On the Agenda: With cast mostly in place, lawmakers begin thinking of next January
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You may not have noticed it yet, but the Texas Legislature is quietly ramping up for next January.
With the exception of one competitive election in the 31-member Texas Senate and maybe a dozen contests in the 150-member Texas House, we know who is coming back.
Lt. Governor David Dewhurst’s failed Senate bid means he will be presiding over the Texas Senate for two more years. And while there will be the predictable griping about Speaker Joe Straus by the same noisy outside groups that have previously opposed him, his support in the Texas House seems more certain than ever.
But once you get past the two leaders, the deck in both chambers has been profoundly shuffled. The Senate will have five Republican freshmen with the possibility of a sixth. Fortunately, most have some experience having already served in the House. The two most important committee chairmanship vacancies are Senate Finance and Senate Education. Stung by accusations that he was insufficiently conservative, Mr. Dewhurst will be torn by the competing influences of ideological purity vs. actual problem solving.
Almost half of the Texas House will be first or second termers. But Republicans will likely be denied the super majority they enjoyed in 2011 meaning a little more incentive to find common ground. The 2011 GOP freshman class was driven by an ideological anti-Obama backlash. In contrast, this year’s freshman class includes many members with actual experience on school boards and local governments.
Meanwhile, Gov. Perry sounds more and more like he has his eye on re-election in 2014 and, if there is an opening, another shot at the White House in 2016. Of course, to act otherwise would mean he would become a weakened lame duck governor.
The Legislature is conservative and wants conservative solutions, but Texas economic success is also predicated on functioning roads, reliable water supplies, dependable electric grids and an educated and relatively healthy workforce, all of which cost money.
It’s a complicated policy needle to thread. We will soon know if they are up to the challenge.