Texas House speaker outlines interim priorities

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan still has a contested primary runoff to get through this month, but he still released a lengthy list of interim charges for House members to consider before the session begins in January. 

“I think he wants to convey an impression of confidence. He wants to convey the sense that he expects to continue as speaker of the House,” said Matthew Wilson, a Southern Methodist University professor of political sciences. 

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick unveiled his priorities in April and many issues overlap with Phelan, like further reducing property taxes.  

“You don’t just spend $12 billion on reducing property tax and that’s gone. Now the next session you have to re-appropriate that $12 billion to keep rates down,” said Josh Sanderson, executive director of the Equity Center. 

In contrast to Patrick, experts point out a lack of more conservative items on Phelan’s list like, reigning in what some conservatives classify as a leftist ideology on college campuses and combatting antisemitism. 

“Phelan, as is his habit, does not lean as much into some of the social and cultural war issues as Dan Patrick is inclined to do,” said Wilson. 

Some GOP members point out that the chambers list traditionally differs. Saying the importance is to align with state party priorities, which will be set at their convention next week. 

“It should match what we want. And if it’s not that, then I think that’s going to be reflected at the polls,” said Andy Hogue with the Travis County Republican Party. 

Phelan included studying the impact of educational savings accounts, which would let parents use taxpayer dollars to pay for private school. The failure of this in previous sessions landed Phelan in hot water among some GOP party members and could cost him his seat. 

“And one thing I liked on Phelan’s list is it’s looking at other states in terms of vouchers or education savings accounts. It’s trying its best to try and say, OK, how can we do this?” said Hogue. 

If Phelan does not win reelection, representatives would still need to address the interim charges. But experts say his influence would decrease drastically.