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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick lists housing affordability, fighting antisemitism on campus among 2025 priorities

Examining charitable bail organizations and banning Delta 9 were also among Patrick’s priorities in the next legislative session.
Posted: 1:40 PM, Apr 11, 2024
Updated: 2024-04-11 14:40:39-04
Dan Patrick

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(Texas Tribune) — Lt. Gov.Dan Patrick put improving housing affordability, fighting antisemitism on college campuses and examining charitable bail organizations among 57 items on a to-do list for senators before the next legislative session begins in January.

Patrick, who oversees the Senate and wields tremendous power over bills passed into law, said the list was whittled from hundreds of ideas submitted from the state’s 31 senators, which the lieutenant governor reviewed with his staff.

“Come January 2025, the Senate will hit the ground running at the start of the 89th Legislative Session,” Patrick said in a statement. “The priorities of the conservative majority of Texans will be accomplished, including school choice, continued property tax relief, and strengthening the power grid.”

Patrick charged a Senate committee with tackling the state's housing affordability crisis as high home prices ice would-be first-time homebuyers out of the market and put pressure on renters. He wants them to study "issues related to housing, including housing supply, homelessness and methods of providing and financing affordable housing."

[Republicans’ budding interest in Texas’ housing crisis could create strange political bedfellows]

Patrick said he wants senators to recommend how to "reduce regulatory barriers" and "strengthen property rights" — possibly a nod to the idea of reducing city zoning and land-use rules that determine what kind of housing can be built and where. Critics of those rules, including many housing advocates, argue those policies get in the way of building enough homes to meet demand and thus drive up home prices and rents. Measures to reduce those regulations made it through the Senate last year, but mostly flew under the radar before they died in the House. Texas Republicans have increasingly signaled that similar ideas could make a comeback next year.

Patrick also signaled he shares Gov. Greg Abbott's concerns that so-called institutional investors, meaning investors and corporations that buy single-family homes to rent them out, have too much of a presence in the state's home-buying market, unduly outbidding buyers. Abbott last month called on the Legislature to rein in their activity in the housing market. Patrick called on lawmakers to "evaluate large-scale purchases of single-family homes by domestic entities and its impact on housing affordability for Texas families."

Economists and housing experts have expressed skepticism that limiting investors from buying and owning homes would improve housing affordability and give first-time homebuyers a better shot at securing a home. Though institutional homebuyers' activity significantly ticked up during the pandemic, estimates show investors own a small share of the country's housing stock.

In another nod to affordability, Patrick directed senators to study workforce productivity. He asked the natural resources and economic development committee to work within existing resources to maintain childcare availability.

Patrick outlined a number of to-dos on higher education, including reviewing the roles of faculty senates. That vaguely-worded item comes after Patrick clashed with professors during his failed effort to eliminate faculty tenure at public universities.

Two charges also asked senators to walk on a fine line on campus free speech. One asked them to review university policies to ensure they adequately prevent antisemitism while another directs senators to ensure Texas higher education institutions do not infringe on the First Amendment rights of faculty, staff and students. Texas officials are increasingly looking to crack down on anti-Israel sentiments as students and faculty have expressed opposition to the way the country has waged its war with Hamas.

Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order calling on universities to discipline acts of antisemitism on campus, while singling out pro-Palestinian student groups.

The lieutenant governor also asked the criminal justice committee to take a look at the practices of charitable bail organizations, which secure the release of defendants who cannot afford to post bond. Patrick wants senators to make recommendations to “ensure accountability” for these groups when defendants are arrested while on bond, as well as restrict their ability to post bond for violent individuals.

The charges also direct the border security committee to study how deployments in Gov. Greg Abbott’s long-term Operation Lone Star have affected the health and well being of Texas Guard members and non-Guard employment, who have been stationed at the border on extended missions to curtain illegal crossings. They also ask senators to monitor the success of legislation passed last year, which allowed federal law enforcement officers to assist in making arrests for state-level crimes.

Patrick directed the education committee to oversee how public schools spent the massive influx of federal COVID-19 relief, including funds received under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), with an eye for districts that improved student outcomes while efficiently spending the money. That committee is also charged with reviewing the success of bills the Legislature previously passed to improve public school safety in the wake of the Uvalde elementary school shooting, as well as library procurement and content policies that have become deeply important in Republican politics.

Another charge is “banning Delta 8 and 9,” cannabis-derived products that are currently legal under state law because of their low THC content. It also directs the state affairs committee to consider bills that would stop retailers from marketing these products to children.

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"Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick lists housing affordability, fighting antisemitism on campus among 2025 priorities" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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