Bye FeLEGEcia: A 2015 Texas Legislative Wrap-Up

Ok everyone sing it with me…

Ding Dong The Lege is Dead!  

Which Ole Lege?  The TEXAS Lege!  

Ding Dong The Texas Lege is DEAD!!

Though I guess it’s up to your point of view on just how wicked it turned out to be.

We’ll turn to Ross Ramsey of The Texas Tribune to give a proper summation…

It was clear after the 2014 elections that Texas voters were sending a conservative political cohort to Austin. It turned out that the officeholders they elected had different ideas about what that meant, and that this group — no real surprise here — could alternately quarrel and cooperate about as well as most of its predecessors.

In the process, issues that might have seemed black and white during the elections were rendered in shades of gray during the session.

It started right out of the gate: On the first day of the legislative session, a group of advocates for legalized open carry of handguns blustered into the Capitol to talk to members. They were so obnoxious about it that their bill — one of the virtual certainties coming out of the elections — didn’t pass until the final weekend 20 weeks later.

Before the session, even Democrats like Wendy Davis were in favor of open carry. After the over-enthusiastic supporters were done, even the sure bets were shaky. It finally did pass, however, along with legislation that will allow licensed Texans to carry concealed handguns on some parts of the campuses of state colleges and universities.

The $209.4 billion state budget, often a source of deep rancor and infighting, turned out to be relatively easy to put together. It helped that the year began with $17 billion uncommitted in the comptroller’s forecast of available money. The people who write political bumper stickers hate it when the superlative is “responsible,” but that word is already popping up in the news releases coming from the state’s leaders.

Of course it’s important to note that the fudge-it budget does nothing to address the state’s growing healthcare needs, still sold many schoolchildren short on their education, and barely took a bite out of the rapid declination of Texas road infrastructure.  If you’re looking for a source to classify this state budget as “responsible”, you’re not going to find it on Texas Leftist.  Choosing not to set fire to house is very different from taking steps to prevent fires from happening.

It’s fair to say that local control got torched.  The Legislature successfully eroded power from the citizens of Denton, and allowed fracking to resume in the city after banning the ability of municipalities to ban any form of extraction.  The unprecedented overreach had a special tier of irony given how most of the elected Republicans at the Capitol have built their careers on protests against sweeping big government action.

Congratulations Denton… If Governor Greg “Grab It” Abbott has his way, your votes will get swept under the rug.

Even with this terrifying result, it could have been much worse, given some of the other bills that were filed to obliterate municipal and county powers.  So as the court battles play out with Frack Free Denton, the issue of local control now comes in to question for future legislative sessions.

This is the bad news, but there were some highlights.  Texas Democrats proved an incredible force to protect much of policy that families across the state depend on.  They successfully defended an assault on in-state tuition, supported infrastructure investment, and defeated dozens of TEA-CON bills that would have eradicated local protections for LGBT citizens.  Of course on that last point, it’s important to note that a broad coalition within the state supports LGBT equality, so it’s far from a partisan cause.  One huge highlight of the 2015 session?  We now have a sense for just how broad that support is, and how successfully they can gather up resources.

So yeah… the things we learned in the 2015 Texas Legislative Session:

1) Don’t count your chickens before they’re fracked.

2) College Professors might think twice before failing their students, especially the ones packin’ heat.

3) The only Medicaid Expansion Texas can hope for is expanded lines at the E.R.

Bye FeLEGEcia… see you in 2017.  

 

 

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