How the top statewide stories of 2019 indicate what 2020 could look like

Texas

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — It was a busy year in Texas politics.

From raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21 and updates to the driver license system, to a pair of August mass-shootings and presidential visits, Texans had a front-row seat to the year’s major moments.

State lawmakers started the year tackling bread-and-butter issues like education and property taxes.

“Democrats attention is spread across a range of issues that include healthcare, education,” Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project, said.

A topic that viewers of this site took particular interest in this year was legislation surrounding marijuana, hemp and CBD. That coverage took on several different forms, including medicinal, agricultural and criminal.

“We are seeing tremendous success with this medicine,” Morris Denton, head of the state’s leading medical cannabis company, Compassionate Cultivation, said in March.

“There’s a lot of talk out there for hemp – a big market for it,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said earlier this year.

“We’ve been concerned with proposed legislation that seeks to promote medical marijuana and seeks to decriminalize marijuana altogether,” Kilgore Police Chief Todd Hunter said in March.

As lawmakers addressed those issues and more, they left the Capitol trumpeting bipartisanship and legislative victories on budgeting, public school funding and taxes.

Then, two mass-shootings in August, in El Paso on Aug. 3, and in Odessa on Aug. 31, injected a sobering reality and brought forth serious conversations about gun violence and public safety.

“The time for talking is over, the time for action began today,” Gov. Abbott said in a press conference four days after the El Paso shooting. State leaders participated in legislative hearings and Abbott formed a domestic terrorism task force and a state safety commission to look at violence in Texas.

State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, said he also hoped the state would explore “how to address white supremacy, hate crimes and racism.”

Lawmakers also dedicated time to immigration issues. State leaders on opposite sides of the aisle held dueling press conferences to push their immigration agendas over what some called a “state of emergency” at the Texas-Mexico border.

“For Republicans, immigration, border security still dominate their view of what’s most important,” Henson said.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence collectively visited the state nearly a dozen times, including political rallies and multiple trips to the border.

As both parties prepare for the March primaries and the November election, Henson said the economy would likely dictate where voters land.

“What economic growth looks like, are we in a recession, how fast is growth,” Henson said. “You know our voters noticing it. What are approvals of economic performance. Right track, wrong track numbers. Things like that.”

When lawmakers return to the Capitol in Jan. 2021, there will be a new member of the “Big 3,” as House Speaker Dennis Bonnen announced he would not seek re-election following leaked comments in a meeting with a political non-profit leader. The controversy surrounding the details of that recording and its contents made headlines throughout the summer, and just last week, a House panel adopted a report saying the Speaker likely violated state law but would not likely be charged criminally.

Far and away, weather-related stories took the top slots, like this wall of dirt which blew across Lubbock at 60 miles per hour. Other, lighter reporting with wide popularity in Central Texas included law enforcement officers posing in Texas bluebonnets.

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