Counting Up the Wins, Remembering the Losses
Heading into the special session, it helps to provide some context in terms of agenda control and legislative wins for the Governor in the regular 85th session. Governor Abbott proclaimed the state of Texas was “exceptional” in his 2017 State of the State address – his legislative win rate, though, was less than exceptional.
The graph below charts the total number of proposals in Texas governors’ state of the state addresses from 2003 to 2017. The circles display the percent passed (out of the total number of requests). The size of Texas’ governors agendas (based on the number of requests) has decreased since 2007 but their average success has increased. Two possible reasons for this: Republican control of the legislature has increased and governors have more closely tailored their agendas to the politics of the moment.
Governor Abbott’s batting average is lower in the 85th regular session than in the last one, with several of his SOTS-requested policy requests failing – his average of requests to signed bills went from 80% to 72%. In some ways, he needed the special session to follow through on a few major policy items in addition to those that excite the Republican base.
The drama between Lieutenant Governor Patrick, Speaker Straus, and Governor Abbott in the last few weeks of the session was partially a sideshow to Governor Abbott not getting all of his requested policies passed, necessitating a call to special session so he could demonstrate executive efficiency.
The Governor remarked in his 2017 State of the State that “Texas is more than just numbers.” Certainly all numerical legislate success isn’t the same: a quality win is better than an easy win. But these numbers give us some context on the special session.
For more, check out Samantha Guthrie’s interesting work on the subject of gubernatorial success: http://www.american.edu/profiles/students/samantha.cfm
Governor, 85th, special
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Brandon Rottinghaus is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston