The best laid plans of Texas Republicans are falling apart … because of infighting among those same Texas Republicans.
Legislators have been meeting in Austin over the last several weeks in a special session Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called to address education savings accounts, school funding and border security. The education savings plans have been atop Abbott’s to-do list for years, but an unlikely coalition of urban Democrats and rural Republicans have stood in the way.
This was supposed to be the year Abbott made a breakthrough, especially after so many other Republican-led states adopted or expanded voucher programs.
But a last-minute deal to advance the savings accounts fell apart, and so did a border security plan, after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) and House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) reignited their long-boiling feud.
Patrick wields more power than just about any lieutenant governor in America, a legacy of post-Civil War rules that bestow disproportionate authority in his office as the leader of the state Senate. Patrick himself has exercised that power effectively in recent years, and he’s never shied from attacking his counterparts in the House — all fellow Republicans — when it suits his purposes.
Phelan, meanwhile, is no shrinking violet, and he’s demonstrated the support of his own House Republican conference to effectively push back against Patrick’s demands when Phelan thinks they go too far.
Another special session is likely. A rapprochement between Patrick and Phelan is not.
Being governor often means settling disputes between warring factions. For Abbott, those warring factions are the two people he most needs to advance his agenda.
Here are eight things you might have missed in the states this week:
WORKFORCE: Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) signed an executive order Monday eliminating college degree requirements for most state jobs. Walz cited surveys of state workers showing most are unhappy with their lack of career advancement opportunities. Minnesota follows Maryland, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Utah and Alaska in cutting degree requirements. (Pluribus News)
GIG ECONOMY: Ride-share companies Uber and Lyft have agreed to pay $328 million in back wages to drivers in a pair of settlements with New York Attorney General Letitia James (D). Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said Uber has agreed to start paying into the state’s unemployment insurance fund in a first-of-its-kind settlement. (Pluribus News)
We saw gig economy bills advance in Washington, Minnesota and Massachusetts this year. Expect more action in legislatures next year.
TECHNOLOGY: Ohio Republicans have introduced legislation to require adult entertainment websites to verify user ages. The measure would charge sexually explicit websites with a third-degree felony for failing to verify user ages. A federal judge has blocked a similar law in Texas, and laws in Arkansas and Utah are being challenged in court. (NewsNation)
LGBTQ RIGHTS: The New Hampshire legislature heard testimony Tuesday on a new proposal to ban gender-affirming genital surgeries on minors. The pared-down version of the bill does not address non-genital surgeries or hormone treatments like puberty blockers. (Boston Globe)
ABORTION: The Michigan House approved legislation protecting abortion rights. The bill does not include provisions that would have allowed Medicaid funding for abortion care and rescinded a 24-hour waiting period to get an abortion to win over state Rep. Karen Whitsett (D), who voiced opposition to those elements of the Senate-passed bill. (Detroit News)
IMMIGRATION: Massachusetts will partner with the federal Department of Homeland Security to help migrants apply for work authorization documents in an effort to ease the strain on shelters. Massachusetts is sheltering 7,268 families, and Gov. Maura Healey (D) says they can only accommodate 7,500 families. (Boston Globe)
The mayors of Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and New York — all Democrats — are seeking a meeting with President Biden about federal help they need to manage a surge of migrants arriving in their cities. (Associated Press)
MARIJUANA: A Pennsylvania House subcommittee held its first-ever hearing on legalizing recreational marijuana this week, the first of what chairman Dan Frankel (D) says will be several hearings over the next few months. (Harrisburg Patriot-News) Indiana’s Interim Study Committee on Commerce and Economic Development held a six-hour meeting to consider legalized marijuana, though it did not advance any recommendations. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Both states border Ohio, where voters are likely to approve a legal marijuana ballot measure next week.
POLITICS: Former President Donald Trump endorsed Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) for re-election, a week ahead of Election Day. In a video filmed for Reeves’s campaign, Trump ties Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (D) to President Biden. (Mississippi Today, Supertalk) As of Tuesday, new campaign finance reports show Presely has $1.3 million left in the bank, while Reeves has $1.2 million left to spend. Both have spent about $11 million on the race so far. (Pluribus News)
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) says he will not seek a ruling blocking lawmakers from returning to special session to redraw U.S. House district lines, after a federal judge ordered the state to draw a fifth majority-Black congressional district in the west metro Atlanta area. The judge gave legislators until Dec. 8 to draw a new map; Gov. Brian Kemp (R) scheduled a special session for Nov. 29. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Outside groups have spent more than $17 million on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court battle between Dan McCaffery (D) and Carolyn Carluccio (R). The two sides have spent more than $12 million since Sept. 18 alone. Democrats hold five of seven seats on the high court. (Associated Press)
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams (D) filed papers to run for governor of West Virginia, a month after announcing he would run for the state’s top job. He’s the only Democrat in the race; Secretary of State Mac Warner (R), Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), Delegate Moore Capito (R) and auto dealer Chris Miller (R) are all seeking the GOP nomination. (Charleston Gazette-Mail)
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) will go on trial on securities fraud charges on April 15, a state district court judge said Monday. Paxton was indicted on the charges eight years ago. (Texas Tribune)