When the Texas Legislature convened in January, most observers braced for an Ali vs. Foreman-style “Rumble in the Jungle” of turmoil, strife, and special sessions. But the session instead played out relatively peacefully—more like Mayweather vs. Pacquiao.
The dire expectations were understandable. New and untested Gov. Greg Abbott was taking the helm after Rick Perry’s unprecedented 14 years in office. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was riding into town on a tea party wave, along with nine new ultra-conservative freshmen Republican senators, pledging to upend traditions and push an already-conservative Legislature even farther to the right. And the deepening fault line between the two wings of the Texas Republican party (the fiscally and socially conservative, business-friendly Republicans and the movement conservative Republicans who are more populist and supported by tea party-style primary voters) seemed ready to rupture into all-out political and policy war.
But in the end, the Legislature surprised pessimistic spectators, finished its work, and went home on schedule. Gov. Abbott proved to be a steady hand, finding balance between providing direction and allowing the process to work its will. And while the two wings of the Republican Party definitely squared off, they managed to negotiate middle-ground, late-session compromises on the most controversial issues.