This Week in Texas Politics: War on Israel, school choice legislation

The main focus "This Week in Texas Politics" is the Special Session, but all the political drama, involving the legislative showdown in Austin, could not be contained by the capitol dome. 

FOX 7 Austin’s chief political Rudy Koski looks back at the week with our panel of political analyst.


RUDY KOSKI: This Week in Texas Politics began with the beginning of the third Special Session. But the hot topics in the governor's call overshadowed by some disturbing events. Let's get to the headlines with our panel. And we'll begin first with Brian Smith with Saint Edward's University. Brian, what's your headline. 

BRIAN SMITH: As temperatures cool across Texas, Ken Paxton reminds us that revenge is best served cold. 

RUDY KOSKI: Scott Braddock with a Quorum Report. What's your headline? 

SCOTT BRADDOCK: A war in the Middle East fueling a war in the Texas Republican Party. 

RUDY KOSKI: And Connie Swinney with the Highlander, Connie. What's your headline? 

CONNIE SWINNEY: Volatile political climate raises suspicion. 

RUDY KOSKI: A brief show of unity for Israel when the Special Session started. Didn't remove the cloud of animosity that was already festering over the Capitol dome in many ways, it may have amplified the rift between lawmakers. The lieutenant governor getting called out for accepting a multimillion-dollar donation from a group that even he confirmed met with a Nazi sympathizer. Patrick and others responded by calling on House Speaker Dade Phelan to resign because he still believes the attorney general, General Paxton, deserves to be impeached. On top of that, the Senate started moving legislation involving school choice, a vaccine ban and border security. Scott, the Speaker on Monday, said there needs to be some self-reflection within the state of Texas. He's talking about his own party. You know, I certainly didn't expect this to get so ugly, did you? 

SCOTT BRADDOCK: It's never been this bad between the two guys. But in some way, they're expected by the governor to move forward with his priorities, including school choice as soon as the next couple of weeks. It's hard to see a path forward for those things when there's so much animosity. 

CONNIE SWINNEY: Bread, butter, and the border. Those are the issues that continue to resonate here in the Hill Country. And it's raising skepticism among the conservatives out here. 

BRIAN SMITH: This is Bernie Madoff and Harvey Weinstein revisited. We're seeing this again now. But now the shoe is on the other foot. Republicans calling for Democrats to return this money. Now the lieutenant governor has to look in the mirror and say, you know, this money is not the kind of money I want to accept.  


RUDY KOSKI: Oh, and by the way, we've got a Special Session going on. And Governor Abbott's school choice legislation has cleared committee, cleared the Senate, and yet it's a strange package. Scott, describe this package, and how does this move forward in the House? 

SCOTT BRADDOCK: You know, this bill that was passed by the Senate overnight is actually smaller in scope, at least as far as how many students would be eligible. It's smaller than a bill that the governor said was too small earlier this year. It looks more and more like the governor is maybe willing to take any sort of deal he can get on this. Last night, he said at an event that he now has moved the ball to the one-yard line. He might ask the UT fans about that. The fact is its maybe not going to work out. 

BRIAN SMITH: Yeah, well, one thing about the one-yard line, maybe not UT, but as a lifelong Eagles fan, brotherly shove gets you across, all the time. 

CONNIE SWINNEY: Rudy I think the Education Savings Account element of it might take the sting out of it somewhat, but it's still taxpayer supported bank accounts. And even though they're trying to sell it, repackage it in such a way that maybe folks would be able to save and go, it's still going to be moving some of that public funding away from the schools that are here in our community. And the public-school leaders are not supportive of that. 

RUDY KOSKI: The other big issues in the Special Session, the ban on vaccine mandates and some type of border plan. Guys, this is for all of you. Which one's the sleeper issue? 

CONNIE SWINNEY: I feel like that the vaccine mandate, if it does pass, is kind of a sleeper issue, because if we're still hearing some of the hints of the potential for new COVID vaccine strains to cause problems. 

BRIAN SMITH: I don't really see a sleeper issue because the agenda is so small. There aren't a lot of opportunities for anybody to try to sneak an extra item into the ten items or the last line. 

SCOTT BRADDOCK: The sleeper issue is public school funding, which the Senate is moving on, even though it's not on the call as laid out by the governor. The lieutenant governor understands that there is no way for a school voucher bill of any size to pass in the Texas House without coupling that with something that puts more money into public education. 

RUDY KOSKI: Let's wrap up This Week in Texas Politics with one word, and we'll start off with Brian. Brian, what your word for this week? 

BRIAN SMITH: Vouchers. 

RUDY KOSKI: Connie, what's your word for the week? 


RUDY KOSKI: And Scott Braddock, your word for the week? 


RUDY KOSKI: And that wraps up another week in Texas politics.