Lt. gov. Dan Patrick won re-election. What does this mean for the next legislative period?

Republicans won the statewide election Tuesday night, leaving the offices of governor, attorney general and lieutenant governor in conservative hands.

The lieutenant governor’s race was contentious — incumbent GOP President Dan Patrick was up against moderate Democrat Mike Collier. Collier conceded the race Tuesday night on Twitter. He thanked his family, his team and his constituents who supported him.

With his victory, Patrick retains his power in one of the most powerful positions in Texas: the lieutenant governor not only chairs the Texas Senate, but also helps shape the state’s legislative agenda and oversees the budget and redistricting of districts.

In an interview with the WFAA after the race was called Tuesday night, Patrick said his legislative priorities next year are criminal justice reform and further improvements to the Texas power grid.

“We need more natural gas plants – deliverable, ready-to-go energy that we can rely on,” said Patrick. “Renewable energy is great, but we need to have enough available energy that we can always rely on so that we don’t have to worry when the wind isn’t always blowing or the sun isn’t shining.”

Other Patrick priorities were teacher salaries and a property tax cut — the latter played off the incumbent’s run for re-election, prompting at least one Republican to break with the party to back Collier.

Former Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley criticized the lieutenant governor for Patrick’s violation of local sovereignty in collecting property taxes. Patrick helped pass Senate Law #2 in 2019, which limits how much local governments can collect property taxes without first holding an election.

In a pre-election interview, Whitley said power should rest in the hands of local officials.

“I think when our ancestors founded Texas, they realized what a great state we were,” Whitely said. “They realized they couldn’t run the state from a central location like Austin, Texas, and that it was vital that they let elected officials handle local affairs in their own small areas.”

But beyond “bread-and-butter” issues like taxes and infrastructure, Patrick’s re-election could yield another socially conservative term when lawmakers return to Austin in 2023, according to University of Houston political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus.

“There were a lot of fluctuations in the Republican Party,” says Rottinghaus. “The moderates either left the legislature or they lost. That means you’re seeing a new generation of lawmakers who are more inclined to prioritize social issues over the kind of committed political issues that Republicans traditionally favor.”

One such topic Rottinghaus anticipates is gender-affirming health care for transgender youth. During the last session, Republican lawmakers attempted and failed to pass legislation that would prohibit such grooming.

Despite broad agreement in the medical community about its effectiveness, Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding statement earlier this year defining gender-affirming care as “child abuse.” Soon after, Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas Department of Family Protective Services to investigate some families with transgender children.

Rachel Hill, director of government affairs at Equality Texas, says this has already had an impact on trans youth and their families in Texas.

“We’ve had a lot of people come out of this session with honest PTSD symptoms, knowing that … your life, your world can be completely changed,” she said. “Whether you had to leave the state or if you had to worry about your child not being there.”

Leading national and state health organizations say gender-affirming health care is the best way to care for transgender children, who are at much higher risk of suicide if they don’t have access to it. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Texas Pediatric Society condemned Abbott’s policy two days after it was published.

Advocates are concerned about the possible consequences of a law banning gender-affirming care, which Hill says is often “life-saving”.

“It will be decided with teams, with medical professionals,” said Hill. “Well, I mean what the government would really say if this law were passed is that politicians know better than doctors.”

Regardless of what issues arise during next year’s legislature, Rottinghaus said Patrick can rally the support to pass whatever he wants.

“Dan Patrick is the most powerful Lieutenant Governor the state has ever seen and he effectively runs the Senate with an iron fist,” he said. “What he wants to achieve politically, he can achieve.”

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