AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Legislature is poised to pass stricter voting laws, permitless carry of firearms, and a ban on nearly all abortions in the state in what some political experts have described as the most conservative legislative session in recent memory.
But with a key deadline approaching Friday at midnight to grant initial approval to bills in the Texas House and less than three weeks remaining in the legislative session, Allen West, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, is giving Republican lawmakers a ‘D’ grade.
“The leadership is going to have a lot to answer for to the conservative grassroots base,” West told KXAN on Wednesday. “It’s been a session that’s been kind of drawn-out, and so hopefully these things will get across the finish line.”
West said none of the bills associated with the RPT’s list of legislative priorities have been signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, though the Texas House’s “heartbeat bill” was sent to the governor for final approval Thursday afternoon.
West criticized the Republican leadership for watering down controversial bills to further restrict voting rules in Texas and said permitless carry legislation could face procedural challenges due to changes made by the Texas Senate — which advisors to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick quickly rebuked on social media.
A proposal to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying by local governments, a legislative priority by the RPT, appeared likely to fail in yet another legislative session.
“Why are we electing Republicans and why are we presenting these legislative priorities if we have individuals making the decisions about what they see as a priority?” said West, adding the RPT plans to launch its own scorecard to grade Republican lawmakers on their support for the party’s legislative priorities.
Democrats in the Texas House spent Thursday attempting to run out the clock before a bill targeting transgender children could reach the floor for initial approval. House Bill 1399 would ban gender reassignment surgeries and procedures for anyone under 18 in Texas.
“The side effect is that we end up preventing us from getting to other good bills,” Rep. James Talarico, a Round Rock Democrat, said of his party’s effort to delay votes on controversial pieces of legislation. “Once you put this poison pill on the agenda, you endanger a bunch of good, innocuous bills from getting passed.”
Craig Goodman, a political science professor at the University of Houston-Victoria, said an ideological push to the right by the RPT is at conflict with the more moderate Texas House’s desire to govern.
“That becomes the choice,” Goodman said. “Do you want to be the party of governing or do you want to be the party of conservatism?”