Most expect little from 87th Legislative Session, which opens today

Most expect little from 87th Legislative Session, which opens today

Image: The Capitol of the State of Texas in Austin.

The Golden Hammer Staff Reports

Austin and Montgomery County, January 12 – Texas citizens have low expectations for the 87th Session of the Texas Legislature which opens today. The opening day ceremonies will begin with a high dose of fear among the elected representatives.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick issued an order on Monday, January 4, 2021, to require that all members of the Texas Senate undergo testing for the Chinese Coronavirus before the opening day ceremonies. “Senators have agreed to a much shorter opening day ceremony to reduce the time spent in a large gathering,” Patrick wrote in his press release. “The Senate is reducing all ceremonial events and gatherings this session to focus solely on their constitutional legislative duties.”

That’s a nice way of dampening expectations without actually naming the 87th Legislative Session the “do nothing” session.

The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, asked two questions to some members of the Texas Legislature and some of the citizens for whom they work: (1) What are the top priorities in the 87th Legislative Session? (2) What do you expect will be the legislation that will actually come out of the 87th Legislature Session?

(1) What are the top priorities in the 87th Legislative Session?

Will Metcalf, State Representative, Conroe

The 87th Legislative Session will most certainly be the most challenging session we have ever had in the state of Texas. We are still dealing with the effects of COVID-19 and we need to get Texas back up and running at full steam. Between COVID-19, redistricting, and a tough budgetary cycle, the legislature will be tackling some very complex issues in the brief period of 140 days. I am confident we will rise to the occasion.

With that being said, many of my priorities remain the same as they are every session. I will continue to fight for lower property taxes as I have always done. I want to ensure that our men and women of law enforcement are supported. Water is always an important topic for District 16, and with the San Jacinto River Authority in the Sunset process this cycle, I hope to see some positive changes come about. I look forward to working to limit any federal overreach and ensuring that Texans continue to enjoy our God given right of self-governance. Defending and expanding our Second Amendment rights is now more important than ever. Additionally, as a strong supporter of public education, I will continue to make sure that our school districts have the resources they need.

Of course, we have also been researching various topics within the COVID-19 response.

As for my specific legislation, we have already filed several bills and intend to file more soon after the start of the session. We have legislation that address the issues that exist within the San Jacinto River Authority, as well as legislation to reign in appraisal districts and give citizens a greater voice in the appraisal process. I look forward to filing these and more in the coming days.”

Cary Cheshire, President, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility

Consistent with our guiding principles, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility has identified 12 key legislative priorities for the 87th Texas Legislature. Republicans maintain strong majorities — there are no excuses for lawmakers to be derelict in their duty to pass commonsense reforms called for by the grassroots.

Legislation in line with these priorities will be considered in the 2021 Fiscal Responsibility Index. (Legislators and the public are notified in advance when pending votes are subject for consideration.) Legislators will receive extra credit for authoring or sponsoring legislation that advances these priorities and that receives an up-or-down vote on the floor of their respective chamber.

  • Eliminating Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying

  • Providing Property Tax Relief for Texas Families

  • Reforming the Property Tax System to Give Texans Greater Say

  • Strengthening the State’s Spending Limit

  • Reforming the Budget Process to Identify Savings

  • Eliminating Corporate Welfare

  • Ending the Automatic Collection of Labor Union Dues

  • Protecting the Rights of Everyday Texans

Ashley Burke, Republican Precinct Chair, Willis
Election integrity and banning taxpayer-funded lobbying are top priorities.
Yesterday, Comptroller Glenn Hegar released the Biennial Revenue Estimate which said that Texas is facing looking at our budget being 1 billion dollars in the negative. This is due to loss of tax revenue due to covid 19 and elected officials like County Judge Mark Keough shutting down our economy. Cutting spending must be a top priority as well as limiting the power of elected officials to close Texas businesses. Do I see Governor Abbott signing a bill that limits his power? Probably not.
We’ve all seen the videos and read affidavits about voter fraud in 2020 elections. Our legislators have a lot of work ahead of them to restore our faith in elections and prove to Texans their vote counts. Over a hundred election bills have already been filed and we need to pay very close attention to what happens with them.
Representative Mayes Middleton and Senator Bob Hall have both filled extremely important bills to remove taxpayer funded lobbying. I would love to see them pass as written, but sadly I expect them to be gutted by moderates and the left. Our legislators are too dependent on lobbyists and their shiny things.
The abolition of abortion is a Republican Party priority this session that I believe will take center stage. Last session, Montgomery County State Representative Will Metcalf sat on the Calendars Committee in the House where the Heartbeat Bill died. I hope our Republican legislators are able to at the very least get over that hurdle this year, no matter what legislator or organization was responsible for killing it last session.

Reagan William Reed, former Vice Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party

Out of the thousands of bills that will be filed in the 87th Texas legislative session, there will be many that conservatives should support and even more that need to be mercilessly killed. However, in my opinion, these five areas warrant extra attention in the coming session.
1. The Budget: According to comptroller Glenn Hegar the state will be a billion dollars short in revenue. Raising taxes on people still hurting economically from the shutdown would be unconscionable and unacceptable. The legislature needs to do what we all did- tighten their belts and make do with less.
Prediction: raising taxes now would be political suicide. However, never underestimate the stupidity of Texas politicians.
2. Election Integrity: There are a number policies that would make Texas’ elections more secure, particularly when it comes to mail-in balloting. Rep. Toth’s Jennie Stephenson act requiring stricter verification for mail-in ballots is a great example. Other examples would be prohibiting drop box voting and tightening loopholes in the Voter ID requirements.
Prediction: This is an area where we might see some substantive legislation passed. The GOP base is very concerned about election integrity right now, and Republicans will be under a ton of pressure to pass something.
3. End Subsidies for Big Tech and Hollywood: Big Tech companies our out of control. However, Texas is currently rewarding their censorious behavior by giving them subsidies and abatements. The state also uses taxpayer dollars to subsidize Hollywood to encourage them to film movies here. These subsidies are of questionable benefit to the people of Texas, anti-free market, and not a good use of tax dollars.
Prediction: This is another area that looks promising. A lot of free speech advocates are very concerned with the power of Big Tech to censor dissent, and tech companies’ relationship with government will be under a microscope.
4. Reigning in Emergency Powers: The legislature should pass legislation to greatly limit the emergency powers of the governor and of cities and counties. They need to ensure that the wholesale closing of businesses by the government we saw last year can never happen again.
Prediction: Probably will be a weak attempt to reign in local government power a little bit. I put the likelihood of any limitations on the governor’s power passing at zero.
5. Criminal Justice Reform: While the rioting and violence from last summer’s BLM protests was unacceptable, and the vast majority of police officers are good people just doing their jobs, I do believe there are some valid criticisms of our criminal justice system. Reforming civil asset forfeiture, getting rid of no-knock warrants, and ending qualified immunity for government employees are all pro-limited government and pro-liberty reforms I would love to see passed. This is a rare issue where pro-liberty constitutionalists can actually have some common ground with liberals, and working to reform the criminal justice system is a way the GOP can build bridges to minority communities.
Prediction: Hard to say, there’s at least tentative support across the political spectrum for many criminal justice reforms, however, the police unions and local government lobbyists have a lot of sway in Austin, and will always oppose accountability and reform.
Citizens will need to be vigilant and make their voices heard throughout the session. As Gideon Tucker famously once said, “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.

Ginger Russell, Area Chair and Precinct Chair, Montgomery County Republican Party

My hope is that the Legislature will put a stop to taxpayer-funded lobbying.

Bill Brenza, President, MCPLive.TV

Just listened to an interview with Dade Phelan. His priorities are getting the economy running again, fiscally conservative budget,  redistricting. He also talked about making the appraisal boards elected and curbing taxpayer-funded lobbying. He is in favor of both. As far as I am concerned, forget all the normal Republican red-meat social issues, if you get those two passed it will be a very successful session. The third issue, which he did not talk about is voter integrity. WE MUST keep Harris and Dallas county from stuffing the ballot box with illegal votes. That is how they turned George and that is how they can turn Texas.

Pat Tibbs, President, Montgomery County Tea Party

Unfortunately, I believe this session’s priorities will go just like last session’s. We need property tax reform, election integrity and legislation to restrain the Governor, but I am not holding my breath.

Matt McLane, local businessman

From what I’ve seen in the last few weeks, my eye is obviously on redistricting. As we get more and more move-ins from other states, this changes the political make-up of our great state. I happen to hate gerrymandering, but I’m also concerned about a leftist takeover of our state. So this is especially concerning to me this time around. In the next 10 years, we could end up with the Republic of Texafornia. Ugh!!

Another set of legislation that I think will be a big hot button will be the 12 week abortion question. I think it will pass and cause a huge uproar.

The last thing that I think is and should be on the docket is medical marijuana. I am a huge supporter of this and have been for a very long time. I’m hopeful it will pass.

There are other issues as well. Some restrictions to gun purchases, for example. But I don’t think they’ll go anywhere. Now if redistricting creates a new Democrat state, this will concern me in the future.

Bruce Rieser, Woodlands Township Director

You are probably asking the wrong guy for an opinion on this, but I would think that one of the major priorities for this session will be limiting the Governor’s ability to use emergency powers for an extended period of time without calling an emergency or special session of the Legislature. I think there is a reasonable chance that it will happen.

Of course, you have a bill calling for a referendum on Texit. Don’t think that has much chance of getting out of committee.

Gregory Parker, former Comal County Commissioner

1) Reigning in King Abbott is number one. A 30 day limit on disaster declarations; needing legislative approval to continue.

2) Clarification and limiting the county and local governments use of disaster declarations and the ability to restrict citizen and business movements.

3)Reduce property taxes.

I would like to have these, but I don’t know enough about if they can be done.

1) Nullify federal Section 230 in the State of Texas allowing for suit of big tech companies.

2) create a recall process for all statewide elected officials.

Dale Inman, Conroe ISD Trustee

These are the Legislative priorities as ranked by the Republican delegates at the State Republican Convention. As predicted, election integrity was of paramount importance, yet many electeds did nothing. While I am an optimist by nature, I’m a pragmatist by function.

Betty Anderson, Founder, Montgomery County Eagle Forum, and Republican Precinct Chair, Shenandoah

I really like the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) 2020 Platform Priorities which are:

Election Integrity

Require citizenship verification of each voter, and felony penalties for Election Code violations that threaten election integrity.

Religious Freedom

Restore the rights of individuals, organizations and businesses, to exercise their sincerely held religious beliefs by prohibiting local ordinances, state laws, or executive orders that violate those rights.

Children and Gender Modification

Abolish the following practices for minors: intervention to prevent natural progression of puberty; administration of opposite sex hormones; and performance of any type of gender reassignment surgery.

Abolition of Abortion

Abolish abortion by ensuring the right to life and equal protection of the laws to all preborn children from the moment of fertilization.

Constitutional Carry

Restore legal Texas firearms owners’ rights to carry them openly or concealed without a permit, while maintaining the option of a permit for reciprocity purposes.

Monument Protection

All monuments or markers in our state shall be protected by law from being removed, defaced, destroyed, or otherwise dishonored. In particular, specific protection shall be given to the Alamo Cenotaph which shall not be removed from its current location off the Alamo Battlefield footprint.

School Choice for All

Empower parents and guardians to choose from public, private, charter, or homeschool options for their children’s education using tax credits or exemptions without government restraint or intrusion.

Ban Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying

Abolish all forms of taxpayer-funded lobbying.

There are many more issues of concern but I agree with the RPT on these top priorities.  Thanks for asking.

Webb Melder, former Conroe Mayor, former Lone Star Groundwater District President

THIS SESSION WILL BE CHALLENGING FOR ALL.
ONE CONCERN,….HOW TRANSPARENT WILL THE ENTIRE SESSION BE WITH ALL THE COVID PROTOCOLS, LEADERSHIP CHANGES, etc..
AS ALWAYS,….THE CITIZENS NEED TO BE PAYING ATTENTION.

Maureen Ball, renowned family law attorney and conservative leader, Conroe

The 87th Texas Legislature should defend individual liberty by:

  1. Enacting measures to allow the Legislature to call a special session to address ANY executive order issued by the Governor including but not limited to emergency orders;

  2. Reduce the Governor’s ability to issue emergency executive orders;

  3. Enact statutes that expressly provide means to have constitutional issues addressed by the courts during a “lockdown” – no person should be denied access to the courts due to an emergency order and a person should be permitted at all times to have constitutional issues presented. Access to the court must remain open at all times to address constitutional issues;

  4. Enact statutes that provide “standing” (authority) for an individual legislator to sue the Governor for failing to call a special session related to an executive order and that said action may be initiated in the county where the legislator resides; and

  5. Revise the Texas Health and Safety Code to provide substantial reduction and limitations on quarantine related issues and to state specifically that failure to receive an immunization is not grounds to quarantine an individual.

Jon Bouche, conservative Republican political activist

If what has just happened does not convince you that Election Integrity is the #1, thing we need to address, then nothing will.

By the way, the main reason I jumped into politics was because I was concerned about Election Integrity.  In 2016, I even wrote a letter to President Trump expressing that I thought that Election Integrity should be a priority for his first term.

As a Christian, I would love to see Abortion abolished in Texas.  I would also like to see Constitutional Carry in Texas but not by creating more laws but by simply repealing any and all laws which infringe upon our rights to keep and bear arms and then passing just one law which states that any bill presented which infringes on the rights of Texans to keep and bear arms is out of order.

Now those are the things that I would like to see happen.

Michael Quinn Sullivan, Chairman, Empower Texans and Texas Scorecard

Texas Scorecard doesn’t have a legislative agenda. We are reporting heavily on the agendas of the Republican Party of Texas, the Lone Star Agenda, and various conservative grassroots groups.

Cindy Gaskill, Treasurer, Texas Patriots PAC, and conservative activist:

As Texans, we must ensure our freedoms are not infringed upon.  Bills have been introduced which seem hell-bent on denigrating our rights as free American citizens by the far left.  The Texas Legislature should focus on and pass laws to protect our rights as free citizens, protect the life of the unborn, and ensure Election Integrity.  As a first-time Republican Delegate this past summer, I was involved in choosing the top eight legislative priorities.  I chose Election Integrity as my number one choice and it was the priority that received the most votes from delegates.  Election Fraud causes the disenfranchisement of every other vote and can result in an illegitimate representative in government.  I have no doubt election fraud exists and we must ensure it never becomes rampant in the State of Texas as it has in other parts of the country.
Not only do Texas Legislators need to pass bills to protect the unborn, to protect our rights as citizens, and to ensure election integrity, legislators need to ensure bills infringing upon our rights guaranteed by the Constitution, such as the bill proposed by  Representative Terry Meza to amend the Texas Castle Doctrine law, never see the light of day.
Monument protection is also very important to me as a native Texan whose ancestors were involved in the creation of the Republic of Texas.  Myself and another delegate were involved in amending the Monument Protection Priority such that it includes specific protection of  the Alamo Cenotaph.  After six years of wasted taxpayer money, the Alamo Reimagine Plan has fallen apart after the Texas Historical Commission voted down a permit to relocate the Cenotaph.  Sadly, George P. Bush and the City of San Antonio did not listen to Texas citizens on this issue and it has wasted a considerable sum of taxpayer money and a great deal of time.  Although we had a great day of success in preventing the relocation of the Cenotaph at the September THC meeting, it might be a good idea to have an individual bill to address the specific protection of the Alamo Cenotaph, the San Jacinto Monument, and the Fannin Memorial Monument at Goliad.
Simon Sequeira, President, Quadvest
I’m focused on water stuff and I don’t think it’s going to be a big water session, because of the budget and COVID.

(2) What do you expect will be the legislation that will actually come out of the 87th Legislature Session?

Walter West, II, former State Republican Executive Committeeman and former Republican Party of Texas Sergeant-at-Arms

Governor Abbott will have his legislation passed, and the “establishment” Republicans and Democrats will get one more session, campaign money, and tons of social media post materials to jab back and forth.

Property taxes will continue to get hit, as we sensationalize a win in one area, but shift to collecting more for another.

More Red Flag laws will be passed. Election Integrity will be lost.

Campaign season for Abbott and 2022 begins today (January 12)!

#KeepTexasRed…That’s bleeding from the lack of liberty and in debt, like the color red in every Texan’s personal bank book.

Gregory Parker, former Comal County Commissioner

Given the new RINO Speaker and the cowerdace of other Republicans, I don’t believe any of my priorities will see the light of day.

Cary Cheshire, President, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility

Lawmakers must prioritize serious and lasting spending cuts and deliver substantial tax relief for overburdened taxpayers.
New taxes or increases in existing taxes should be completely off the table.

 
I think right now lawmakers are on track to try to have a largely inactive session, and taxpayers will need to step up and make their voice heard if they want lawmakers to focus on their issues.

Jon Bouche, conservative Republican political activist

Realistically, with the feckless Republicans we have in Austin, we MIGHT get a bill which prohibits gender modification of children and we might get a ban on tax payer funded lobbying since at times it seems that both sides of the aisle believe such a ban would benefit them.

Sadly, with the nation in upheaval right now, I am of the belief that this will be a “do nothing” session.  As such, maybe someone should seize this opportunity to introduce two really simple bills. One would explain what the word “Infringed” means and the other bill would explain what a “priority” is.  I know that’s a low bar but based on what has been happening in Austin and considering all of the bills on the table affecting gun rights, maybe the simplicity of those two bills is just what we need here in Texas.

Maureen Ball, renowned family law attorney and conservative leader, Conroe

The legislature will enact some provision related to the legislature’s ability to call a special session but will fail to address all applicable statutes thereby allowing the Governor the ability to continue to find a “loophole” to issue executive orders which infringe upon an individual’s liberty.

I do not expect that issues related to court access by an individual or legislator will be addressed.

I do not expect that the Texas Health and Safety Code will be amended to reduce or limit government intervention.

Bruce Rieser, Woodlands Township Director
So much of what comes out of the Legislature is so dependent upon who the Speaker appoints to key committees. If the new Speaker follows the pattern of Strauss and Bonnen, it is likely very little substantive legislation will emerge from this session.

Ginger Russell, Area Chair and Precinct Chair, Montgomery County Republican Party

I don’t think they will fix property taxes.

Dale Inman, Conroe ISD Trustee

I am sad to report, I do not believe our “Republican” representatives who have a majority in the House, Senate, Lieutenant Governor, and Governor, will get a single legislative priority passed. They didn’t last session; I am not inclined to think they will this session either. Long on promises, short on delivery.

I want legislators who will fight against the progressive communists in Austin and in Washington, D.C.

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