As the pace of the legislative session in the Texas Capitol continues to ramp up, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is drawing a distinct contrast between the Senate and the House, teeing up potential conflicts in the coming weeks.
Both House Speaker Dade Phelan and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick were keynote speakers at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Summit in Austin, where both were given the opportunity to share their priorities and vision for the state as the legislature nearly completes its second month in session.
Phelan used his opportunity to talk about issues like criminal justice reform measures passed by the House last session, including limitations on the use of the death penalty and more leniency for those under the age of 18.
“I know what to do this session when it comes to criminal justice, and it’s just pass everything that the Senate did not pass last session,” said Phelan. “We’re gonna pass it again. I figure if it’s good enough for TPPF, it’s good enough for Donald Trump, it should be good enough for the Texas Senate.”
Hours later when Patrick addressed the crowd, he mimicked Phelan’s jab when asked about school choice, which has been repeatedly killed in the House.
“School choice. I can tell you that the Senate likes it, TPPF likes it, Donald Trump likes it, so it should be good enough for the House,” said Patrick.
In fact, when it comes to the issue of parental empowerment and educational freedom, Patrick went even further, indicating he may be willing to force a special session if the House does not pass school choice before the regular session ends.
“We should not leave here this year until we pass school choice. I don’t care how many special sessions it takes,” said Patrick, while noting that he has not made any summer plans.
Phelan, however, showed less enthusiasm on the issue of school choice. His only reference during his speech to the issue was a line he has repeatedly used in interviews that all 149 of his members have different definitions of school choice.
“I don’t know what his opinion is, but he’s number 150, and if he gets on board, the other 149 I think will follow,” said Patrick.
Patrick also touted other priorities of his, including banning drag shows for children and removing pornography from school libraries, saying he believed the House should pass those as well.
On the issue of property taxes, the two also expressed different approaches. While the Patrick has promoted an increase to the homestead exemption, Phelan’s approach has been to support a decrease to the maximum appraisal increase rate.
Both strategies have been criticized by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, who have referred to them as “gimmicks” to slow the growth of property taxes when the state should be put on a path towards property tax elimination.
While Patrick has released 30 priorities, Phelan has been slower, dripping out a few priorities at a time over the past two weeks. None of his priorities so far have been priorities of the Republican Party of Texas, Lt. Gov. Patrick, or Gov. Greg Abbott.
When the Legislature returns on Monday, they will 56 days into their 140 day regular session – with 83 days remaining.