AUSTIN (KXAN) – The state’s three most important elected officials say they’re on the same page ahead of the 2019 legislative session, a vastly different scenario from when we last saw them two years ago.
The main cause for unity is the deemphasis on controversial social issues that tore the state apart during the 2017 session.
All three, Governor Greg Abbott, Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, downplayed the chief crisis maker last session, regulations requiring gender-based bathroom use.
In a press conference after their first weekly breakfast, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who spearheaded the bathroom rules two years ago, said the issue is on the back burner.
“The people who want to keep talking about it just want to stir up the past,” said Patrick.
He told reporters even though the bill didn’t become law, the issue garnered enough attention to make him happy with the result.
“The truth is the purpose of that legislation was to stop school districts from forcing boys and girls to share showers and locker rooms and that stopped,” said Patrick.
Bathroom privacy bill supporters point to President Trump reversing Obama era rules on Title IX as a partial victory.
The other two state leaders staked out their opposition from reviving the “bathroom bill” beforehand. In an interview with Dallas television station, KXAS, Speaker Bonnen delivered a straightforward “no” to whether he’d allow a bathroom bill to come to the floor.
In a KXAN statewide televised debate, Governor Abbott said it was not on his agenda.
Instead, the three say they’re focused on the basics: school safety, teacher pay, school finance reform, and property tax changes.
However, a soft lobby campaign will continue to fight for new bathroom regulations. In a press statement, Texas Values, the driving advocacy group of the idea, say they’ll continue the effort.
“Students in Texas are still at risk of being forced to share showers, locker rooms, and bathrooms with students of the opposite sex,” wrote James Wesolek, “Some school districts in Texas have policies that allow boys into girls’ showers, locker rooms, and bathrooms. And the issue is only getting worse.
Patrick focuses on property taxes, teachers
The office of the Lt. Governor is the most powerful position in the state – per the constitution. No new law can pass without his say-so. Patrick described his top three priorities to this crowd at the conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation.
They were a cap on local property tax growth, teacher pay raises, and school finance reform. While those issues aren’t partisan, the details are extremely tricky.
Patrick said he’ll begin with teacher pay raises – giving all teachers a bump, then paying more for high performers. How much new state money will be allocated to the raises will be determined in the weeks ahead.
“We need to attract and keep them. if you are a great teacher and you love teaching but you need more money because the world takes money to live on your only pathway is to become a principal,” said Patrick.