Legislative Line – November 2017

Legislative Line – November 2017

By Lauren Wied, Shayne Woodard and J Pete Laney,
TAD government relations

Election News: Announcements and Retirements

The candidate filing period for the 2018 primaries began Nov. 11 and ends Dec. 11. Once Dec. 11 hits, we will have a concrete idea of who is running, who is not running, and which incumbents will have a primary and/or general election challenger. The latest news on retirements and candidate announcements follows (announcements in chronological order).

On Nov. 2, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith announced he’s not running for re-election in 2018, two days after another Texas Republican, U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Dallas, said he was retiring. Both are term-limited committee chairmen who are soon due to give up their gavels — a factor that probably played a significant factor in their decisions.

On Nov. 7, U.S. Rep. Ted Poe announced that he will retire from Congress. In 2016, he was diagnosed with leukemia. Sources close to the congressman said that while his health has stabilized, the ordeal did cause the 69-year-old to consider spending more time with his family. There were also signs of political frustration earlier this year, after Poe resigned from the House Freedom Caucus over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

On Nov. 9, state Rep. Jason Isaac announced that he’s running for Texas’s 21st congressional district, the seat that U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) will vacate when he retires next year.

On Nov. 13, U.S. Rep. Gene Green announced he’s not running for re-election, making him the sixth Texan who’s leaving the House in 2018. State Sen. Sylvia Garcia has announced her campaign to run for the vacated seat. State Rep. Armando Walle was considering a run but has since backed out. State Rep. Carol Alavardo is still contemplating a run and has promises an announcement “in the coming days” about whether she will run for Texas’ 29th Congressional District.

On Nov. 28, State Rep. Helen Giddings announced she isn’t seeking a 14th term to the Texas House in 2018, calling the decision “one that tugs at my heart.” Giddings, a Democrat, was first elected in 1992 and serves as vice chair of the influential House State Affairs Committee and chairwoman of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.

On Nov. 29, Trey Blocker announced that he will challenge Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller in the GOP primary. Blocker is an Austin-based attorney and longtime lobbyist.

On Nov. 30, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton announced his retirement from Congress. The decision came after a rocky week, after a nude photo of Barton surfaced on social media. Many local officials, including state Sens. Konni Burton and Brian Birdwell, as well as Tarrant County GOP Chairman Tim O’Hare, called on Rep. Barton to step down. His retirement sets off a race to replace him that will likely be determined in the GOP primary. Three Republicans have since launched their election campaigns: Monte Mitchell, Jake Ellzey and Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright.

In an unprecedented move, Gov. Greg Abbott announced his endorsement for a candidate challenging incumbent state Rep. Sarah Davis in the primary. Davis and Abbott clashed over issues in the First Called Special Session and Abbott promised to help—or hurt—those who were in line (or not) with his special session agenda. We anticipate more endorsements like these in the coming months leading up to the March primary.

House Speaker Watch

House Speaker Joe Straus announced earlier this fall he would not seek reelection in 2018, leaving the leadership post an open contest. On Dec. 1, a House Republican Caucus met and adopted a change to its bylaws that would allow GOP members to agree on one candidate for House Speaker behind closed doors before an official floor vote, effectively minimizing the role the Democratic minority plays in electing a speaker. To gain Caucus backing, the favored candidate must win as many as 66 percent of the caucus’ approval.

So far, two candidates have officially thrown their name in the hat to become the next House Speaker: Republicans Phil King of Weatherford and John Zerwas of Richmond.

Amarillo Republican Rep. Four Price also has shown interest, though he has not officially filed the required paperwork.

Around Austin

On Oct. 31, Gov. Greg Abbott revealed that his recent trip to Washington, D.C., wasn’t just to push for more Hurricane Harvey aid — he also used it to lobby the Trump administration on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Abbott said he met on NAFTA with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as well as John Kelly, the White House chief of staff. In each meeting, Abbott said, he emphasized the importance of NAFTA to the Texas economy.

On Nov. 7, Texans went to the polls in small numbers with about a 5.6 percent turnout. All proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution were approved by voters. Propositions included:

  • Prop 1 Broadens scope of homestead ad valorem tax exemption for disabled veteran or spouse.
  • Prop 2 Prescribes conditions, fees, refinancing options, and eligibility for home equity loans.
  • Prop 3 Limits the service of certain gubernatorial appointees after expiration of term.
  • Prop 4 Relates to notice requirements to Attorney General regarding challenge to constitutionality.
  • Prop 5 Permits additional professional sports team charitable foundations to conduct raffles.
  • Prop 6 Provides homestead exemption for deceased (line of duty) first responder’s surviving spouse.
  • Prop 7 Permits financial institutions to award random prizes to customers to encourage saving.

Upcoming Hearings

Senate Finance
10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018
Chair: Jane Nelson

Texas Emission Reduction Plan: Review the Texas Emission Reduction Plan (TERP) and its economic benefits to the state. Examine whether the state’s investment in TERP, including transfers from the Department of Transportation, are being effectively utilized to comply with federal air quality standards, reduce pollution, and protect the public health of Texans.




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