Dan Patrick and his band of reverse Robin Hood merry men close up shop in Austin this week. If Dan proved anything this session it is that he cannot translate election results into policy changes. Which is a very good thing for Texas.
After a primary campaign Patrick won by running to the right of Attila the Hun and a general election that the Wendy Davis implosion robbed of all drama, I steeled myself for the worst. Schools on bread and water budgets with parents ordering surf and turf. Tank divisions on the border. Abortions available only on Tuesday afternoons to women accompanied by their pastor. Work camps for pre-kindergartners. High school drill teams required to use real rifles.
The Tea Party had their man in what tradition holds is the most powerful post in the state. They armed him with a near super majority. And they filled the lower house with representatives holding similar views. Yet, at the end of 140 days, the changes were more cosmetic than substantial.
Patrick’s preferred school choice strategy was to raid the treasury for vouchers subsidizing wealthy families in their decisions to send children to private schools. His back-up idea was the elimination of franchise taxes for companies willing to scholarship disadvantaged students into private schools. He got neither. While schools remain underfunded in comparison to pre-2011 levels and most of the country, at least funding levels went up rather down. Governor Abbott even bumped up, ever so slightly, pre-K funding.
The goal on abortion was to eliminate coverage from state insurance plans. Dan had to settle for extra harassment of abused and neglected, pregnant minors who make the sensible decision that another abused and neglected minor in the world is not a good thing. All sorts of hare-brained schemes to thwart the inevitable U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing same sex marriage died slow deaths. Open carry and campus carry passed but at least the bills still allow for adult supervision by police and university administrators.
Finally, “border security” was the issue that propelled Dan the highest with the electorate. The budget calls for $800 million in border security spending over the next two years. A large number to be sure, but at the end of the day the expenditure is less than 0.5% of the budget total. More importantly, the officers policing the border will be charged with enforcing the law as it is in the United States, not as it is in Arizona, the state Dan would like to make his own model United Nations.
I am not resting yet. Dan has the opportunity to inflict more damage over the coming years. His best opportunity will come after the Texas Supreme Court tells us in a few months that the school finance system is still unconstitutional. We will probably see a special session devoted exclusively to that issue. Until then, however, Dan appears to be an underachieving despot. But maybe I am just picking on him.