Ken Paxton acquittal could factor into education special session

Things are back to normal on the floor of the Texas Senate Monday following the Ken Paxton impeachment trial hearing.

After the Senate's acquittal vote for the attorney general on Saturday, Sept. 16, repairing the political rift that it caused poses a big job.

"You know, this has a bit of a Humpty Dumpty effect. You can't put it back together again. The bad blood has been aired, at least with the current leadership," said Brian Smith with St Edward’s University.

The bad blood between Lt Gov Patrick Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan, according to Smith, will be on display again, if and when, a Special Session is called. Lawmakers are expected to take up a teacher pay raise and Governor Greg Abbott’s modified school choice idea.

"The governor has said he wants school choice. This is one of his big legislative priorities. He ran on this issue, and he's not going to give it up without a fight. And if that means holding teacher pay raises hostage in order to get what he wants or at least get a vote on what he wants, he's going to be willing to do that or call another special session until he gets that vote," said Smith.

Governor Greg Abbott was in Houston kicking off a hospital reconstruction project on Monday. Abbott didn't take any questions about how he plans on rebuilding political relationships under the capitol dome.

"Vouchers have gone from dead to double dead," said Mark Wiggins, with the Association of Texas Professional Educators.

Wiggins noted the school voucher idea cleared the Senate, during the regular Session, and failed in the House. He thinks the vote count in the House hasn’t changed, but he expects in a Special Session an attempt to force an education plan through the House could involve wrapping school choice into a teacher pay bill. 

"I think there's no reason to strike a deal that involves one for the other. We're talking about something that would have very long-term implications, negative implications on the public school system. Vouchers would set us on a path of privatization that would ruin the public school system for generations to come," said Wiggins.

Another ugly divisive and debate by Republicans could happen. If one does happen it could provide Democrats with some much-needed political spin according to Smith.

"And if they're unable to get legislation passed, this opens the door for the Democrats to say, you know what, you've given this party a chance. They're not passing anything. Why not turn the ball over to us," said Smith.


The battle could be over Independent voters and moderate conservatives in the GOP.

"Where do they go? Well, they can either stay home and not vote or hold their nose and vote for the party because they can say, you know what, having a Republican there is better than having a Democrat, even if it's a Republican I disagree with," said Smith.

Lt Gov. Dan Patrick added fuel, Monday, to the political bridge fire that he set Saturday when he criticized House members for impeaching the attorney general. 

He issued a statement that he has made a formal request to the state auditor to make a report on all the money that the state House spent investigating and prosecuting Paxton.