New Year’s Day is the time to look back and ask – what were the top stories of 2017?
Lawmakers returned to the Capitol in 2017, so matters of politics would inevitably be a big part of any year in review. Dallas Morning News Reporter Lauren McGaughy and University of Houston Political Science Professor Brandon Rottinghaus help us explore the year the issues that got the spotlight this year in Texas politics.
“The bathroom bill took up a lot of my time,” McGaughy says. “I think in terms of legislation, the other bill that probably got the most talk was the sanctuary cities ban bill.”
McGaughy predicts the sanctuary city ban will be a prominent issue in the year to come, too – in the upcoming governor’s race between Gov. Greg Abbott, who supported the bill, and Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who opposed it.
Brandon Rottinghaus says it was a year of big changes at the Capitol.
“In terms of policies, these really set the stage for I think a new kind of legislature. To me, there was a real rightward shift in the pH balance of the legislature,” he says. “The Freedom Caucus, which I think for awhile was considered to be a nuisance by Democrats and even Republicans, is now a political force. And Republicans were thought to be going too slow in the fast lane, and this was a session where we saw them really encouraged to get out of the way so that more conservative legislation could come out.”
Rottinghaus says the biggest political story of the year was that Speaker of the House Joe Straus announced his retirement.
“He was somebody who was a kind of country club conservative. He became a political force in the Reagan and Bush years,” Rottinghaus says. “The fact that he is out now is something that was very much approved of by some of the conservative Republicans who said that he was in the way of this sort of legislative movement towards a more conservative direction.”
McGaughy and Rottinghaus say they’re not expecting to see Democrats make dramatic gains in the next election cycle.
“The process of moving a state from one party to another or even making it competitive is like a trail drive,” Rottinghaus says. “You’ve got to really plan ahead, you’ve got to have good personnel, and it just takes a long time.”
McGaughy and Rottinghaus both say to key an eye on the Republican primaries, where conservatives and moderates will be fighting it out over some key issues.
Written by Jen Rice.