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Texas’ most recent legislative session has come to a close and the performance of Republican lawmakers left much to be desired. While they managed to pass some key pieces of legislation, they were not able to tackle some of the more pressing issues on the agenda.
Despite passing some conservative measures, such as banning “gender-affirming care” for minors and explicit books in school libraries, key priorities like school choice, border security, bail reform, and major property tax relief were left incomplete. Gov. Greg Abbott indicated that he would call a special session to address school choice, but House Speaker Dade Phelan expects additional topics to be included, such as property tax relief and election integrity.
The lack of compromises between the chambers and the failure to pass property tax relief legislation led to frustration among lawmakers, with some feeling held hostage by the Senate. Republicans praised Speaker Phelan’s leadership but criticized him for lacking conservative principles.
While some important bills were passed during the session, several others were rejected. The Texas House killed measures related to election integrity, informed consent, and border security. The governor will soon have the opportunity to approve a bill authorizing the formation of an interstate compact for border security.
Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick has already outlined his priorities for the upcoming special session, which include property tax relief, border security, election integrity, higher education reforms, bail reform, and school choice. Indeed, Abbott, only hours after the conclusion of the legislative session, called a special session.
“Many critical items remain that must be passed. Several special sessions will be required. To ensure that each priority receives the time and attention it deserves to pass into law, only a few will be added each session,” Abbott said.
Texas Republicans still have a chance to pass legislation to tie up the loose ends that were not addressed during the regular session. But the results so far have caused some to question Phelan’s leadership. In fact, his popularity has taken a significant hit over the issue.
Phelan’s popularity has plummeted in his district, according to a recent poll commissioned by the Defend Texas Liberty PAC. The poll reveals that 48 percent of Republican voters in Phelan’s district would vote for a conservative challenger to the speaker, while only 24 percent would support Phelan.
This marks a significant shift from earlier polling conducted at the beginning of the legislative session, where 40 percent backed Phelan and 34 percent were in favor of a conservative challenger. The decline in popularity comes as Phelan faced criticism for appointing Democrats to lead influential House committees and for failing to pass legislation on crucial issues, including banning Chinese ownership of Texas land, universal school choice, and border security.
Phelan’s national notoriety also increased when a video of him slurring his words on the House floor went viral. This raised speculation that the Speaker was drunk during the proceedings – definitely not a good look.
There is still a chance for Republicans to enact possible solutions for property taxes and school choice, which are two of the most pressing issues for conservatives in the Lone Star State. But given that these are issues that should have been a slam dunk for the GOP, there is cause to doubt that they will make any meaningful progress.