Texas recently completed its biennial legislative session for 2019, meaning they will not meet again until 2020. As the session closed, activists across the state watched Gov. Greg Abbott’s media event and came to a shocking realization: Texas has become a “purple state.”
Republicans enjoy majorities in both Houses of the legislature, control all statewide offices, and are led by a self-described, “conservative” Republican governor. The Republican Party of Texas routinely draws up a list of top legislative priorities for legislative leaders to pass.
Yet, out of 12 top priorities, 10 were not even addressed.
For example, one of the state GOP’s top priorities was to enact a “Constitutional Carry” gun law. Unlike many conservative states, Texas requires a permit for legally-owned handguns to be carried outside homes and vehicles. Conservatives wanted to add Texas to the growing list of states that treat the United States Constitution as their permit to carry.
The legislature didn’t act. In fact, the bill never even made it out of committee.
Also, the Republican Party of Texas wanted to “pass legislation to abolish all forms of taxpayer-funded lobbying and end the automatic payroll deduction of union dues by the government.” These abuses of power should never have been allowed in the first place.
Again, the legislature refused to act, allowing public entities to continue using taxpayer money to lobby for higher taxes and less transparency, and continuing to fill the coffers of Democratic candidates and causes with millions of dollars ($153MM in the last cycle) from public paychecks.
It’s as if the Democrats have already moved into the governor’s mansion and taken over the Texas legislature.
This year, Alabama passed the strictest abortion law in the country, banning the procedure (with a few exceptions). Kentucky and Georgia passed bills that ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Texas conservatives were also ready for this fight, prioritizing many types of legislation, including a heartbeat bill. They also wanted to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood and all traces of their physical and digital presence in our schools.
But a Purple Governor and his Purple Legislature decided to ignore this as well, creating major victories for Planned Parenthood and its allies in the Democratic Party of Texas.
The Republicans’ final priority was to “pass legislation prohibiting the violation of the rights and freedoms of individuals, organizations and businesses, to exercise their sincerely held religious beliefs by local ordinances or state laws; and pass legislation that protects the privacy and safety of women and children in multi-use facilities such as bathrooms, locker rooms and showers in all Texas schools and government buildings and oppose legislation that would undermine these privacy and safety protections.”
In other words, they wanted to prioritize religious liberty.
Again, crickets from the office of Gov. Abbott (soon to be redecorated with purple carpets and drapes), and loud celebrations from Democrats.
After ignoring all of the Republican Party’s priorities, they did do one thing. Namely, they committed to billions of dollars in teacher pay raises. This was an issue on which Republicans did not campaign because it will cost $2 billion over the course of just one year. And no one believes this will last just one year, or even two. What politician is going to propose lowering teacher salaries? Texas will pay an additional $2 billion per year, probably forever, and add a little more every year for inflation.
This was not a red legislative session in a red state. It was a purple session, led by a purple governor who wants his Republican-led legislature to play nice with Democrats as they work to turn the state Blue.
Texas is changing. Ted Cruz almost lost his Senate seat to BetoMania. Texas statewide elections are now closer than anyone thought possible. Ninety-nine percent of Republican district judges lost their seats in 2018. Who is leading Republicans in Texas?
Instead of fighting back and reminding Texans about why conservatism works best for our state, Republicans are running scared. They think “doing nothing” is the safe approach.
Instead of delivering boldly for the base who elected them, they have a head-in-the-sand-approach that leaves our state, the Republican Party, and our country, vulnerable.
The 2020 election is coming, and — based on the trend lines — Texas is turning blue. Based on current polling, Trump could lose Texas, and thus the White House. Democrats would largely control redistricting in the state in 2021, ensuring long-term Democrat control of Texas’ congressional delegation as well.
It’s time to face facts. Texas is a now a purple state, it’s careening towards blue, and it seems we lack leaders to stop it.
The question on everyone’s mind is “Will Republicans lose Texas on Governor Abbott’s watch?” Perhaps he has a secret plan to lead us from Purple back to Red?
Mark Meckler is the president of Citizens for Self-Governance and Convention of States Action, and America’s leading grassroots activist.
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