Spring 2019 - 60165 - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Politics & Issues of the Texas Legislature

This course will focus on the legislative session that begins in mid January, at almost the moment we first gather, and ends in late May, not long after we wrap ourselves. Our focus will be the issues in play, the stakes we all have in the outcomes of the fights, the political byproducts of the 2018 election cycle, the delightful role of tribalism, and the players in the lineup and on the sidelines: legislators and lobbyists, activists and agitators, journalists and just folks. We'll build each weekly class around the agenda as it evolves and the day’s headlines.

This is the 86th such gathering of our state lawmakers, who convene in Austin every two years for 140 days. Some would prefer they meet two days every 140 years. Regardless, that’s not a lot of time to transact the business of the 10th largest economy in the world, and it’s even less than it appears — the first 60 days, by tradition, are largely ceremonial, with no votes cast or laws passed. Don’t believe for a second, however, that those remaining 80 days are the whole story. Already we’re seeing, in the interim, as always, the broad outlines of what’s to come. We know for sure we’ll tangle over school finance, higher ed outcomes, toll roads, border security funding, property taxes and, of course, local control (the narrative through-line of the 2017 session). There will be other issues, certainly, but that’s a pretty good start. What we don’t yet know: the precise make-up of the Texas House and Senate, who the next Speaker will be (WHICH IS NO SMALL THING), which party takes control of the U.S. House, and whether POTUS is emboldened or hobbled as a result. Each week I intend to have big-name, expert guests visit our class, in person and virtually, to discuss what's really going in — under the dome in Austin, in agencies and commissions, and around town and around the state.

Our time together will be heavy on discussion, debate and dialogue, with participation rewarded and timidity discouraged. Every student will be graded on both preparation and execution, along with basic knowledge of the news.