Battle lines are forming in the Texas Legislature on the state’s role in stopping the left-wing indoctrination of children in public schools. While the Texas Senate is forecasted to take a more conservative turn, the House’s presumptive leader—Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont)—has signaled his unwillingness for the chamber to engage forcefully on the issue. His stance potentially sets up a fight pitting not only the House against the Senate, but Phelan against his chamber’s conservative faction.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, on the other hand, is taking aim at the handouts and benefits large corporations – like Disney – get from the state coffers even as they push a hard-left agenda in public schools. In recent weeks, Disney’s leadership announced its corporate opposition to a new Florida law cracking down on school practices used by child molesters and other predators, which is known as “grooming.”
“We need to keep our investment dollars with funds that make sound business decisions, not those who follow dictates from noisy progressives who do not represent the vast majority of Texans,” Patrick told Texas Scorecard‘s Sydnie Henry. The lieutenant governor has said in recent weeks he personally is “done with Disney,” has sold his individual stocks in Disney, and that his family will not vacation at Disney’s properties.
Meanwhile, reported Brad Johnson of The Texan, the state government’s various pension accounts have $93 million invested in Disney.
Patrick said, “Texas must not allow our pension funds to be held hostage by woke corporate boards.”
Speaking at the Lone Star Legislative Summit in Nacogdoches late last week, House Speaker Phelan—seen by many as a trusted ally of Gov. Greg Abbott—took aim at Patrick’s agenda. As the Houston Chronicle‘s Jay Root reported:
— Jay Root (@byjayroot) April 8, 2022
Phelan is one of the few Republicans in the Texas House to receive a positive grade from Equality Texas, a pro-LGBT advocacy organization.
Even if Phelan doesn’t think corporations shielding those grooming children for sexual abuse is a serious topic, such issues are being discussed by parents around the state … and by the Republican members of his own chamber.
For example, State Rep. Gary Gates (R–Richmond) sent a letter last week to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in support of Florida’s new anti-grooming law. The lawmaker pledged to file similar legislation in Texas.
“As Texas moves forward, we will support Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s legislation in the Senate to restrict how teachers can talk about sexual orientation in the classroom, mirroring yours in Florida,” wrote Gates.
His announcement was greeted with support from the House Freedom Caucus, of which Gates is a member. Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi also gave Gates’ action a thumbs up.
As an aside, Gates’ letter was a not-so-subtle acknowledgement that – if you want something conservative done in Texas – you have to go through Ron DeSantis.
In 2021, Phelan and his chief lieutenant on health issues—State Rep. Stephanie Klick (R–Fort Worth)—blocked a ban on gender mutilation and reassignment procedures on children. Those procedures have been heavily pushed by progressives in an effort to reshape sexual norms and redefine human biology. The Texas Senate, under Patrick, passed several versions of a ban. Gov. Abbott, for his part, remained silent on the issue.
Perhaps the House Republican caucus will be fine with their speaker turning a blind eye to Disney’s support (with taxpayer funds) of sexual grooming, but it might be a harder political sell around the state’s kitchen tables. Heading into November, Republicans will be forced to explain the nuances between Phelan’s position and that of Democrats – like Robert “Beto” O’Rourke – rather than draw a clear, bold distinction.