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From the “Hope springs eternal” department

Texas Democrats have hope that the upcoming legislative session won’t be any worse than preceding ones.

Road-Sign-with-Hope-and-Sky[1]

Despite all of the turnover in state government in 2014, the Texas Legislature will reconvene in January with a familiar balance of power. Democrats, resigned to a perennial minority, remain outnumbered by Republicans by a two-to-one margin.

The majority is seen as most conservative in recent memory, a reality that Democrats say may augur a tougher 140 days than usual for them.

“The bottom line is that I think it’s going to be a very difficult session,” said state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin. “We are in a complete minority as we have been for a while and on many of these issues … it’s been rough the last few sessions.”

Nonetheless, lawmakers from both parties are quick to note a large part of their work in Austin is not as politically divisive as the legislation that often makes headlines.

“It’s going to be a very conservative Senate, but this is Texas, it’s not Washington, and we have to get things done,” said state Sen. Joan Huffman of Houston, who chairs the Senate Republican Caucus.

[…]

Some Democrats take heart in the fact that two of their top priorities – education and transportation – also are among Gov.-elect Greg Abbott’s targets. Since beating Democrat Wendy Davis on Election Day, Abbott has been vocal about the need for bipartisanship to carry out his agenda.

“What he’s been saying is encouraging, and I take him at his word,” said state Rep. Chris Turner of Fort Worth, who managed Davis’ campaign and chairs the House Democratic Caucus. “To the extent he and other Republicans want to focus on education and transportation and other core issues like that, I think they’ll find that Democrats are ready and willing to work together and find solutions.”

Longtime Democratic consultant Harold Cook said it is not all doom and gloom for his party’s legislators, explaining they should feel heartened by the senior staff announced so far by Gov.-elect Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick. Calling the officials “certified grown-ups” and “honest brokers” with bipartisan credentials in Austin, Cook said they should offer a sliver of hope to Democrats worried about this session.

“Let’s face it, a lot of Democrats are not going to agree with the ideological stuff. That happened on Election Day,” Cook said. “What you can deal with is whether your voice is heard and whether your view is considered.”

Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said Democrats in recent years have proven adept at doing just that.

“They’ve been very smart and savvy about cutting deals and holding the line when they could,” said Rottinghaus, citing efforts to slow down the legislative process with amendments and points of order. “To be honest, Republicans sometimes bit off more than they can chew.”

It’s true that Republicans have overreached in the past. It’s also rue that they haven’t exactly suffered at the ballot box for it. That said, Texas Democratic legislators have been adept at playing defense and wringing what they can out of the limited opportunities they have had. I believe those abilities will be tested again this session. I’d like to believe that Abbott and Patrick will govern as grownups that are interested in solving the real problems this state faces. I just don’t see a whole lot of evidence in their past records or the campaigns they ran to suggest that they will.

As such, color me even more dubious of this.

In a private meeting with Houston-area state lawmakers last week, Gov.-elect Greg Abbott brought up a topic so radioactive in Texas politics that even the mention of it caught the room off guard, according to three of those present.

The longtime attorney general, who made a name for himself by suing President Barack Obama and his administration, asked for more information about a compromise recently struck by the Republican governor of Utah and the federal government that could pave the way for that heavily conservative state to expand Medicaid through the president’s signature health care law.

“I don’t even know anything about the Utah model, but it was encouraging because it sounded like at least he’s looking at options,” said one of the attendees, Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, who supports Medicaid expansion. “It was like, if he’s bringing this up, he’s not shutting the door on it. I think he’s open to looking at it.”

However brief the exchange, which an Abbott spokeswoman declined to confirm or otherwise discuss, the reaction that it generated in the room illustrates the surprising optimism of some supporters of a Medicaid expansion compromise in Texas heading into next year’s legislative session.

Twenty-seven states now have accepted some form of Medicaid expansion, including eight with Republican governors; proposals are under discussion in seven other states, including Utah, according to the nonprofit Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. An effort to get Texas to negotiate with the federal government on a compromise stalled in the Legislature in 2013, but a coalition of liberals, moderate conservatives, hospitals, businesses, social service organizations and local government officials is gearing up for a heavy push this time around.

We’ve been over this before. The words “block grant” don’t appear in that story, but barring any actual, on the record words from Greg Abbott to the contrary, that remains the goal of any “Medicaid” expansion deal for him and the rest of the leadership. As that is neither “Medicaid” nor “expansion” in any meaningful sense, nor something the Obama administration will touch with a ten-foot pole, it’s not worth wasting time on. Hoping that Dan Patrick will act more like David Dewhurst circa 2003 is the more realistic item for one’s wish list. EoW has more.

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One Comment

  1. Charly Hoarse says:

    So we’ve got them right where we want us?
    ‘Hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.’