Here’s a quick recap of what happened this week:
Grid Holding Up in Record Heat
The current heatwave has caused local and state authorities to issue health advisories and calls for energy conversation. According to the National Weather Service, the cities of Del Rio, San Angelo, and Laredo have set all-time record temperatures this week. Corpus Christi had a heat index of 125 on Sunday and Houston had a heat index of 116 on Tuesday. The extreme heat is putting a strain on the electric grid, causing ERCOT – the operator of the state’s electric grid – to issue a “weather watch” that urges Texans to monitor the grid conditions and take measures to reduce energy consumption as much as possible. On Tuesday, demand exceeded 82,000 megawatts, breaking last summer’s all-time record of 80,038 megawatts. A slight bit or relief is expected this weekend with temperatures decreasing, but only slightly, before the record setting heat returns again next week.
If you are interested in monitoring grid conditions, go to the ERCOT website: https://www.ercot.com
Abbott Vetoes 77 Bills
Gov. Abbott mostly followed through on his threat last week to veto bills due to the legislature’s inability to come up with compromise legislation to reduce property taxes. At the end of the regular session in May, Abbott immediately called lawmakers back in session to address legislation to reduce property taxes – something that was included in the state budget during the session. Lawmakers could agree on the nearly $17 billion amount they wanted to reduce the taxes, but could not agree on how. During the regular session, Gov. Abbott did not interject himself on how to reduce taxes, but did dictate a position in the form of his call for the special session, which was by compression, which is to mandate rate reductions to the local school districts. The House immediately passed a compression bill, but the Senate added a homestead exemption to the legislation. As the session progressed, no compromise was reached, so Abbott began to threaten to veto bills passed that he had not already signed into law.
Sunday was the deadline for him to sign or veto bills. And he did end up vetoing 77 bills that had been sent to him. At the time of his first announcement that he would consider a veto for bills under his consideration, there were roughly 300 pending on his desk. The 77 vetoes are the most ever by Abbott, but short of the 83 vetoed by then Governor Rick Perry in 2001, his first session as Governor.
The veto messages for most of the bills included the statement, “while this bill is important, it is not as important as property tax reduction. This bill can be reconsidered at a future special session only after a property tax relief bill is passed.” Abbott’s vetoes and messages have angered lawmakers and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who has consistently defended his chamber’s position in the property tax fight and refused to compromise in any way.
Special Session Update
The House remains adjourned Sine Die. However, there was some movement from the House this week when the Speaker appointed a new committee to study property tax relief. Speaker Dade Phelan appointed the Select Committee on Sustainable Property Tax Relief, that will be chaired by the current Ways and Means Chairman, Rep. Morgan Meyer (R, Dallas). Meyer authored the House property tax proposals in both the regular session and first special session. According to the proclamation establishing the committee, it is authorized to conduct hearings throughout the interim leading up to the next regular session, and there is no specific timeline to report recommendations back to the House.
The Senate this week introduced and passed another new property tax relief package. The new bills passed by the Senate this week include rate compressions, an increase in the homestead exemption, and an increase in the exemptions regarding the state franchise tax. Gov. Abbott immediately sent out a press release that reiterated his position that property tax relief must be based on the reduction of rates, and that any other issues can be considered in the future. The House is not in session, so they are unable to act on the latest Senate proposal. In other words, with this current special set to end next week, still no progress and no compromise.
This special session is scheduled to end on June 27th.
Latest on Paxton Impeachment
After two full days of deliberation behind closed doors, the Texas Senate has finally adopted rules for the impeachment trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The trial will begin on September 5th. The Senate also adopted a measure that requires Paxton’s attendance throughout the trial.
The 31 members of the Senate will serve as jurors in the proceedings and will ultimately vote whether to convict or acquit Paxton on allegations that include bribery, abuse of office, and obstruction of justice. One issue of great discussion has been the presence of Paxton’s wife at the trial. Angela Paxton is a member of the Senate from Plano. In the rules resolution adopted, Sen. Paxton can attend the trial, but cannot vote and cannot participate in the deliberations. The trial will be held in public, and will be conducted similarly to a criminal trial where witnesses will be called, with opposing counsel having the ability of cross examination, and the burden of proof for conviction is beyond a reasonable doubt.
Each of the 20 articles of impeachment will be voted on separately. A threshold of 2/3rds of the members of the Senate present must be reached to convict on each count. If that threshold is not reached, it will be counted as an acquittal. Furthermore, if Paxton is convicted on any or all of the articles of impeachment, then the question will be put before the Senate to disqualify Paxton from ever holding another elected office. That vote would also require approval from 2/3rds of the Senators present.
For anyone wanting to see the rules resolution in detail, I have attached for your review. See Attached Here.
Democratic state Rep. Julie Johnson from Farmers Branch kicked off her campaign yesterday to replace Congressman Colin Allred, who will not seek reelection to Congress so he can challenge US Senator Ted Cruz in 2024. Johnson joins Dallas trauma surgeon Brian Williams, civil rights attorney Justin Moore and Jan McDowell in the Democratic primary. Johnson has already secured several endorsements from several of her Texas House colleagues from the Dallas area. Dallas lawyer Cassandra Hernandez has already announced her intention to run for Johnson’s seat in the Texas House. Both the Congressional seat and the Texas House seat favor the election of a Democrat.
Former Texas Congressman Will Hurd announced yesterday he is running for the Republican nomination for President. Hurd, from San Antonio, was first elected in 2014 and served four terms in a massive district that ran from San Antonio to El Paso. Hurd’s announcement was focused on criticism of former President Trump, saying that if the party nominates Trump, “we all know Joe Biden will win again.” Hurd is more than a longshot. His name is generally not even included in polling and he is arguably the least known in the field of Republican contenders.
Former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards has dropped her bid for mayor of Houston and will instead run for the Congressional seat held by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who has previously announced her own candidacy for mayor. One caveat with this is that Jackson Lee has a free run at the mayor’s office. She is not up for reelection to Congress until 2024, and the election for mayor is this November. So, the Edwards campaign for Congress is contingent on Jackson Lee winning the mayor’s race. Jackson Lee is considered one of the front runners in the race. Jackson Lee has held the Congressional seat for 18 years that runs from the Fifth Ward and Acres Homes in East Houston, up to areas surrounding Intercontinental Airport.
The Senate will convene this morning. No word on what they have under consideration since the impeachment rules have been adopted.
The assumption is when the session ends next week, Gov. Abbott will immediately call them back for a second special session.
Have a great weekend!! Stay cool and safe in the warm weather!!