Nov 16, 2022 | View in browser
By Allyson Waller and The Texas Tribune Politics Team
55 days until the 2023 legislative session starts.

CAIN FILES BILL RELATED TO FETAL PERSONHOOD


State Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, has filed a bill that would allow pregnant Texans to count their fetus as a person when driving in high-occupancy vehicle lanes. This narrow proposal is part of a larger anti-abortion effort to enshrine legal protections for fetuses from the moment of conception. “Fetal personhood” would radically redraw the legal landscape around reproductive autonomy, abortion and pregnancy.

This specific issue first came to light when a North Texas woman challenged a parking ticket by claiming her fetus was the additional passenger, allowing her to drive in the HOV lane. The Dallas County district attorney’s office dismissed the ticket. — Eleanor Klibanoff 

BORDER SECURITY COMMITTEE MEMBER CRITICIZES MIGRANT BUSING SPENDING


State Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, a member of the Texas Border Security Committee, criticized the amount of money the state is spending on busing migrants out of state, saying the program costs more money per person — about $2,000 — than it would take to buy them all plane tickets. 

“Why aren’t we just flying them up there?” Hall said during a committee hearing on Tuesday. “It seems like that’s an awful lot of money that we don’t need to be spending.” 

For months, Texas has sent the buses to Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago in an effort to pressure President Joe Biden to stiffen his immigration policies. On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott, who launched the program seven months ago, expanded that list to include Philadelphia
 
The Texas Division of Emergency Management has spent $26 million on the program. It has transported more than 13,200 migrants on 301 bus trips since April, agency chief Nim Kidd told senators. 

That accounts for only a fraction of the migrant encounters at the Texas-Mexico border reported by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which numbered more than 116,000 in August alone
 
Kidd told senators that the program’s cost includes bus contracts for the migrants, who choose to be transported out of state voluntarily, but also security and supplies for the passengers, including food, water and blankets, among other costs. Bus transportation is a more reliable means of making sure they get to their destinations than plane tickets, Kidd said, even though neither guarantees that the migrants they send out of state won’t come back to Texas.

Purchasing airline tickets for the migrants doesn’t even ensure that they’ll get on the plane, Kidd said, because “once they are released into an airport, there’s no control of where they go or where they don’t go. They could get any flight or they could just leave the airport.”  

Hall asked what it might take to start flying people out or find another more economical way to continue the program, but Kidd declined to speculate. 

“I think that’s a conversation with leadership, sir,” Kidd said. — Karen Brooks Harper 

FORMER OPPONENTS ARE NOW COLLEAGUES

 
A handful of U.S. House candidates who ran against each other in 2020 will find themselves serving side by side in 2023. Republican Monica De La Cruz and Democratic U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who faced off in the 2020 race for the 15th Congressional District, will serve together representing two redrawn South Texas districts in the next Congress. Republican Wesley Hunt and Democratic U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, who ran in 2020 for the 7th Congressional District, will also be serving together next year. 

De La Cruz and Gonzalez both said they had a phone call this week to extend an olive branch and coordinate on case work transition in the 15th district as Gonzalez moves to the neighboring 34th Congressional District. Both camps had positive things to say about the call, but relations between the two are still frosty after an acrimonious 2020 race and an equally bitter fight between U.S. Rep. Mayra Flores, a friend of De La Cruz, and Gonzalez this year. 

Fletcher and Hunt both said they are open to working together on common Houston interests, particularly energy policy and flood control. Hunt’s newly drawn 38th Congressional District includes the entirety of the Houston Energy corridor, and Fletcher serves on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Matthew Choi

ROY FUNDRAISES ON LEADERSHIP PROTEST


U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, played an instrumental role in the revolt by the conservative wing of the U.S. House Republican conference during this year’s party leadership elections. Now he’s fundraising on it. 

The House Freedom Caucus member introduced U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Arizona, as an alternative to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for speaker Tuesday, upsetting the long expected order of party leadership succession. Hours later, Roy sent out a copy of his speech introducing Biggs’ nomination to potential donors. 

Roy previously expressed angst over the party’s lackluster performance in the midterms, placing blame on what he cast as a tepid leadership effort. But in his speech, he said Biggs’ nomination was not a dig at McCarthy but a call for a broader party shakeup. 

“Andy’s candidacy is not an attack on Kevin — with whom a number of us have been engaging and will continue to in good faith,” he said. “Andy’s candidacy is about his courage to stand here today, willing to take the arrows: the courage to offer a debate rather than a coronation.”

McCarthy still won the party’s nomination for speaker, which will be up for a vote in the full House in January. — Matthew Choi

GARCIA FILES BILL AGAINST USING FORCE ON KIDS


U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia introduced legislation this week to stop the use of force against children. Dubbed the “No Kids in Cuffs Act,” the bill encourages local governments to explicitly ban physically restraining young kids in schools. 

Over 70,000 school students were subjected to physical restraint in the 2017-18 school year, according to Garcia’s office. The legislation asserts that that kind of force can have lasting physical and psychological damage on young kids. It also asserts that physically restraining kids is ineffective at averting misbehavior. 

The bill simply “encourages local and State governments to implement rules, legislation, and trainings to prohibit the use of physical restraints on young children,” but it does not have any teeth on its own. Matthew Choi

AARP RELEASES LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES AHEAD OF UPCOMING SESSION


AARP Texas wants lawmakers to reform nursing home funding, bolster food access and create a council on aging when the Legislature meets early next year.

This week, the group released a list of legislative items it’d like pursued during the next session, including an extension of pandemic-era rules that allowed for remote notarization of wills and estates, and increased funding for broadband across the state. AARP Texas also noted that elderly Texans were left particularly vulnerable during the 2021 winter storm that left millions without power, and called for more funding for emergency backup power for “medically needy” homes and long-term care facilities.

“AARP Texas seeks a bright future with livable communities where Texans can thrive as they age, which means preparing today for tomorrow’s aging population,” said AARP Texas Director Tina Tran. — Robert Downen 

QUICK HITS

  • State Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, filed House Bill 714, which would create “the District of Austin.” In a tweet, Patterson said making the state capital a district would “give the elected representatives of the State of Texas an opportunity to better manage a Capitol District, reduce taxes, enforce our laws, and defend Texas values.” Conservative lawmakers have long critiqued local policies in Austin in relation to issues such as homelessness and paid sick leave. — Allyson Waller

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FOR YOUR RADAR 

  • State Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, is hosting his Fall Gulf Coast Classic Fishing Tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday in Rockport
  • A fundraiser for state Rep. David Spiller, R-Jacksboro, will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at The Austin Club. 
  • A fundraiser for state Rep. David Cook, R-Mansfield, will be at 4 p.m. Thursday  at The Austin Club.
  • A fundraiser for state Rep. Hubert Vo, D-Houston, will be at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 28 at The Austin Club. 
  • The Texas House Democratic Caucus is hosting a fundraiser at 5 p.m. Nov. 29 at Higher Ground in Austin. 
  • A reception honoring state Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, will be at 4 p.m. Nov. 30 at The Austin Club. 
 

Our special event on the future of rural Texas kicks off tomorrow. Join us starting at 4 p.m. Central in Lubbock or starting at 6 p.m. online.

On Thursday and Friday, Nov. 17-18, at the Tribune’s “The Future of Rural Texas” event in Lubbock, attendees in person and online will get an inside look at how the state’s midterm elections and the 2023 Legislature will impact big issues that matter to rural Texans. Join us over the next two days for thoughtful panel conversations on topics including educational opportunities, what it will take to build a sound rural economy and more.

See the Future of Rural Texas program.

Catch up on the latest from The Texas Tribune’s regional reporting team ahead of the event.
 
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Quote of the day
“For me personally, it’s kind of like, show me what you got. Whether it’s Donald Trump, whether it’s DeSantis, whether it’s somebody that we haven’t seen yet.”
— former Texas Gov. Rick Perry  on former President Donald Trump's 2024 presidential run  
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