This Week in Texas Politics: School choice unravels, divisions on border security funding

Central Texas got its first cold snap of the season earlier this week, but in Texas politics, we got another political meltdown. FOX 7 Austin’s chief political reporter Rudy Koski and our panel of political analysts take a look at what went down This Week in Texas Politics.


RUDY KOSKI: We had Halloween this week, and it turns out that a bunch of kids in costumes were not the only ones out and about trick-or-treating. Let's get our headlines for the week from our panel and see what kind of tricks and treats we get from you guys. Patrick Svitek with the Texas Tribune. What's your headline for the week?  

PATRICK SVITEK: Deal or no deal on education priorities at the Texas Capitol.

RUDY KOSKI: Scott Braddock with the Quorum Report. Scott, what's your headline for the week?  

SCOTT BRADDOCK: Special session seems to be crashing and burning.

School choice agreement unravels

RELATED: Gov. Abbott confident a school choice deal can be made

RUDY KOSKI: Hey, let's stay with that. Scott, Gov. Abbott's school choice agreement unraveled just about as soon as he announced it. Was this a Halloween trick or a political double cross? What are you hearing?  

SCOTT BRADDOCK: Well, what I'm hearing is that it was just a Hail Mary by the governor. He's really desperate to pass his school choice initiative, which he has been campaigning on now for what? For at least 11 months, all year long?  

PATRICK SVITEK: Yeah, I would agree with Scott. I mean, it just seems like the governor was trying to create the perception or the appearance of momentum when there maybe wasn't that much momentum or any momentum really behind the scenes. And so he's clearly, you know, very eager, desperate for some kind of progress on this at this point and was maybe trying to force the House's hand.

RUDY KOSKI: Can a deal still happen at this later date, Scott?  

SCOTT BRADDOCK: No, not on school vouchers. There are 24 Republican members of the House, I'm told, who are just still Hell no votes on this.  

RUDY KOSKI: Yeah, but the Session doesn't end until Tuesday. And my Dick Tracy watch alarm hasn’t gone off, Patrick. Come on. A deal can be made, right?  

PATRICK SVITEK: You never say never on something like this. But I agree it's very unlikely they can strike some kind of, very, very, very unlikely, they could strike some kind of deal and get it to the governor's desk by the end of this special session.

House and Senate divided on border security funding

RELATED: Texas House debates HB 4 that would allow punishment to undocumented immigrants

RUDY KOSKI: Several key border security bills have also been caught up in this House-Senate stalemate. Patrick, you brought this up just a few moments ago. You know, if there's anything that I think that can be saved before the deadline hits on Tuesday, maybe it's the $1.5 billion security bill. Do you agree with that?  

PATRICK SVITEK: It could. I mean, so they were able to get a bill to toward Abbott's desks that increase penalties for human trafficking and stash house operations. But they're still the two chambers are still divided on border security funding. And then also another proposal to create a state crime for illegal entry from a foreign nation. And so, you know, we'll see if in these final days they can cobble together some kind of compromise.  

SCOTT BRADDOCK: I think that at this stage of the game, if you had the governor, the lieutenant governor and the speaker all on the same page wanting to get something done, it could and would probably get done. But they're not on the same page at all.  

PATRICK SVITEK: Yeah, we'll see. And, you know, there's always a question of the timing of the next special session. And, you know, my expectation is that it would be immediately called. But, you know, in the past we've seen kind of a "cooling out, cooling off" period in between special sessions.  

RUDY KOSKI: What do you think, Scott, a pre-Thanksgiving meal special session or leftovers after Thanksgiving?  

SCOTT BRADDOCK: We may see the House and Senate in session with the Christmas trees up in the middle of both chambers. That's very possible and hasn't happened in some time.

Trump holds campaign rally in Houston

RUDY KOSKI: Donald Trump returned to Texas holding a rally Thursday in Houston. Polls show that he still has a big lead in Texas. Guys, are the rest of the GOP candidates just writing off Texas? Is this a write-off, Scott?  

SCOTT BRADDOCK: It's hard to say that they're writing it off. They may just be, you know, in a situation where they can better spend their time in some smaller places.  

PATRICK SVITEK: I think people like Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley are going to keep coming back for fundraising in Texas. But in terms of actually trying to win the Texas primary, I don't think you're going to see a robust effort from them.

Gov. Abbott visits Israel

RELATED: Hundreds march in downtown Austin against Israel's ground offensive in Gaza

RUDY KOSKI: Gov. Greg Abbott taking a trip to Israel with the governor of Oklahoma. He says it was to show support for Israel after the Oct. 7 terror attacks. Scott, is this all it was or was he checking an important political box, maybe jumping into a political race, federal race? 

SCOTT BRADDOCK: I think the timing of the trip is really what's interesting as his special session is going out with a whimper, it seems, as what we've been talking about earlier, he gets out of town. And I think that, you know, the political calculation there could very well be that he and his consultant, Dave Carney, got together and said, where could we go? That's thousands of miles from the Texas capital. And no Republican would criticize you for, you know, for going.

Ken Paxton security fraud case set for April

RELATED: Houston hosts Ken Paxton's securities fraud trial starting April 15

RUDY KOSKI: For Ken Paxton, safe territory certainly isn't a courtroom. And we do know now that a courtroom is in his future. April is set for his security fraud case. Guys, we were talking about this earlier. Does it actually go to trial?  

PATRICK SVITEK: Yes, so that the special prosecutors were asked about the potential for a deal, you know, outside the courtroom on Monday morning. And they said they're not they're not involved a party to any discussions like that at this point.  

SCOTT BRADDOCK: He could face jail time. He could be in the TDC in prison if he's convicted. I think for up to 99 years on the charges that he's facing in Houston. And, of course, we have also heard about, you know, federal investigators, the FBI looking into him as well. I would think that would be the thing that he'd be worried about the most.

RUDY KOSKI: And with that, let's wrap up this week with one word, and we'll start with Patrick. What is your word for this week?  

PATRICK SVITEK: I'll go back to my headline and just use, Deal.  

RUDY KOSKI: Scott, close us out, with a word.  

SCOTT BRADDOCK: With a Whimper.  

RUDY KOSKI: And with that, we're wrapping up another Week in Texas Politics.