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2017 Year in Review

Analyses in the rearview mirror: Bathrooms and GOP politics

2017 was the year when House Speaker Joe Straus found his voice, when the culture conservatives lost out to the business conservatives and when the fault lines that define today’s Texas GOP opened up for everyone to see.

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2017 Year in Review

A lively legislative session — and a special session — that featured fights over bathrooms. Legal battles over abortion, immigration policy and political maps. A devastating hurricane. 2017 was filled with nonstop news in Texas. Here are the highlights.

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The so-called “bathroom bill” that dominated much of the conversation and debate in 2017’s regular and special legislative sessions gave Texans a close look at a deep split among Texas conservatives. One faction was fighting for conservative social values, hoping to limit use of public restrooms and other facilities to people whose birth certificates matched the signs on those facilities’ doors. Another was concerned — with evidence from other states that have fought the bathroom fight — about the effect such legislation would have on the state’s businesses and its economic development.

The debate has provided a steady foundation to other intra-conservative divides for more than a year, starting when the issue first flared in Texas in 2016 and running to the present day and into the 2018 elections.

Here’s a sampling of columns tracking the bathroom bill and GOP politics in 2017:

The Texas Legislature is having a hard time with the "bathroom bill." The Senate is trying to pull together the votes, and the House is trying to find some motivation. Both are waiting to see what the governor thinks.

As policy, the proposed regulations for transgender Texan's restroom choices have some gaping holes. The politics, however, are easy to understand.

The leadership battles in the Texas Legislature are often attributed to personalities — or to traditional House-Senate rivalries. But there's another factor: The Republicans in power are from different factions of their party.

In their just-ended legislative session, Texas lawmakers mowed through a list of politically divisive issues that could have lasting effects on how others see a state that's been known for years as a mecca for business.

The rift over the bathroom bill in the Texas Legislature won't end with the special session; it's a prelude to the March 2018 primary elections.

The differences between the state's top legislative leaders will inform the coming Republican primaries, because Dan Patrick and Joe Straus represent different wings of the Texas GOP. 

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