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Texas Lawmakers Graded ‘B’ On Their Report Card

State lawmakers are packing up their offices in the Texas Capitol and heading back home now that the legislative session is over. But how did they do?

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The Texas Legislature ended much like it began: with the slam of the gavel.

Ask lawmakers how those 140 days went, and their answers are pretty positive.

“I think the 84th Legislature has been very successful from a conservative point of view,” said Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston.

“Some things that were accomplished were not anything to brag about,” said Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, adding they still accomplished a lot.

“I think it’s been very successful. You know, we passed a balanced budget,” said Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Humble.

But let’s check with two political scientists on how this legislature performed with a new governor and a new lieutenant governor for the first time in years.

“I think a lot of people looked at this session like it was going to be complete chaos and it would be overrun by intraparty fights and institutional fights and unknown leadership,” said Brandon Rotttinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.

But that didn’t happen. He said it was fairly smooth.

Both Republicans and Democrats can point to victories. And neither one got everything they wanted.

“In terms of the policy, I think you’d probably give them a B-plus, maybe a B. You’re talking about issues that got mostly addressed. But I think there was still worry that some things were not funded as they should have been, education, transportation,” Rottinghaus said.

Both public schools and universities will get slightly bigger budgets.

Border security will get a lot more funding: $800 million.

The mention of that recently made Jon Taylor, chair of the political science department at the University of St. Thomas, groan.

“I’m not sure it’s going to be noticeable, let alone make a lick of difference,” Taylor said.

Taylor also gave lawmakers a B-plus on their report card.

But he said that they didn’t address major issues like prison reform, water resources and school finance.

“Those things you just can’t let them fester. At some point, you have to face them head on,” he said.

Taylor said that it’s almost impossible to fix deep policy concerns in a regular session because 140 days isn’t enough time.

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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