Even though it is a short week, there is still a lot happening in and around the legislature, so I wanted to give a very brief update before the long, holiday weekend.
Special Session Update
Nothing further to update from what was sent last week. The House for all intents and purposes has killed any further consideration of the education voucher bills for this special session.
The House did unanimously pass a bill that sets up a fund to assist public schools with increased safety and security measures which now goes to the Senate for consideration. The Senate also has to consider the minor changes to the bill appropriating $1.5 billion for continued construction of the border wall. The Senate can either accept the changes or send the bill to conference committee.
More Legal Battles for Paxton
In addition to the ongoing federal securities indictments and the whistleblower case brought forth by former Attorney General agency employees, AG Ken Paxton is also facing legal action from the State Bar of Texas that is challenging his right to practice law. The State Bar brought forth a complaint against Paxton for his efforts to overturn the 2020 Presidential election saying he overstepped his authority as state Attorney General and made numerous false statements in a lawsuit brought in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The US Supreme Court found no merit in the lawsuit in which Paxton was participating, and rejected the lawsuit less than a month after the 2020 election. At the heart of the argument from the State Bar is Paxton’s unsuccessful attempt to intervene in lawsuits brought forth by other states that relied on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. The State Bar argues that Paxton knowingly furthered the claims, even though they were false and misleading. This, in the view of the State Bar, constitutes professional misconduct. The Texas Fifth Court of Appeals heard arguments from both sides last week, but has not set a timetable for a ruling. If the State Bar lawsuit is successful, Paxton will be subject to a professional reprimand or even full disbarment.
Trump Visit to Texas
Former President Trump was in the Rio Grande Valley on Sunday, where he was joined by Gov. Abbott in serving meals to DPS troopers and members of the Texas National Guard that are stationed at the border as part of the state’s Operation Lone Star. Abbott also seized the opportunity to publicly endorse Trump for the Republican nomination for President in 2024, saying Trump is needed back in the White House to restore law and order at the US/Mexico border. Trump also endorsed Abbott in his 2022 reelection bid. Trump also seized the opportunity to reiterate some of his border enforcement priorities such as the banning of travel from Muslim majority countries, giving an ideological test to migrants and barring anyone who supports Hamas, and ending the birthright citizenship clause in the US Constitution.
The filing period for the March 2024 primary election is currently open and runs through Monday, December 11th. I will continue to update you all with relevant filings. The winner of the March primaries will go on to represent their respective parties in the November election.
Gov. Abbott yesterday released a list of 58 state House Republicans he is endorsing for reelection in 2024. All 58 members on the list voted in favor of the education vouchers that were killed on the House floor last week. None of the 21 Republicans that voted against vouchers received an endorsement from Abbott.
Attorney General Ken Paxton released a long list of endorsements over the weekend for the March 2024 Republican primary. Paxton’s endorsements include mostly challengers to incumbent Republican House members that supported his impeachment and removal from office. The only House incumbents he has endorsed are Reps. Travis Clardy of Nacogdoches and John Smithee of Amarillo, both of whom were vocally opposed to Paxton’s impeachment during the House floor debate.
State Rep. Andy Murr, the Republican from Junction that led the House committee that initiated impeachment proceedings against AG Ken Paxton, announced yesterday he would not seek reelection in 2024. Paxton had made Murr a top target in next year’s primary election, but Murr insists the threats had nothing to do with his decision to retire from the House. Murr has four children ranging in age from 1 to 15 years old. He said he wants to devote more time to his family and law practice. Wes Virdell, owner of a trucking services company in Brady has already been up and running in the Republican primary for the last several weeks. Murr defeated Virdell by a 63% to 37% margin in the 2022 Republican primary. Virdell as of now is the only announced candidate for the 2024 primary. But, that is likely to change now that the incumbent is not running.
Texas State University in San Marcos will host the first of four scheduled debates between the eventual Republican and Democratic nominees for President. The debate will be held on September 16, 2024, less than 2 months before the general election. The other three universities selected to host the subsequent debates are Lafayette College in Easton, Pa; Virginia State University in Petersburg, Va; and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Texas State can boast as being the only university in Texas with a US President as an alum. Lyndon Baines Johnson graduated from the university in 1930.
Both the House and Senate met briefly today but did nothing more than adjourn for the rest of the week and then both will convene on Monday after the holiday weekend.
With the education voucher bill killed by the House last week, and the passing of one of the border and immigration enforcement bills last week, the only business left for the session is the bill that appropriates $1.5 billion for continued construction of the border wall, and the school safety bill passed by the House last week. It remains to be seen what if any action the Senate will take on either.
We will wait to see if there any further efforts to revive the education voucher bill in the House, and if Gov. Abbott calls lawmakers back for a 5th special session before the end of the year.
Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving!!