AUSTIN (Nexstar) – As the legislative session comes down to its final weeks, the issues making headlines around the capitol are not exactly the issues Republicans with a self-proclaimed “messaging problem” want to be focusing on.
“One of the criticisms that Republican leadership in the state has faced in recent years is that they’ve focused on divisive issues as opposed to the bread and butter,” said Texas Tribune breaking news editor Matthew Watkins.
This week, lawmakers spent hours battling over divisive measures like the so-called Save Chick-Fil-A bill and a proposal barring city and county contracts with clinics that provide abortions.
But there is hope on the horizon for the big issues all lawmakers knew they had to address in this session.
Watkins said the big push for school finance reform, which for years has been one the most pressing issues lawmakers have been trying to fix, is finally nearing a deal. Along with a deal on property taxes, both of which lawmakers came into the session determined to address, are “getting close to getting to the governor.”
“I think if they can get those across the finish line you will hear them say ‘we accomplished the things we needed to accomplish,” Watkins said.
House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, is one person who thinks lawmakers are doing the job they promised to voters.
“We want teachers to be paid more and they’re going to be when this is done,” Bonnen said. “We want districts to have the ability to make good decisions on how to do that. We need to quit treating teachers all identically.”
Bonnen said he wants teacher pay to be based on quality of work and their ability to teach in an area of subject school district may be struggling in.
These hot button issues are at the forefront for upcoming elections as Republicans have said they need to change their message to draw back in voters, specifically the women voters they lost in 2018.
“Every bill, all the messaging, the fact that they’re focusing more on school finance and taxes is because they’re looking towards the next election,” said Dallas Morning News state capitol reporter, Lauren McGaughy.
“They’re on track to fulfill their promises and all they need to do at the end of the session is pass some kind of legislation that they’re going to be able to point to when they’re coming up against these big elections,” McGaughy said.
Although McGaughy said she’s unsure there will be any substantive property tax reform because the legislation being considered right now won’t actually bring a drop in rates.
“People will see their tax bills, maybe slow down the rate of increase, but their not actually going to see them fall,” McGaughy said. “Is that enough? Are people going to be happy with that? And are the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker going to be happy with it?”