Last Year, Voters Warned Texas Legislators to Do Their Job. They Finally Listened

It is amazing how the ballot box can wake up politicians like nothing else can.Two years ago, Texas lawmakers derailed property tax and school finance reform while waging a divisive, time-consuming battle over who goes to what bathroom. The session was a national disgrace, and in November, voters sent a clear message: Do your job.Message received. This session, lawmakers finished on time, passed property tax and school finance reform, and except for a few moments, didn’t allow divisive and unproductive issues to gain momentum, let alone dominate the session.What happened is that the power of the ballot shifted the sands under some of the most divisive lawmakers. Defeats of GOP lawmakers who had warred against moderate conservatives last session set the stage for lawmakers to get back to conservative legislating and reject ideological gridlock. Texas is better off for it.Among those on the outside looking in this session were North Texas GOP legislators Konni Burton, Don Huffines and Matt Rinaldi, all members of the Freedom Caucus and all backed by Empower Texans. Others who remained in the legislature, like Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, found themselves marginalized.The result is that there was no repeat of the senseless Freedom Caucus clashes with former House Speaker Joe Straus that marred last session. In addition to backing the bathroom bill, the caucus last session killed more than 100 noncontroversial bills with heavy-handed procedural maneuvers. And they did it simply because they could.The message from voters to lawmakers this session was to find consensus and stay focused on governing; many caucus members worked with moderate Republicans and new House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, on a variety of bills, returning the chamber toward bipartisan problem solving.What ultimately emerged this session was a constructive tone that guided lawmakers to find compromise solutions for school financing and property taxation. Even in the Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick gave ground to assure that the school finance and property tax reforms progressed. As Bonnen told reporters at the session’s conclusion, abortion, local control and a “religious liberty” bill that opponents decried as anti-LGBT that surfaced during the session didn’t divert important progress.We should be proud of this accomplishment even as Empower Texans derides the session on Twitter for failing to deliver GOP priorities. What nonsense. Voters want a legislature that can make the tough calls and make life better for all Texans. On property taxes and dollars for public schools they did. This, we hope, sends an unmistakable message to all partisan factions that encouraging gridlock isn’t policy making. Lawmakers delivered smart, conservative legislating that addressed rising taxation and acknowledged that state government has an important role in ensuring this state’s prosperous future. It is the kind of legislature we want and need.  Continue reading...

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