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Abbott Pressuring Republican Reps. on Voucher Legislation

While it’s no secret that Gov. Greg Abbott has been pressuring his fellow Republican state legislators with his “Parent Empowerment Nights,” our sources at the Capitol have told RA News that the pressure has been increasing of late. 

In spite of the push, the Texas House on Thursday passed the Herrero Amendment to House Bill 1, which is the House version of the state budget. The amendment, sponsored by State Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Robstown), prohibits the expenditure of state dollars for voucher programs.

The amendment includes provisions banning state funds for any voucher-like program, including Abbott’s Education Savings Accounts. While vouchers could still be passed, they won’t be funded if this amendment stands. The cost of Abbott’s voucher program is estimated to be $1 billion and climbing

Prior to the vote, Rep. Brad Buckley, chair of House Public Education Committee, offered a motion to table the amendment. When the motion to table failed, he spoke in opposition to the amendment on the grounds that it was premature and argued that his committee should have the opportunity to debate voucher legislation when they convene next week. Rep. Cody Harris and Rep. John Smithee – both from rural districts highly skeptical of vouchers – also concurred with Buckley. 

Despite their opposition, the Herrero amendment passed 86-52. Oddly, Rep. Buckley didn’t ultimately take a stand on the amendment and simply voted “present.” Two other members of the Public Education Committee, Reps. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) and Cody Harris (R-Palestine), also voted “present.”

Capitol insiders have told RA News that the Governor had proxies in the Capitol all this week pressuring members to cave on the amendment. Some even tell us that Abbott’s people have been suggesting that the governor would veto their legislation if they supported the Herrero amendment.

In this context, it’s especially noteworthy that 24 Republican legislators stood up to the pressure, including five who went so far as to co-sponsor the amendment: Reps. Charlie Geren, Stan Lambert, Ernest Bailes, Ken King and Glenn Rogers.

Many Republican legislators represent districts whose majorities oppose the voucher scheme, yet Abbott is not content to let them vote their conscience or their district. Given the widely held belief that the governor is planning a presidential bid in 2024, he appears to be placing his own political future over the priorities of his fellow Republicans or their constituents. 

Nick Anderson
Nick Anderson
Writer, editor, photographer and editorial cartoonist Nick Anderson has joined the Reform Austin newsroom, where he will employ the artistic skill and political insights that earned a Pulitzer Prize to drive coverage of Texas government. As managing editor, Anderson is responsible for guiding Reform Austin’s efforts to give readers the unfiltered facts they need to hold Texas leaders accountable. Anderson’s original cartoons will be a regular feature on RA News. “Reform Austin readers understand the consequences of electing politicians who use ideological agendas to divide us, when they should be doing the hard work necessary to make our state government work for everyone,” Anderson said. “As a veteran journalist, I’m excited about Reform Austin’s potential to re-focus conversations on the issues that matter to common-sense Texans – like protecting our neighborhoods from increasingly common disasters, healthcare, just to name a few.” Anderson worked for the Houston Chronicle, the largest newspaper in Texas, from 2006 until 2017. In addition to the Pulitzer, Anderson earned the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Award. He’s also a two-time winner of Columbia College’s Fischetti Award, and the National Press Foundation’s Berryman Award. Anderson’s cartoons have been published in Newsweek, the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune and other papers. In 2005, Anderson won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning while working for the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. The judges complimented his “unusual graphic style that produced extraordinarily thoughtful and powerful messages.”


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