To the extent that there was competition among the state’s top leadership this session, the clear winner was Governor Abbott. He achieved most of his objectives: tax cuts, pre-kindergarten, an expansion of gun rights. And he avoided a direct confrontation with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. He appears to intend to wield a targeted veto pen (SB 359 and HB 225, for example), which will further remind legislators that he’s in charge. His only shortcoming was his comments on Jade Helm and an ill-chosen confrontation with cities over local control. Why he took umbrance at municipal ordinances concerning bag bans is hard to fathom, but it no doubt has something to do with his pre-session blast about Texas becoming “California-ized” which, as far as I’m concerned, is a silly concept.
Patrick was successful as lieutenant governor, as the Senate got through the session without the major blowup most observers (myself included) expected. Speaker Straus too was successful, as his center-right coalition held firm for most of the session and for the most part brushed off tea party opposition. What happens next is anybody’s guess, but Abbott appears to be firmly on the path to winning a second term as governor. There were storm clouds in the distance with a potential challenge from in 2018, but that has evaporated—Patrick has now said that he being lieutentant govenror will be the last job he has in Texas. Straus has already filed to run for speaker in 2017, but after that it would not surprise me if he was ready to move on.
(AP PHOTO/ERIC GAY)