After standing up biz group, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick lobs bombs their way


Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick backed out of a speaking engagement with the center-right Texas Association of Business.

Instead, in a speech to a conservative think tank, Patrick criticized the business group without naming it.

The Texas Association of Business said Patrick cited an unexplained scheduling conflict when backing out.

In a speech to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank in line with his brand of GOP politics, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday quoted the Bible, accused liberals of trying to turn Texas into California and joked that environmentalists have got Republicans all wrong.

“Republicans and conservatives love the environment,” he said. “We love clean water, so we can find the fish. We love clean air so we can spot the birds when they come by, load the shotgun.”

As he did for years on his talk radio show, Patrick was preaching to the choir, and he was enjoying it.

Although Patrick said little that he hadn’t said before, Thursday’s speech was notable in part because of a speech scheduled for Friday that didn’t end up happening.

Three weeks ago, the Texas Association of Business, which backs establishment Republicans and last year went to war with Patrick over his so-called bathroom bill, described Patrick as “the preeminent voice for principled conservative policies” and announced he would speak at its annual conference.

The prospect of Patrick speaking before the respective brain trusts of the Texas GOP’s warring factions in consecutive days had Austin political observers raising their eyebrows. Would he take his anti-establishment fight straight to the establishment? Or would he strike a conciliatory tone and try to broaden his appeal?

Patrick then backed out of the business association speech, citing scheduling conflicts.

TEXAS POLITICS DELIVERED EVERY DAY: Sign up for our Texas Politics email

“We do not know why his schedule changed but we look forward to another opportunity to host him soon,” Texas Association of Business spokeswoman Amanda Abbott said in a statement. “The door is always open to the Lieutenant Governor and all of our elected officials to address the members of TAB.”

Patrick’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The business group wasn’t far from his mind when he spoke before the tea party-aligned crowd Thursday.

“Just because a business group has a business title in front of them does not necessarily mean they’re being run by conservative Republicans,” he said to applause.

In the speech, Patrick did not specifically mention Senate Bill 6, which would have prohibited transgender Texans from using the restrooms of their choice, but his meaning was clear.

During last year’s legislative sessions, when the more moderate House flushed the bathroom bill, the Texas Association of Business and other groups argued that it would hurt the economy by driving away big events and businesses leery of appearing supportive of discriminatory laws. Businesses love Texas, Patrick said, because of its low taxes and light regulatory touch, not because it sides with policies favored by urban liberals.

“There’s a new term going around. It’s called — some people want to elect a ‘responsible Republican.’ Have you heard that?” Patrick said at the beginning of his speech. “A responsible Republican is a conservative Republican.”

The term is usually invoked to differentiate traditional Republicans from insurgent social conservatives like Patrick, who draws his support from evangelical Christians and often clashes with the business lobby. Patrick made clear Thursday that he considered them the same as Democrats.

“I don’t want our state to be in the hands of moderates, liberals and progressives because if it is, we’ll be California and the country will be in trouble,” he said.

Patrick vowed at the end of the August special session, which was prompted primarily by his insistence on passing the bathroom bill and a separate property tax measure, that Republicans who opposed those measures would hear about it in the March 6 primaries. Patrick, however, hasn’t pressed the issue in recent months, and it has been largely absent from the GOP contests unfolding now.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Traffic report for Monday, Feb. 26

Interstate 35 (Travis County): The northbound outside lane will be closed between Boggy Creek and Stassney Lane from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday nights. The William Cannon exit will be closed as needed. The southbound outside lane will be closed between Stassney and Boggy Creek from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through Thursday nights. Reduced...
Split vote likely on removing Confederate names from Austin schools
Split vote likely on removing Confederate names from Austin schools

A split vote is expected Monday night as the Austin school board decides whether to remove Confederate names from five campuses. At least five of trustees, the minimum needed to move the measure forward, have expressed support for the measure. But others on the board continue to raise concerns about the name changes, saying the board’s action...
Catholic bishops sever ties to Texas Right to Life, exposing rift
Catholic bishops sever ties to Texas Right to Life, exposing rift

Exposing a deep and widening rift in the state’s energetic anti-abortion movement, the Catholic bishops of Texas have directed churches across the state to refrain from working with Texas Right to Life, which bills itself as the “oldest and largest statewide pro-life organization.” According to a written directive, Texas Right to...
FluMist returns for next flu season, but it won’t be for everyone
FluMist returns for next flu season, but it won’t be for everyone

Next flu season, most people will again have the choice between a flu shot and FluMist, an inhaled live virus vaccine. Last week, AstraZeneca, the maker of FluMist, announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend the vaccine for the 2018-19 season, two years after...
Amid complaints, Travis County judges change ‘jail reduction’ court
Amid complaints, Travis County judges change ‘jail reduction’ court

Two Austin defense lawyers are demanding Travis County discontinue a misdemeanor court docket they say pressures indigent defendants to accept bad plea deals — and even plead guilty to crimes they did not commit — in exchange for their release from jail. The Jail Reduction Docket is unconstitutional, perpetuates poverty and mirrors characteristics...
More Stories