The big action in the Texas Legislature moves from the Senate to the House this week, as debate begins in the House chamber on the two-year state budget. Aside from the nuts and bolts of the spending plan, several hot-button issues will be up for debate. That's because some 400 amendments were filed to the budget bill this week by House members, on issues like transgender restrooms, abortion, school choice and even President Trump's proposed wall along the border with Mexico.
The upcoming debate in the House will likely shed more light on the power struggle in Texas between conservative and moderate Republicans. "You have (Lt. Governor) Dan Patrick's bathroom bill that's very important to him...how much political capital is he willing to give up on that one agenda item," asks Don Hooper with Big Jolly Politics. "And then you have (House Speaker) Joe Straus holding up the moderates on the left side of the spectrum, as far as Republicans in the House, and what is Straus willing to give up."
Indeed, the so-called bathroom bill has already cleared the Senate and has been a priority of Patrick throughout the session, while Straus has criticized the bill as unnecessary. In the middle is Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been non-committal on the bill so far. "The bathroom bill is demarcation for a lot of people in the social conservative movement here in Texas," says Hooper.
Another issue that has already passed the Senate, school choice, faces an uphill battle in the House. Despite being championed by both the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, the school choice bill faces opposition in the House from many rural Republicans who are wary of harming public schools in their small communities.
Ultimately, Speaker Straus could be in political trouble if conservative items like the bathroom bill and school choice don't survive the House. "If you look at how Donald Trump got elected, it was a revolt," says Hooper. "And I think we're about to see the same thing in the state of Texas if we can't move the conservative agenda through our legislature, which is supposedly one of the most conservative legislatures in the country."