In an interview with Texas Scorecard during the biennial Republican Party of Texas Convention, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller shared his thoughts on legislative priorities for the upcoming session and the priorities Republicans failed to pass last session.
Eight legislative priorities are picked by grassroots delegates from across the state and are meant to serve as directives for lawmakers on what party members would like to see accomplished during the 140-day legislative session.
Of the eight legislative priorities from 2020, two were passed: constitutional carry and religious freedom protections.
The abolition of abortion is one priority of the RPT, and although the Heartbeat Act was passed last year and did serve to outlaw abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, it did not outlaw abortion altogether. However, trigger laws that outlaw abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court could serve to complete the priority in the coming months.
Election integrity was another RPT priority that received a lot of attention. However, an omnibus bill passed in a special session actually decreased the penalties for election fraud from those of a felony to a misdemeanor.
Monument protection, school choice, the outlawing of child gender mutilation, and the banning of taxpayer-funded lobbying did not receive any traction in the Republican-dominated House.
Sid Miller Says …
“We’ve got a long list of things we haven’t gotten done,” said Miller on the 2020 priorities, specifically highlighting issues like monument protections, prohibiting taxpayer-funded lobbying, and banning child gender mutilation.
“The biggest problem is we don’t have the right people in office, or it’d be done now.”
However, Miller did acknowledge that “it’s a little late to do anything about that.” Miller added, “That should have been done in the primary.”
Moving forward, Miller took a strong stance against allowing Democrats to serve as committee chairs in the Texas House.
“Republicans need to be driving the agenda and passion [for] our platform,” said Miller.
Miller, a previous representative in the Texas House before assuming the office of Agriculture Commissioner, says bills are killed every day in the House.
“It happens every day and even behind the scenes or in broad daylight,” said Miller. “But it does happen, and our priorities just don’t seem to get there. There’s about 19 steps in passing a bill, and if you don’t get past one of those steps, it’s dead. So, the way the system is set up, it’s set up not to pass legislation. So, if you’re going to pass something, it’s got to be a really good bill and you’ve got to be good at what you do to get it passed.”
Meanwhile, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) is championing the issue of allowing Democrats to serve as committee chairs, as the RPT placed banning Democrats from holding committee chairmanships on the list of possible legislative priorities for 2023.
However, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has promised to keep sending conservative legislation to the Texas House for passage. This may indicate a looming conflict between the two bodies, as Phelan previously refused to even allow a bill upping the penalty for voter fraud back to a felony onto the House floor.
As conflict between the moderate and conservative wings of the Republican Party continues to emerge, the RPT convention saw many moderate State Republican Executive Committee members voted out in favor of more conservative candidates.
Miller predicts a “red tsunami” in November, but whether the red will be in action or in name only has yet to be seen.