The 2023 Texas legislative session started with a record budget surplus and ended with an impeached attorney general

The 2023 session began with a surplus of $32,7 billion. The 2023 legislative session was marred by Republican scandals and infighting. The House then impeached state attorney general.

Texas lawmakers predicted a historic session in 2023, with a budget surplus of $32.7 billion to spend. They also had a number of conservative priorities that they wanted to rally behind.

They did indeed adjourned a historic meeting on Monday. They may not have expected the reason they did.

The Texas House’s overwhelmingly voted to impeach Ken Paxton, the embattled Attorney-General.

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As both chambers adjourned Monday, House Speaker Dade Phelan announced that there would be at least one additional round of legislation — a special session convened by Governor. Greg Abbott was virtually guaranteed.

He said: “I expect to receive a proclamation in the next twelve hours from the Governor, so don’t pack your bags yet.”

Abbott confirmed it Monday night by calling a special session immediately to address property taxes and border concerns. Abbott said that multiple sessions would be needed, and a few issues will be discussed in each session.

Only three of Abbott’s priority items, which he urged early on in the regular session to be addressed, are likely to reach his desk. A swath conservative measures have been weakened by Republican bickering in both chambers.

The end of 140 long days of legislative work was marked by an unusually busy Monday. The governor’s office and both chambers spent hours trying to reach a compromise on property taxes. The House then appointed 12 members to a board to investigate Paxton. The 12 representatives then walked to the Senate and delivered the articles of impeachment. The chamber’s secretary informed the Senate before it adjourned that seven senators appointed by the Senate would return to the chamber on June 20th to discuss the rules of impeachment procedures and that the trial will begin before August ends.

In terms of policy, legislators failed to reach a compromise to lower property taxes. A plan to increase law enforcement at the border failed. The state could not find a plan for school vouchers that was acceptable to Abbott and the majority of the House, nor were they able to increase teacher salaries in a time of unprecedented teacher shortage. Patrick has not been able to eliminate tenure at Texas’ public university despite his best efforts. However, lawmakers will now have more control over this long-standing tradition.

The majority of conservatives voted to ban hormone treatments and puberty blocking drugs for transgender kids. State money was provided to build or upgrade gas-fueled power stations. The state agreed to punish voting while ineligible as a crime and eliminate offices on college campuses that promoted diversity, equity and inclusivity. The criminal penalties were also increased for those who sell fentanyl. All of these measures have been sent to Governor’s Office and are poised to become laws.

All that state money made it possible to have bipartisan victories. The state legislature voted to establish a $3 billion fund to endow a grouping of public universities. They also allocated $1 billion for improvements to water infrastructure and $1.5 billion to expand access to broadband internet in the state. The state restructured the way it funds two-year colleges, and injected more than $650 millions into community colleges.

The regular session was characterized by controversy and disagreement throughout.

In the past five months, a former Royse City Rep. Bryan Slaton was expelled from the House after an investigation found that he had provided alcohol to her and had sexual relations with her. Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of Texas, called for the resignation House Speaker Dade Phelan after he claimed that a video showing him preside over the House in a marathon session late at night showed him drunk. (Phelan did not comment on the video.

The House announced that they had been investigating Paxton’s allegations of bribery for several months and that he has a long history of breaking the law and being unethical.

The regular session culminated with the impeachment Paxton, despite an objection at the last minute from President Donald Trump.

No wonder people seem to have forgotten that Georgetown Senator Charles Schwertner had been arrested for drunk driving just three months earlier.

The scandals and internal fighting have left a lot of unfinished business. A trial in the Senate regarding Paxton’s future political career is also on the horizon.

Phelan, Monday, told House members: “I would never have believed it if you had told me that this session would be more challenging and interesting than the last one.”

But it was. Not just for the Texas House but also for the entire state of Texas, this has been an interesting and challenging session. This week’s events were nothing to be proud of. What happened this week was nothing I am proud of. It was necessary. It was right. “The Texas House spoke, and we sent a powerful message for the future Texas.”

Differences and divisions

The tumult of this session was centered on the strained relationship between Patrick and Phelan, the leaders of both chambers.

Patrick outlined his legislative priorities before the Senate session began. He called them “the strongest, most conservative agenda in history.” They included bills to prevent transgender students from participating on sports teams that match their gender identity, ban gender affirming medical care for youth, and ban minors from attending drag events.

Phelan had a different list of priorities. He wanted to exempt sales tax on items such as diapers and tampons, and expand Medicaid for new mothers. He supported bills requiring tech companies to provide parents with access to minors’ privacy settings and account settings, and to limit the collection and use of data. He wanted to improve school safety, and restructure the way that the state finances its community colleges.

The upper chamber quickly moved Patrick’s priority through in the first few weeks, mostly along party lines. Patrick complained that the House was not moving quickly enough.

He said in social media that “sending so many bills late will mean that most of them will die because of the clock.” Not our fault. “Help us to help you.”

It was soon apparent that there were stark differences in policy on the issue both chambers wished to address: How to control the property taxes paid by Texas residents.

House Republicans wanted the cap on home value growth to be lowered by half and extended to businesses.