House Appropriations Chairman John Otto views his time in the Texas House as "probably the greatest experience I've ever had in my life." Yet he's leaving because of the changing tone of Texas Republican primaries.
The Dayton Republican explained his decision not to run for another term during an on-stage interview last Friday at the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association's conference.
When he first joined the Legislature, Otto said his "bucket list" included chairing either Appropriations or Ways and Means. Once he got the position, he always intended to chair the Appropriations Committee for multiple terms.
"I was planning on coming back," Otto said of his thinking at the end of the session.
The thought of waging another primary campaign changed his mind.
"The last two primary seasons have not been fun and I made the statement, 'when this thing ceases to be fun, it's time to get out,'" Otto said. "And that concerns me because I'm watching a lot of my friends go through the same thing. I think we as a state better wake up or we're not going to be able to attract good people to come serve."
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday warned Houston Mayor Annise Parker against trying to revive the city's polarizing nondiscrimination ordinance, calling her obsessed with an issue that defies common sense.
"You can’t find any women who want men in the bathroom beside Annise Parker and a few people who voted for her," Patrick told reporters at the Texas Federation of Republican Women conference in Lubbock.
Patrick's comments came two days after voters in Texas' largest city soundly defeated the ordinance. Parker said Wednesday she planned to meet with the city council to see if it could bring back at least some parts of the law before her term is up at the end of the year.
“I think Annise Parker needs to realize she’s going to be out of office in a few months, and she ought to take her bad ideas to wherever she’s going after she leaves office," Patrick said, promising that HERO opponents will again defeat the ordinance if Parker or her successor revive it.
Although he took a leading role in the HERO fight, the Republican lieutenant governor said he was "staying out of" the Dec. 12 runoff between state Rep. Sylvester Turner and former Kemah Mayor Bill King. Turner is a longtime Democrat, while King is a self-described independent who secured a runoff berth thanks to a GOP coalition.
Patrick has asked seven senators to take a closer look at the property tax system with an eye toward recommendations on how to improve both the process of levying the tax and providing relief to property owners.
The select committee will present its recommendations to the Senate’s main budget committee, Senate Finance, before the start of the next legislative session in 2017.
The members of the committee are: Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston; Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe; Kelly Hancock, R-N. Richland Hills; Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville; Charles Perry, R-Lubbock; Van Taylor, R-Plano; and Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio.
Bettencourt has been tapped to chair the committee. In a statement, he said, “Our goal is that this committee will hold a robust series of hearings where we listen to what the people of Texas tell us, and seek to find meaningful solutions.”
State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, released a plan for more school choice on Thursday. In a press release, Simpson said the proposal is meant to establish more choices for Texas’ parents in how parents educate their children, whether that be through a public school, private school or home school.
“Unfortunately, the current system of school finance gives public schools an advantage over other models regardless of the best interest of the child to be educated,” the press release stated.
Simpson’s plan gives property owners and businesses tax credit for establishing educational savings accounts with educational nonprofits, which the release stated would “would drive the market not government mandates.”