DALLAS - The 86th Texas Legislature came to an end Monday in Austin. Harmony under the dome allowed lawmakers to pass major legislation without the deep divide along party lines that has marked previous sessions.
Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate worked together to approve a two-year state budget with a 16% spending increase from the 2017 legislative session.
Lawmakers also kept a promise to send more state money to public schools. And they’re giving some (but not much) relief to homeowners burdened by high property taxes and funding for Hurricane Harvey recovery.
It was a session notably different from two years ago.
“2017 was all about the bathroom bill, hot button items. People were threatening to fight each other on the floor of the legislature and then the 2018 elections threw out a lot of Republicans,” said SMU political science professor Cal Jillson.
Twelve House Republicans were sent home in the midterm elections. Jillson believes the GOP got the message, dropped the hot button stuff and focused on the big-ticket items like school safety, school finance, teacher pay and property tax reform.
“So they did a series of good things. It’s not transformative as the governor would have us to believe but it's positive,” he said. “It just shows what they can do when they focus on serious issues. So we can hold their feet to the fire in the future to perform more like they did this year.”
The $250 billion budget now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. He can veto individual items.
Other notable bills that will head to the governor’s desk include bills to expand the state’s medical cannabis program and allow hemp farming, a school safety bill, a bill to reduce Texas’ rape kit backlog, the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill, a ban on red light cameras, a bill that creates an adult missing person alert and a bill requiring natural gas providers to replace aging pipes.