There is no doubt the spotlight was on Texas politics in 2017. The action-packed session gave way to even more action during a special session and the resignation of House Speaker Joe Straus.
Here are the top stories that shaped Texas politics in 2017:
Straus gives up the gavel – Many shocked
House Speaker Joe Straus shocked the Texas political world when he announced in October he would not seek re-election after serving a five-year term. Straus had previously said he would seek re-election for House Speaker in 2019 and when he announced his refusal, many of his closest allies were stunned.
Straus’ retirement paves the way for a hectic race between State Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) and state Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond) who threw his hat into the ring just hours after the Straus announcement.
Governor Abbott calls for special session
After the regular session ended in May without the passage of critical sunset legislation a special session was inevitable. However, this special session was extra special as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott not only called an overtime round to approve the sunset bills but also created an ambitious 20-item agenda.
Ultimately, only half of Abbott’s agenda made it through the Legislature. Two of the governor’s top priorities, the “bathroom bill” and property tax reform got jammed-up in the lower chamber just as it did during the regular session.
Bathrooms and big business
The so-called “bathroom bill” was no doubt the proposal that garnered the most attention and controversy. The bill was proposed to regulate which restrooms transgender Texans could and could not use and was championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
The bill eventually found the top three leaders in the state at odds. While Patrick pushed the bill, Straus was right behind fighting the measure every step of the way amid strong opposition from the business community. Abbott was stuck in the middle, but eventually sided with Patrick and the bill ended up on the special session agenda.
Sanctuary cities ban
Abbott was very aggressive in his promotion of passing a ban on sanctuary cities; however, there was a definite division between democrats and republicans on this issue. As the regular session was coming to a close there was a scuffle on the House floor which was sparked by Republican lawmakers’ objections to Senate Bill 4 protests in the gallery. Eventually, Abbott signed the bill into law on Facebook Live.