Catch up quick: 7 things you missed this week

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R), during session at the state capitol in Austin on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

We always say that the most interesting debates to cover are the intra-party squabbles. Anyone can dissect a story in which Democrats say one thing and Republicans say another — but it’s so much more interesting when one party exposes internal rifts and divisions.

And there’s no bigger internecine rupture than in Texas, where House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) are seemingly always at war. The latest blowup — coming at the beginning of a high-stakes special session on education funding — has sent relations between two of the state’s three most powerful leaders to an all-time low.

Their cold war turned hot this week, when Phelan blasted Jonathan Strickland, head of the conservative Defend Texas Liberty PAC and a Patrick ally, for hosting white supremacist Nick Fuentes. Phelan called on Republicans to return or donate money from the PAC to pro-Israel charities.

Patrick, who has accepted $3 million from the PAC this year, accused Phelan of politicizing Hamas’s attack on Israel and urged the House Speaker to resign. Patrick defended Strickland, whom he said had acknowledged that hosting Fuentes was a “serious blunder.”

“Mismatching socks is a ‘blunder.’ Meeting with a pro-rape, pro-Taliban, pro-Hitler, anti-Semitic, Holocaust denier like Nick Fuentes for 6.5 [hours] is NOT a blunder,” shot back Enrique Marquez, Phelan’s chief of staff, in a post on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.

It’s an understatement to say Phelan and Patrick don’t like each other very much. The personal animosity between the two has spilled over into the policy realm before — and it may once again jeopardize the agenda before the legislature in this latest special session.

Here are seven other things you might have missed this week:

SOCIAL MEDIA: New York lawmakers have introduced legislation to bar social media platforms from deploying addictive features and algorithms meant to keep kids on the platform, and to require online sites to obtain informed consent before collecting and sharing data on users under 18. The bills were rolled out Wednesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), Attorney General Letitia James (D) and two leading legislators. (Pluribus News)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed legislation to hold Instagram, TikTok and social media platforms liable for failing to combat the spread of child sexual abuse materials. Courts would be required to award damages of between $1 million and $4 million for each act of exploitation that social media companies allow to spread. Social media companies would have to give users a way to report abuse material. (Los Angeles Times)

TECHNOLOGY: Newsom on Tuesday signed two bills targeting the technology industry: The Delete Act will allow consumers to more easily request that brokers delete their personal data. And a right-to-repair bill would require manufacturers of electronics and appliances to provide individuals and third-party repair shops with instructions, tools and parts to complete repairs. (Pluribus News)

LGBTQ RIGHTS: The Wisconsin Assembly has approved legislation banning transgender girls and women from competing in high school and college sports, and a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors. Gov. Tony Evers (D) has pledged to veto the bills, which passed on party line votes. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

IMMIGRATION: The Texas Senate has advanced bills to allow state police to arrest migrants crossing the southern border and increasing penalties for smuggling migrants or operating a stash house. One bill would create a new state crime of illegally entering Texas from Mexico. (Texas Tribune)

HOUSING: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) says he will push again for land use reform in next year’s legislative session to address a housing supply shortage in the state. Polis’s proposal this year giving the state more authority over development and encouraging multi-family housing died amid opposition from local governments. (Colorado Public Radio)

TAXES: Oregon will return $5.6 billion in revenue surplus to tax payers, the largest “kicker” in state history. The typical Oregonian will receive a $980 credit on their personal income tax returns for 2023. (Associated Press) Kansas Republicans will advance a plan to cap property value increases as a way of controlling property taxes. Voters would have to approve the plan on the 2024 ballot if it passes the state House. (KCUR)

POLITICS: Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) political action committee will spend $1.4 million on a statewide ad campaign on abortion, aiming to undercut a prime Democratic message ahead of November’s elections. The ad says Democrats misrepresent what Republicans would do to restrict abortions if they win control of the General Assembly. (Richmond Times-Dispatch) The States Project, a Democratic outside group, will spend $4.5 million on Virginia legislative races ahead of next month’s election. (Politico

The Ohio Ballot Board has approved a proposed constitutional amendment to reform the way in which the state’s political boundaries are drawn, taking the redistricting process out of the hands of elected officials. Supporters must gather 415,000 valid signatures to qualify for the 2024 ballot. (Ohio Capital Journal)

Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (D) pulled in $5.6 million over the third quarter of the year, including $3 million from the Democratic Governors Association. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) raised $1.7 million over the same period, though he ended the quarter with $6 million in the bank, three times what Presley has to play with. (Pluribus News)