Around the Texas Capitol: Major upcoming election, New senator takes office, legislative studies wrapping up

By Shayne Woodard and J Pete Laney, TAD Governmental Affairs

As the general election date approaches, campaigns gear up in the home stretch, even as those at the state Capitol prepare for the upcoming legislative session.

General election coming up

The Oct. 9 voter registration deadline passed with a record 15.6 million voters now registered in Texas.  This is about 1.6 million more voters than were registered four years ago during the mid-term election of 2014. Typical mid-term election turnout is about 33 percent to 40 percent of registered voters. Both parties pushed voter registration drives that registered over 400,000 new voters since the primary election in March.

Early voting for the general election begins Oct. 22 and will last until Friday, Nov. 2, with the general election on Nov. 6.

Austin insiders continue to discuss potential legislative upsets in the urban areas of Texas, primarily in the Austin, Dallas and Houston vicinities. Democrats seem to have galvanized behind U.S. Senate Democrat candidate Beto O’Rourke, hoping he will pull down-ballot congressional and legislative races over the finish line with him. As many as 15 to 18 Republican incumbent Texas House seats are considered to be in-play in these urban areas.

O’Rourke has raised a record $38 million over the past three months, apparently mostly from out-of-state big donors. Incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz reported raising over $12 million over the past three months. Television and radio airwaves will be full of political advertisements between now and election date.

Go Vote!

Everything you want to know about voting – including what ID do you need at the ballot box, who’s on the ballot, how to find out what legislative or congressional district you live in – can be found on the Texas Secretary of State’s Vote Texas website.

Welcome new Texas Sen. Pete Flores

Retired game warden Peter Flores (R-Pleasanton) increased the Republican majority in the Texas Senate by winning the Sept. 18 special election run-off to fill the unexpired term of Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio), who resigned. Flores captured 52.99 percent of the votes cast in the Senate District 19 election to best former Congressman and former State Rep. Pete Gallego (D-San Antonio).

Legislative interim study reports

Legislators in both chambers are finalizing hearings and beginning to draft interim legislative reports to answer questions in studies requested last year by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus. Typically, these are completed by the legislative committee chairs’ offices and turned into the lieutenant governor’s office in the Senate and to the Speaker’s office in the House by the end of the year. Often these studies are a roadmap to issues lawmakers will consider in the next legislative session. These studies could forecast what we’ll see the Legislature debate starting in January 2019.