The state Capitol building is pretty quiet this time of year but that will change when the Texas legislature convenes January 10th.
“There will be a fight that brews,” said political consultant, David Butts.
Political insiders, like Butts, expect this will be a contentious session with the some internal battles within Texas GOP over local control versus state control.
Some hard line Republicans want the state to have more of a say in what local governments do.
Butt said the push to give the state more power over smaller governments could be considered “hypercritical.”
Butts said, various parts of the state government have criticized the federal government for “sticking its nose” in the state’s business. “Now, the state proposes to come in and tell the city or the county what they can or cannot do,” Butts said.
The power struggle could play out in a number of different fronts, from school choice, to property tax limits, to ride sharing regulations, to plastic bag bans.
“So that fight is going to be very brutal,” Butts said.
In one corner, he expects to see moderate Republican House Speaker Joe Straus to push back against expanding the state’s power.
In the other corner, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, the passionate conservative who leads the state senate, is expected to push for state control.
Butts said some smaller government might welcome the idea while cities and counties that are growing are more likely to oppose state control “You’re going to see a lot of Republican county judges coming down here saying ‘what are you doing? This is going to be damaging to our ability to be effective and govern and address local issues,’” Butts said.
Texas Democrats picked up a handful of seats in the November election but the makeup of the state legislature remains relatively unchanged.
The GOP has controlled the Texas house and senate for decades and the 85th session will be no different.
New this session is a rule change Texas Republicans pushed to pass in 2015 that makes it easier for the GOP to move past Democratic resistance.
The Texas Senate no longer needs 21 votes to bring a bill forward to the Senate floor, which means Republicans can bring up a bill and pass it without the support of any Democrats.
Prior to the reform, it used to take the support of two-thirds of the senate to bring up a measure, now it only takes three-fifths.
“It basically is like a flood gate now,” Butts said.
President-elect Donald Trump takes office ten days after the session begins and with a Republican in the White House, Butts expects the Texas GOP will be more aggressive with a more conservative agenda in 2017.
“The tendency is to always believe that the wind is blowing your way, you better take advantage of that wind because it might not stay with you for very long,” said Butts.