The Texas Legislature is feeling neglected.
Between the presidential carnage and the Houston Super Bowl, the Legislature is muddling along almost unnoticed in Austin, tinkering with Texans’ laws, taxes and personal lives with nary a protester in sight.
I don’t even think Samantha Bee or The Daily Show has made fun of the Lege yet. I mean, how do you write zingers about windstorm insurance, or civil forfeiture, or making the cannon Texas’ official state gun?
Unlike in Washington, the phones aren’t ringing.
“We’re hearing nothing so far,” said state Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth: “Of course, nothing’s happening yet. When the bills start moving, that’s what gets people involved.”
Gov. Greg Abbott is no help at all. Opening his second legislative session, Abbott gave lawmakers a wonky 1-through-4 to-do list Tuesday in his State of the State speech.
Let’s just say none of the four tasks will knock the latest presidential tweets off the front page.
But that’s partly why Abbott remains Texas’ most popular elected official. He’s not a windy radio showman like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. But when Abbott speaks, he means every word he says, and also every word he doesn’t say.
“A lot of people say Greg doesn’t give us a lot of direction — that’s OK with us,” said state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, saying Abbott gives lawmakers “a lot of breathing room.”
“It’s important to hear what he wants,” Capriglione said, “but what’s most important is to hear what he doesn’t want.”
He told us, ‘If you do nothing else … save the life of a child’ — that’s what we’re going to spend the most time on.
State Rep. Craig Goldman
More than one lawmaker noted what Abbott did not mention in his speech at all:
- The “bathroom bill”: Abbott said zero about the most-talked-about bill of the session, the lightning rod Senate bill restricting transgender Texans’ choice of public bathrooms. He’s said all along he’d decide when he sees a final version, but Texas business leaders have called the whole idea costly, needless and heavy-handed.
- Shariah: With hundreds of Muslim Texans and a protective local crowd rallying outside on Texas Muslim Capitol Day, Abbott said nothing about proposals to “ban Shariah law,” which are generally redundant since we only live under U.S., Texas and local laws.
- Unlicensed “constitutional carry” of handguns: Reading between the lines of Abbott’s speech, he spoke strongly about the need to protect law officers above all else. That would seem to rule out proposals to end licensing handgun owners in favor of letting Texans pack heat freely, an idea opposed by most police groups.
“The most important thing he said was about Child Protective Services,” Goldman said, referring to Abbott’s No. 1 priority.
“When he told us, ‘If you do nothing else this session, cast a vote to save the life of a child’ — that’s what we’re going to spend the most time on.”
They only work through May 29.
And it’s really better when the Lege doesn’t get a lot done.