- Jonathan Tilove American-Statesman Staff
WINGMEN: At the start of the session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick promised to be Gov. Greg Abbott’s wingman and he was as good as his word. He may have, along the way, sometime been the hot-headed wingman, blistering fellow Republican House Speaker Straus for being oppositional, but he did nothing to fuel any tension between himself and the governor.
STRAUS RULES: Whether he returns for a record-breaking sixth term as speaker in 2019 or not, Straus ended the special session with a flourish, dramatically gaveling out a day early, leaving the Senate to take its grudging version of property tax reform — Abbott’s top priority — or leave it (they left it) and concluding a session in which he had already dashed Patrick’s prized priorities of transgender bathroom legislation and school choice for special needs children.
ABBOTT GOVERNS: The governor, faulted for keeping too low a profile during the regular session, came out of his shell, setting the ambitious 20-item agenda, and promising it would leave Texas a “far better” place. In the end, he got half a loaf but, for the broader public, he had burnished his brand as a leader heading into what looks to be cake walk of a re-election campaign.
BATHROOM BILL TANKS: If the special session was less than gripping mid-summer drama, blame it on the fizzling of the battle over transgender bathroom legislation. It was spoiled by Straus who from the outset said it wouldn’t happen on his watch. But it also seemed that the passion for the issue wilted in the succession of 100-degree days, in which opponents – including some big Republican donors from the business community – seemed more energized than its proponents.
SOME POLITICS IS STILL LOCAL – Abbott’s agenda featured an attack on local authority that he said curbed individual liberty and interfered with private property rights. But most of those initiatives – including efforts to pre-empt local cell phone ordinances, speed up local permitting and immunize property rights from zoning changes – fell by the wayside, and his high profile attack on local tree ordinances yielded a bill that he will sign that looks an awful lot like the bill he vetoed in the regular session for being too weak.