The Big Conversation
Sine die has now come and gone. But with lawmakers now free to return to their hometowns across the state, the question remains: How'd they do?
By one metric, the 84th Legislature was less efficient than the previous one, filing more bills and resolutions (11,332 to 10,630) but passing fewer of them (5,535 to 5,909), according to numbers compiled by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Criticism of the session came from the GOP's right flank on issues like illegal immigration and same-sex marriage. The Dallas Morning News reported that Dave Welch of Texas Pastor Council Action wrote, “It is an astounding and appalling reality ... that the Texas Legislature did nothing meaningful to protect religious freedom, traditional marriage or oppose the radical agenda of sexual gender confusion.”
The left, too, had harsh critiques of the session. U.S. Rep. (and former Texas House member) Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, wrote on Twitter, "Today marks the end of perhaps the worst legislative session in Texas history."
Conservative lawmakers, meanwhile, defended their record. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said: "There may have been two or three issues, but if you took a list of 25 or 30 issues, I think we did very well. ... It’s hard to make everyone happy all the time, but I think most of the people will be happy with most of what we have done."
State Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, suggested that some of the criticism stemmed from an unfamiliarity with how the Legislature works. “We delivered on many of the issues they were interested in. A lot of their dissatisfaction comes from lack of knowledge of the legislative process. You never get everything done in this process,” he said.
Medicaid Budget Kicks Can Down Road, Experts Say, by Edgar Walters — On balance, health care for the neediest Texans didn't fare well this session. Departing lawmakers leave behind a Medicaid budget that most experts agree is too low and they predict it will spawn a hole in the state budget that has to be filled later.
After Leaving Office, Perry Finds Ways to Make Money, by Patrick Svitek — Fresh off the state government payroll, former Gov. Rick Perry quickly turned to two tried-and-true ways of cashing in on a long career in public service: taking a seat on a corporate board and hiring out for speeches.
In Conservative Legislature, Few Abortion Bills Passed, by Alexa Ura — Two years after passing some of the strictest abortion regulations in the country, Republican lawmakers are leaving their 2015 session having passed just one piece of anti-abortion legislation.
A Closer Look at the Final 2016-17 State Budget, by Aman Batheja and Becca Aaronson — Here’s a look at how the Texas House and Senate budget proposals compared and what the two chambers ultimately settled on, using information from the Legislative Budget Board.
Though Fracked Again, Denton Says Fight Isn't Over, by Jim Malewitz — Seven months after a rag-tag group of local activists scored a surprising victory over the state’s powerful oil and gas industry when Denton voted to ban hydraulic fracturing, a natural gas company Monday resumed operations under a state law passed to overturn Denton's ban.
Abbott Opposes Curbs on Dark Money, by Jay Root — Republicans went to war with each other over the idea of disclosing dark money. But they probably needn't bother. Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters Monday that he thinks the idea is unconstitutional. Proponents of shining a light on it disagree.
Analysis: A Conservative but Complicated Legislature, by Ross Ramsey — Voters sent a conservative pack of lawmakers to Austin and got conservative results. But it's more complicated than that.
Abbott Legalizes Cannabis Oil for Epilepsy Patients, by Eva Hershaw — Cannabis oil will be legal for some medical treatments under legislation signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday, but he insists marijuana should not and will not be legalized for medical or recreational use in Texas on his watch.
Contract Reform Legislation Headed to Abbott, by Aman Batheja — Lawmakers sent a bill aimed at beefing up contracting oversight to Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday, while another died but will still largely be implemented through a budget rider.
A&M Health Science Center CEO "Heartbroken" Over Exit, by Matthew Watkins — Brett Giroir, the prominent leader of the Texas A&M Health Science Center who chaired a state task force on Ebola last year, said Monday that he was told by A&M officials to resign or face termination.
Patrick: I'm Not Running Against Abbott in 2018, by Matthew Watkins — Immediately after wrapping up the legislative session Monday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that he would never run against Greg Abbott for governor. "This will be my last position," the lieutenant governor said.
Rep. Farias Won't Seek Another Term in Texas House, by Alexa Ura — After five sessions in the Texas House, Democratic state Rep. Joe Farias of San Antonio announced Monday that he will not seek re-election.
House Education Chief Aycock Will Not Seek Re-election, by Morgan Smith — When the Texas Legislature tackles a long overdue overhaul of the state’s school finance system, it will have to do without the lawmaker who has shepherded its two chambers through complex education issues for the last two sessions.
Storify: The Last Day of the 84th Legislative Session, by Neena Satija — The 84th Legislative Session is wrapping up today. Here's a selection of what journalists, lawmakers and others shared on social media, along with the Tribune's on-the-ground reporting.
The Day Ahead
• Gov. Greg Abbott signs transportation legislation Tuesday afternoon in Dallas.
• Abbott remains in Dallas to give the commencement address at Tuesday night graduation ceremonies for Duncanville High School. Abbott is a 1976 graduate of the school.
Sine die: The gavel falls, the session ends, Austin American-Statesman
Open carry bill sparks unusual alliance, Houston Chronicle
Bill to revamp Alamo management heads to governor, San Antonio Express-News
Groups warn Texas tax cuts, other shifts will make for tight budget, The Dallas Morning News
At end of session, environmental, business interests differ on results, Austin American-Statesman
State may have millions go to help beaches, Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Turner heads home to Houston and mayor's race, Houston Chronicle
Chasnoff: Mayor’s race grows heated, San Antonio Express-News
Gannett Buys El Paso Times, 6 New Mexico Papers, The Associated Press
Quote to Note
"I will never be running against Greg Abbott for governor. And anyone who spreads that rumor is just spreading a rumor that is false."
— Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who told reporters on Monday that he has no plans to run for governor, ever
Today in TribTalk
Why this session was a boon for Texas college students, by Brian McCall — Texas lawmakers made a firm commitment to higher education at a time when other states are struggling to keep their colleges and universities open, accessible and affordable.
News From Home
• During the 84th legislative session, the Tribune kept you updated daily on the various policy debates and legislative votes at the Texas Capitol. Use our Texas Legislative Guide to see all of that coverage, discover the fate of every bill and learn even more.
• For five months, you've watched lawmakers spar, shout and lob parliamentary bombs. But how well do you really know the members of the Texas Legislature? Take our Senate quiz and our House quiz to find out.
Trib Events for the Calendar
• A Conversation With Lt. Governor Dan Patrick on June 4 at The Austin Club
• A Conversation With House Speaker Joe Straus on June 9 at The Austin Club
• A Conversation About Texas Monthly's Best and Worst Legislators 2015 on June 18 at The Austin Club
• A Conversation About Health Care and the 84th Legislature on June 24 at UT Health Science Center San Antonio
• The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin