Lt. Governor Dan Patrick entered the current legislative session with a long list of priorities, and a conservative wind at his back. But despite these advantages, Patrick is unlikely to get what he wants. And that’s largely because of fellow Republican and House Speaker Joe Straus.
R.G. Ratcliffe, a reporter for Texas Monthly put it bluntly, telling his readers that Straus ‘mugged’ the lieutenant governor.
“[Lt. Governor Patrick] had 25 items on his agenda for the session,” Ratcliffe says. “And two of the big ones were his so-called ‘bathroom bill’ and…a private school voucher program – parental savings accounts is what they were calling them, but they were essentially just a flow through of state money to parents who wanted to put their kids in private schools,”
The House opposed vouchers on a bipartisan basis, Ratcliffe says, partly because rural Republicans, whose districts don’t include large numbers of private schools, opposed the bill.
“The House had a budget item where they blocked any expenditures for a voucher, or anything that looks like a voucher and they did it so overwhelmingly – well, as Yogi Berra used to say “it ain’t’ over til it’s over.” But in this particular case, there’s little very little way to see how Dan Patrick brings his voucher program back to life again this session,” he says.
Ratcliffe says the bathroom bill was an ideological initiative for social conservatives.
“I think the bathroom bill largely was a substitute for gay marriage,” he says. “When the social conservatives lost gay marriage as an issue to stir up their base with the decision of the Supreme Court, they had to look for some other way to do it, and the bathroom bill was very effective in defeating the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance in an election.”
But the issue ran headlong into the economic concerns of other Republicans, including Speaker Straus.
“The problem was there was such a downside among corporations who didn’t want to look like they were moving to a state that was prejudiced,” Ratcliffe says. “They have to hire people that are LGBT and then you also had major sports events saying we’re not going to have playoff games in Texas if you do this. And it was very important to House Speaker Joe Straus because NCAA Final Four for 2018 is supposed to be in San Antonio, his hometown.”
Despite Patrick’s losses, Ratcliffe says conservatives are likely to remain an important force in Texas politics, but that establishment Republicans may continue to block some of their boldest moves.
“[Conservatives] still have a lot of power in the Republican primary,” he says. “The old traditional Republicans have been looking for a way to take their party back. They’re the old business Republicans. And this may give them the impetus to look for ways to defeat some of those hard-core social conservatives.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.