
Real estate mogul and GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump brought his controversial campaign to the Texas-Mexico border last week, spending a few hours in Laredo “mostly serving as the grand marshal of an amorphous parade of angry detractors, rowdy supporters and a massive press corps packed into a pair of coach buses.” Fellow presidential candidate and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that Trump “offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.” Perry continued, “Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.”
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has drawn a primary opponent next year in Jeff Judson, the former president of the conservative Austin-based think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). Judson faces a steep climb against Straus, who has already declared his intention to run for speaker again. Judson has a long history of work in the GOP ranks, including for President George W. Bush, the late Sen. John Tower, and Rep. Tom DeLay.
Last week, the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) sent a 14-page memo to Comptroller Glenn Hegar contesting about $200 million of Gov. Greg Abbott’s line-item budget vetoes, saying that several items are constitutionally “off limits”. The LBB is chaired by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus and its members include the chief budget writers of the Senate and House. But almost immediately, Lt. Gov. Patrick publicly sided with Gov. Abbott and said he disagrees with the LBB’s interpretation, calling on a special committee to examine the LBB’s practices.
After every legislative session, Texas Monthly magazine publishes a list of the best and worst legislators… five of the ten best lawmakers have announced they won’t be running for re-election. And while there is plenty to room to argue if some folks belong one list or another, it’s always a good read for insiders and outsiders alike, including a leadership round up, honorable and dishonorable mentions, and furniture — whose level of participation in the legislative process was indistinguishable from that of their desks and chairs.
As always, please feel free to call or e-mail with questions. – Shannon and Mike