Phelan Releases Legislative Priorities Ahead of Runoff

Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan | Image by WFAA
Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan | Image by WFAA

The speaker of the Texas House dropped his interim committee charges this week, signaling several legislative priorities should he keep his seat after his upcoming runoff election.

Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) has been engaged in a fiery re-election campaign for Texas House District 21. After placing second in the March 5 Republican primary, he will go head-to-head in a runoff on May 28 against David Covey.

It was within this context that Phelan released his directions to committee heads, asking them to look at several issues that are increasingly shaping the Texan political landscape, such as border security and school choice.

He also created a new committee dedicated to investigating “foreign economic aggression and subversive influences,” he wrote in a post on X alongside the proclamation. The House Select Committee on Securing Texas From Hostile Foreign Organizations will “study the threat posed by these groups and their affiliates on the Texas economy, statewide security, and fundamental American values.”

Phelan also directed the House Committee on Agriculture and Livestock to investigate the matter.

“Examine foreign ownership of farm-, timber-, and pastureland and agricultural processing facilities in Texas to determine whether Texas industries and supply chains are adequately protected from threats and disruptions and if further safeguards and restrictions on ownership are needed,” he wrote.

Last year, the issue was fiercely debated by lawmakers, nearly resulting in the prohibition of foreign nationals from China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran from maintaining agricultural holdings in Texas, as covered previously by The Dallas Express. Phelan did not support the ban, and neither did Rep. Cole Hefner (R–Mt. Pleasant), who is set to chair the new committee, per Texas Scorecard.

Another of Phelan’s directives was given to the Committee on Public Education, which was told to “[e]valuate the use of education savings accounts in other states and make recommendations for a Texas program.”

Phelan has been scrutinized for his alleged inaction in seeing various Republican legislative priorities move forward last year, which included the Gov. Greg Abbott-supported movement for school choice. He has since said he would support some kind of school choice legislation as long as it was not universal in scope, according to The Texas Tribune.

Abbott’s drive to enact a statewide education savings account program already has more odds of passing in the next legislative than it did last year. Huge amounts of money have been funneled into the campaigns of pro-school-choice candidates, many of whom ousted some of the lawmakers who killed the effort last year.

Property tax relief was another of Phelan’s directives, with his interim charges asking the Committee on Ways and Means to outline ways to lower the tax burden. Some of the possible strategies he asked the committee to look into included compressing school district tax rates, further reducing the limit on the appraised value of homesteads, and extending the limitation on the appraised value of certain non-homestead real property past the current expiration date of December 31, 2026.

In terms of border security, Phelan has asked the Committee on State Affairs to make recommendations on whether state agencies “have sufficient resources and authority to carry out their prescribed duties” of “securing the border and preventing transnational criminal activity.”

As covered by The Dallas Express, Phelan came under fire during the last session for allowing a bill that would have established a Border Protection Unit to be defeated.

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