Texas lawmakers deliver "the most conservative 48 hours" for Governor Abbott

AP Photo/Eric Gay

Texas Republican lawmakers are moving forward with a conservative agenda and Governor Abbott took a moment Saturday to celebrate that. Abbott tweeted out a list of conservative legislative victories achieved in the Texas House of Representatives over the span of 48 hours. It’s enough to make any Republican governor up for re-election proud.

A list of six bills includes issues like election integrity, ending homeless camps across the state, improving standardized testing requirements, a heartbeat law to protect unborn babies, penalizing cities that defund police, and penalizing protesters who block roadways. All of these are hot-button issues in the state and most have been on the top of Abbott’s list of priorities.

In 48 hours the Texas House voted to:
* Defund cities that defund police
* Ban abortion at detection of heartbeat
* Slash STAAR test requirements
* Ban homeless camping statewide
* Penalize protestors blocking roads
* Ensure election integrity- easy to vote, hard to cheat

I know the Texas legislature is on the right track because the usual liberal columnists are grousing about it and the fact that it all but assures Abbott’s re-election chances if he decides to pursue another term as governor. There is some buzz that he may decide to run for president, though if I had to bet, it’d be that he chooses to run for governor again. Maybe in 2028, he’ll run for president. There is plenty of time between now and the Republican primaries for 2024 so anything can happen. One columnist described it as “the Greg Abbott Protection Session.” He had to admit, though, that the election integrity legislation doesn’t crack down as hard as it was originally intended to do, especially in Harris County (Houston) where elected officials blatantly disregarded election law in order to use the pandemic as a reason to skirt procedures. Nothing will stop the Democrat trope that Republicans are denying access to voting for black and brown voters.

Even on Abbott’s performance during the pandemic, only a small percentage of Republican voters are disgruntled.

They’ll get new statewide election laws to tighten down on voting, although not the vengeful crackdown on Houston that was proposed.

That only leaves the Republicans who were mad at Abbott over COVID-19 restrictions, and they don’t seem mad anymore.

Only 13% of Republicans disapproved of Abbott’s performance in the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, and that included a higher percentage of abortion opponents no doubt satisfied with the new House and Senate bills.

The UT/Texas Tribune poll leans routinely leans liberal. Shocker, I know. Even with some high-profile Republicans reported to be considering running for governor, Abbott likely has no worries.

If either Attorney General Ken Paxton of McKinney, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller of Stephenville or Republican state Chairman Allen West of Garland is planning to challenge Abbott, he hasn’t left much running room.

“I don’t think Abbott has anything to worry about from Allen West,” Rice University political scientist Mark P. Jones wrote by email.

“The GOP leadership is pushing enough conservative red meat … that even when some portions of it lay on the butcher’s floor rather than as law, there will be enough legislation for Abbott to hang his hat on such that no one who is serious will be able to question his conservative credentials. “

Besides the legislation supporting the police and dealing with election integrity, the one bill that caught my attention is the one that addresses protesters blocking public roads. Especially with protests in the streets so regularly, it is important that innocent bystanders or drivers not get caught up in potentially violent situations. It’s a public safety issue as emergency vehicles become trapped with motorists at intersections. A video that went viral yesterday with a trending hashtag of #Plano shows a BLM protest in Plano, Texas (a suburban city outside of Dallas) where a large intersection was blocked. One man got out of his vehicle and confronted the protesters.

Warning: strong language

You can see that the man tried to get a policeman monitoring the situation to clear the intersection as the protesters try to move towards the man. The man did retreat without incident and law enforcement moves the protesters back. I can only imagine the frustration of the motorists caught up in it. This is an intersection used by motorists exiting a freeway. This has to stop. Protests cannot overtake public roads and infringe on the rights of others to move freely, especially when it becomes a life or death situation with emergency vehicles.

Governor Abbott has called for an expansion in civics education in schools. This is an issue I’ve supported for years, frankly, and I’m hopeful that civics classes can be brought back. With the politicization of teachers’ unions and a strong lurch to the left in lesson plans, it’s important to bring back an old-school civics education. Students are being short-changed and not given complete educations – civics education should be a basic requirement as it once was in schools. There is movement in both the Texas House and Senate to ban the teaching of critical race theory. There is some mention that current events or public policy matters should be banned, too. That goes too far. It’s likely an attempt to squash liberal propaganda in the classroom. It is valuable to discuss current events, especially in government classes or history classes. There is no desire to jump on the critical race theory bandwagon, though. That has been discredited and should be tossed on the garbage heap of failed social experiments at the expense of the education of school children.

“Texans reject critical race theory and other so-called ‘woke’ philosophies that maintain that one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex or that any individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said last week in a statement endorsing the legislation. “These divisive concepts have been inserted into curriculums around the state, but they have no place in Texas schools.”

But educators and social justice experts see the efforts as an attack on the state’s civic education curriculum at a time when students should be learning more, not less, about civics, social justice and history.

“There is more attention being given than ever before to the societal problem [of civic education] and how to fix it, which is why Texas, like every other state in the union right now, has so many civic education bills being put forth,” said Wendy May-Dreyer, who leads the Texas Civic Education Coalition. “The problem is we have a small faction who’s trying to quash that effort, that progress forward, and if we miss our opportunity, the Legislature doesn’t meet for another two years, and we likely have just missed the boat completely.”

The Texas legislative session ends in three weeks.