The Texas Legislature nearly made it legal for children of any age to carry a sword, saber or Bowie knife.
But almost nobody outside the Capitol was paying attention, because … Trump.
If you haven’t followed this year’s political reality show in Austin, you’ve missed more drama than in any “Real Housewives” episode.
Last Thursday, a resentful Freedom Caucus clique chewed up time just to kill other House Republicans’ bills. State Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, was reduced to tears pleading with his own party to hear a bill on experimental stem cell treatments that might help his wife, Lydia.
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From the general tone of House and Senate leaders, it’s probably a good thing the Lege didn’t fully legalize Bowie knives. In particular, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus have dickered over how to cover the budget shortfall, over a new government program sending money to private schools, and over whether Texas needs a new law to ensure orderly toilet use.
Oh, and be sure to carry your U.S. passport or birth certificate now in Texas.
But most of this has been on Page Eleventeen, because … Trump.
It’s been the weirdest session since 2001, when the presidential election went into overtime. That year, President George W. Bush took office, and took all the smart Austin people to Washington.
He left Gov. Rick Perry behind. But nobody was quite sure what to do next, and many Texans were too worn out on politics to keep up.
It’s been that kind of year, except this time President Donald Trump is still campaigning.
A battle is playing out for the soul of the Texas Republican Party.
Southern Methodist University political scientist Matthew Wilson
“All of us, even those with the biggest appetites for politics, have limited ‘policy space,’ ” political science professor Rebecca Deen wrote Friday.
“We can only attend to so much at one time. And there’s so much coming out of Washington.”
Gov. Greg Abbott wields Twitter like Trump. Only Abbott hasn’t bombed Syria or gladhanded with the Russians.
“With extraordinary news events breaking hourly, even an accomplished political showman like Dan Patrick has a tough time attracting any attention,” wrote Southern Methodist University professor Cal Jillson.
Not for lack of trying.
The Legislature has punished cities and counties that don’t lock up federal immigration detainees, chopped higher education budgets and put straight-ticket voting on the endangered list.
Donald Trump’s presidency has drained our “policy space” and news coverage away from the Texas Legislature.
“People are missing the story of an increasingly bitter feud between establishment, ‘Chamber of Commerce’ Republicans and more conservative ideologues,” SMU’s Matthew Wilson wrote.
“With Democrats as largely irrelevant bystanders, a battle is playing out for the soul of the Texas Republican Party, with Straus and Patrick embodying the competing visions.”
The House was trapped between visions two weeks ago, reversing votes twice in three days on whether requiring paddleboaters to carry a whistle is a wise safety precaution, or Big Gummint messin’ with our God-given liberty.
On the third day, wisdom prevailed. But the Lege still has 15 days.