Here’s a quick recap of what happened this week:
Special Session Update
The House remains adjourned Sine Die.
The Senate continues to meet and pass legislation, even though there is no House to whom they can send the legislation. On Wednesday, the Senate met and passed three bills related to border security. The bills would create a new border police force, increase the penalties for illegally crossing the Texas/Mexico border, and raise the minimum punishment for crimes related to human smuggling. Only the latter of the three are in the call of the current special session.
During the debate on the bills, the members of the Senate said they hoped the House would reverse their adjournment and return for the session, but they also recognized that was unlikely and that a second special session is likely.
Patrick, Abbott Feud Over Property Tax Proposals
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick held a roughly one hour long press conference on Tuesday to once again tout his chamber’s proposal to reduce property taxes as the superior and preferred method to move forward. The two chambers and Gov. Abbott have not been able to come to an agreement on how to bring over $12 billion in property tax relief to business and homeowners that has already been accounted for in the budget just passed by lawmakers.
In the items to consider for the current special session, Abbott called for lawmakers to compress – or reduce – the current tax rate charged to homeowners and business owners. Patrick wants to add an increase in the homestead exemption to the current plan, but when asked at a bill signing ceremony on Tuesday if he would consider the Senate version, Abbott simply called on the Senate to pass the simpler version already passed by the House.
At his press conference, Patrick declared emphatically that the Senate would not back down from their position and would not compromise regarding the inclusion of the homestead exemption. Patrick went on to challenge Abbott to a public debate on the issue next week so he could have a better and more public opportunity to convince the Governor to change his position. Abbott has not responded to that challenge and said he will keep lawmakers in Austin – calling special session after special session – until a solution is reached.
Latest on Paxton Impeachment
In response to the House impeachment team hiring the formidable team of Rusty Hardin and Dick DeGuerin to lead the prosecution in the Senate, AG Ken Paxton has hired prominent Houston attorney Tony Buzbee to lead his defense team. Buzbee will be joined by another Houston attorney, Don Codgell, who has been representing Paxton in his defense of a federal felony indictment on securities fraud charges that have been pending for several years. The two held a press conference yesterday and called the House’s case for impeachment a sham, that the charges were “baloney”, and were nothing more than politically motivated. Buzbee said he expected the trial could last as long as one year.
Buzbee has been in the spotlight before, representing former Gov. Rick Perry in an abuse of office allegation brought forth by the Travis County DA that was ultimately dismissed by the Texas Supreme Court. Buzbee also ran for mayor of Houston in 2019, losing a challenge to incumbent mayor Sylvester Turner by more that 12 points.
Two Democratic state Representatives from the Dallas area are gearing up to challenge each other in the Democratic primary to succeed Congressman Colin Allred, who will not seek reelection to the US House so he can challenge US Senator Ted Cruz in 2024. Rep. Rhetta Bowers of Garland and Rep. Julie Johnson of Farmers Branch have declared their intention to run for the seat, and will be joined by trauma surgeon Brian Williams in the race. The seat is solidly Democratic, so the primary race will likely decide the ultimate winner. The district is one of the most diverse out of all of the Texas Congressional seats. According to the Dallas Morning News, the voting age population is 46% white, 23% Black, 22% Hispanic, and 6% Asian.
Challengers are starting to emerge for incumbent state Representatives for the 2024 cycle. Members are able to start raising money again in two weeks and the filing period is just four months away, so any serious challenger to an incumbent has to get started now. The Speaker of the House – Republican Dade Phelan of Beaumont – has his first rival for the 2024 Republican primary. Former Orange County Republican Chairman David Covey announced today he is challenging Phelan in the Republican primary. Covey says he will make it a priority to pass all Republican Party priorities. In his announcement, he criticized Phelan for compromising with the Democrats to kill conservative legislation. Shilo Platts, an account manager at a petrochemical refinery from Jefferson County had also been considering a run for the seat but decided to drop out after Covey entered the race.
Democrat Chase West announced this week he will challenge Republican incumbent Mike Schofield in District 132, based in Katy. Schofield lost a challenge to a Democrat in 2018 when the district was considered a swing district. But, the redistricting process of 2021 made the district significantly more Republican.
Andy Hopper will once again challenge incumbent Lynn Stucky of Denton in the Republican primary. Hopper lost to Stucky in 2022 by only 94 votes, and will once again challenge whether Stucky is conservative enough to represent the north Texas district.
House District 118 in San Antonio is one of the most competitive seats in the House, with the ability to elect someone from either party. Republican John Lujan defeated a Democrat by only 4 points to flip the seat in 2022, and will be challenged by Democrat Carlos Quezada, a Harlandale school board trustee.
Republican Presidential candidate Nikki Haley is in Texas this week raising money for her longshot bid. The former South Carolina Governor is making stops in Midland, Houston, and Dallas. In recent polls, Haley is averaging about 3% support from Republican voters in what is becoming an increasingly more crowded field of Republican hopefuls.
The Senate convened Tuesday briefly and then again on Wednesday to pass the bills mentioned above and adjourned until this morning. The Senate met very briefly today, took no action, and adjourned until Monday afternoon. The House remains adjourned Sine Die.
We are also in what is known as the “veto” period, where Gov. Abbott considers all of the legislation passed by the Legislature. He has until Sunday, June 19th to consider the over 1,200 pieces of legislation sent to his desk. By that day, he has the option to sign or veto the bills, or let them become law without his signature.