The 83rd Session of the Texas Legislature convenes today. This grand tradition that only happens once over other year for 140 days is a period of angst for many Texans. As the saying goes, “no one’s life, liberty or property are safe when the Texas Legislature is in session.”
This Session brings many new faces to Austin and possibly new perspectives. Will it be less politically driven than in the last few years? Some are optimistic as budget figures are stronger than last Session and national elections have passed. I, however, don’t think this is the case. Many of the incoming Freshman defeated incumbents in Republican primaries and most of them are more conservative. This will make every Republican legislator concerned about their own primaries for 2014. They know that every vote cast may generate opposition for them in primary elections. So, let’s not count on this Session being less “politically charged” than previous years.
What does this theory mean for issues like education, health care, infrastructure, water and more? It’s hard to say. Freshman will quickly learn that their philosophy will sometimes meet the needs of their district. If it means bending a little to ensure their communities have access to roads and water, they may do so. It will be fun to watch and see.
However, we can expect that the usual “high drama” topics that ensure one’s position on targeted issues will be discussed during the session.
There is also lots of discussion about revisiting business taxation and determining if the rates can possibly be lowered.
Education will always be a topic for the Texas Legislature. It is controversial from the point of funding, testing, infrastructure, athletics, performance, teachers, students, parents and more. This is not new. In my more than 30 years of participating in and/or observing the Legislature, education is always one of the most dominant topics. I like to think of Texas education as part of an experiment. We throw things at the wall and see what sticks. There is some discussion about standardized testing and it is possible the lege will revisit this topic. Let’s hope so. I’m no fan of the current system. How best to pay the bill for the millions of Texas children to have access to learning will dominate all debates. However, there is a pending lawsuit that may bump this topic to a special session.
The budget will still be the most important topic of debate this session. Count on it.
What about gaming, highway funding, water and other topics? Don’t hold out hope for much movement or action on these topics.
So, buckle-up and settle in for the roller coaster ride of the Texas Legislature.