Mental health funding. School finance reform. Teacher pay raises. Property tax reform. School safety.
Those are Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency priorities for the 86th Texas Legislature, which convened in January and ends in May. The emergency declaration allows the legislature to bypass the normal 60 day restriction on debating and passing bills. It also means lawmakers must pass those items or are forced to return for special sessions until these issues are solved. There are only 110 days left.
There are a total of 28 new freshmen, including two returning members, from both parties in the state House. Six are from Dallas County. (Two special elections for unfilled seats are expected to easily stay in Democratic hands.) The Texas Senate swore in six freshmen, including two representing parts of Dallas County.
The freshman class includes a mix of familiar and new faces, such as Rep. Rhetta Bowers, a Democrat who ran for the southeast Dallas County seat in 2016 as well. Fellow Democratic Rep. Terry Meza ran three times—first in a primary then two times in a general election—before winning her seat, representing Grand Prairie and Irving.
Another Democrat, Rep. Carl Sherman, Jr. of DeSoto, succeeded longtime representative Helen Giddings. Sherman was the former mayor of that city. But most of his freshmen colleagues have never held public office. Rep. John Turner may be the most familiar name. He flipped the seat held by the Republican Jason Villalba, a current mayoral candidate who lost his primary to Lisa Luby Ryan.
But he may be the best known newcomer for two other reasons: he is the son of a former congressman who successfully represented multiple school districts in a 2014 school finance lawsuit against the state.
Bowers and Turner flipped open seats that have historically been friendly to Republicans. Others did, too. Like many of her freshman colleagues, Meza defeated an incumbent, Rodney Anderson. Sen. Nathan Johnson of Dallas knocked off Don Huffines. Democrat Rep. Julie Johnson of Carrollton defeated incumbent bomb-thrower Matt Rinaldi of Irving. In one of the biggest election night surprises, Rep. Ana Maria Ramos knocked off Linda Koop.
Rep. Jessica Gonzalez defeated longtime incumbent Roberto Alonzo in the primary. They join two new congressmen—Democrat Colin Allred and Republican Lance Gooden—as well as Republican freshman Sen. Angela Paxton.
Dallas County saw one of the highest number of legislative pickups in the state, all benefitting Texas Democrats. In total, the party flipped two senate seats, 11 house seats, and seized control of the U.S. House. The Dallas delegation includes 10 women and seven men, 11 of whom are people of color. Two are lesbians.
If the Texas Democratic caucus is emboldened, it has Dallas County to thank.Read More