Today marks the end of the first month of the 83rd Legislature. What have we learned during that time?
1. Joe Straus is firmly in control of the Republican caucus. There has been virtually no pushback from the David Simpson group. Straus is in the strongest position of any of the state’s three leaders, and he is in a position to dominate the session.
2. The Democratic caucus is considerably stronger than it was in 2011. It has seven new members, but more important, it has a leadership team in Yvonne Davis and Trey Martinez-Fischer that knows how to use the rules to wreak havoc on the opposition. The Democrats are going to be strong enough to cause trouble. The won’t win votes, but they will force Republicans to cast bad votes of their own. They have already made clear their intention to harp on, and harp on, and harp on, restoring the education cuts. They’ll lose, but they’ll embarrass the Republicans while doing it.
3. One of the noticeable changes in the House is the diminishing number of rural R’s. Just about everybody is from the suburbs now.
1. In contrast to the House, the Democratic caucus in the Senate is not putting any pressure on the Republicans—except for Wendy Davis. She is the second most important member of the Senate now, and the Democratic heir-apparent for the next major office that comes open.
2. Williams is a strong chairman of Finance. He is making a lot of popular policy decisions, such as his determination not to close any state parks, and his determination not to leave dedicated funds unspent.
3. It is unclear what Dewhurst’s role is going to be. Will he preside? Will he stay in the back rooms? Will he run for reelection? His pet project, education vouchers, appears to be DOA in the House.