January 7 , 2019

Inside this edition of Capitol Roundup:
86th Texas Legislature convenes Tuesday, Jan. 8, with changes in leadership and rank-and-file membership

Candidates declared in Jan. 29 special elections for two seats in Texas House


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Quote of the Week

"At the end, there is really no better good-bye than the words of Davy Crockett when he left Congress, when he said, affectionately: 'You may all go to hell, I am going to Texas.'"

-Former U.S. Rep. Ted Poe
One of nine Texan members of Congress departing Washington this year, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Houston) bid his colleagues farewell last week, jokingly quoting the famous Texan. Poe and the eight other House members officially left office Thursday.
Bipartisan tone surrounds Austin as leaders signal efforts to reform property taxes and school finance

When the 86th Texas Legislative Session begins tomorrow, state lawmakers will convene in Austin for the next 140 days to vote on the state's next two-year budget and any other legislation that emerges. 

After the 2018 midterm election, Republicans in both the Texas House and Senate maintained control with majority numbers. However, those margins became slimmer in November when Democrats upended 12 GOP seats in the House and two in the Senate. This shift, veteran lawmakers say, could lead to more bipartisan efforts. 

Sen. Kel Seliger
"Maybe, just maybe," state Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo)  said at a Texas Tribune event, "there will be an added emphasis on bipartisanship and cooperation and realizing that we've got to get to May together with some real challenges that don't really look like Republican challenges or Democratic challenges when we talk about school finance and things like that."

Similarly, state Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) said the midterm results left him feeling "pretty hopeful" of a "less partisan mood and more of a problem-solving mood on the big issues we need to pay attention to between now and the end of the session."
Sen. Kirk Watson

The lead-up to this year's cycle has taken on a relatively neutral tone as the leaders in Austin are homing in on reforms that most lawmakers agree should be priorities. While battle lines were drawn early in 2017 over Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's push for the controversial "bathroom bill," Patrick has yet to lay out any specific objectives this session. Plus, House Speaker Joe Straus, who disagreed with Patrick on many social issues, will no longer reside over the lower chamber. 

Instead, the focus this cycle appears to be  reforming the state's property tax and public education systems, which are two areas Republican leaders in Austin have agreed need to be fixed in recent years. Last session, the House and Senate failed to agree on a final version of a property tax relief bill.

"This is going to be more of a blocking and tackling session. This is more of a basics session," said state Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) who led Senate efforts on property tax reform last session, often sparring with Straus and House members.

Rep. Dennis Bonnen
"The top three things is - number one, number two and number three - is school finance and property tax reform. Those are the top three issues for me," Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) said last month. 

Bonnen, who has all but secured the House Speaker position for the upcoming session, often played the role of mediator between the House and Senate last session, especially when the two chambers passed conflicting legislation to reform property taxes. 

Despite the testy House-Senate relationship that played
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick
out during that debate last year, Bonnen and Patrick have signaled they're willing to cooperate to pass meaningful reform. 

Patrick wrote in a Dec. 31 email to supporters that he is "even more determined to pass legislation to reform and reduce property taxes in 2019... With new leadership in the Texas House, I am confident we can get that done," he wrote.
Field of candidates set for two Texas House special elections

The deadline has passed for candidates to file in two special elections to replace outgoing Texas House members Reps. Carol Alvarado and Joe Pickett. The elections will be held Jan. 29  with early voting beginning Jan. 14. 

Sen. Carol Alvarado
In Houston, eight candidates will appear on the ticket in the House District 145 race for Alvarado's seat. The candidates include six Democrats, one Republican and one Libertarian to replace Alvarado, who was elected to the state Senate last month. 

The candidates in the District 145 race include: Democrats  Christina Morales, Melissa Noriega, Oscar Del Toro, Ruben Gonsalez, Elias De La Garza and Alfred Moreno; Republican Martha Fierro; and Libertarian Clayton Hunt. 

Former Rep. Joe Pickett
Meanwhile, in El Paso, three candidates are competing for the House District 79 seat being vacated by Pickett, who cited health reasons when he resigned last week after serving nearly 24 years in office.

The three candidates to replace Pickett are Democrat Art Fierro, Democrat Michiel Noe, and Republican Hans Sassenfeld.

January 2019
MON 8th - First Day of 86th Legislature
FRI 18th - Board meeting
February 2019
FRI 15th - OCAs submission deadline
TUE 26th - Legislative Day
April 2019
FRI 26th - TBB Board meeting
May 2019
MON 27th - Last Day of 86th Legislature
June 2019
WED 5th - SAT 8th - Convention @ Jackson Hole, WY
August 2019
THU 22nd - OCA awards @ Georgetown, TX
FRI 23rd - Board meeting
November 2019
FRI 15th - Board meeting