AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Texans kick off the first week of 2018, themes from last year are not soon forgotten.
The year 2017 was memorable for many. President Donald Trump took office and shook up what most Americans thought they knew about government, and the Texas Legislature held a special session to tackle a list of nearly two dozen issues, half of which never made it to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for a signature.
Laws about sanctuary cities, abortion and rights for LGBT community members were challenged in the courts. Thousands were affected by a Category 4 hurricane named Harvey that caused billions of dollars in damage along the Coastal Bend. Multiple lawmakers at the federal and state level were accused of inappropriate sexual behavior.
“I think we are going to see our share of [the] national story,” Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, said about the Texas-sized involvement on issues across the country.
Henson said politically, Texas likely would not “turn blue” from it’s generally conservative “red” history.
“By the time we get to [the general election in] November, we are probably going to be poised to see the Democrats not turn the state blue by any means, but cut some of the margins that they have historically suffered for the last several cycles,” Henson said.
Henson expected border security and illegal immigration to remain a focus of Texans and politicians, with miles of borderland along the southwest boundary, and thousands of recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program living in Texas.
He said the border wall proposed by President Trump was “great for campaign chance and for rallying the troops in 2017, but has been a much more difficult issue an actual implementation particularly when it comes to things like property taking and environmental impact.”
He expects the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey to permeate the election, as candidates tout their response, and challengers criticize their incumbents.
“We know that the day the Legislature steps into session in January 2019, that there is going to be some big overhanging bills to pay that were deferred last time as a result of the efforts that they needed to make to balance the budget in 2017,” Henson explained.
“That is all waiting for the legislature in 2019. Harvey is going to make that worse, and we don’t know exactly what the impact of the most recent discussion and changes in Washington D.C. on taxes are going to be.”