‘Is This Real?’ Conservatives Question Texas Speaker’s First 4 Priority Bills

When we covered the Texas Governor’s and Lieutenant Governor’s priority bill lists on Feb. 17 to gain a clearer picture on how the current legislative session may turn out, we noted that the Speaker’s list was still forthcoming and that it would very likely differ.

We had no idea by how much it would differ.

Even more strangely, the Speaker only released four bills as “starting points.”

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan‘s choice of bills drew plenty of blank stares and question marks from conservative leaders such as Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi.

Phelan, who said there are more to come, prioritized the following quartet of bills on Thursday:

HB 18 — Children’s social media regulations by by Rep. Shelby Slawson (R)
HB 4 — Social media data privacy by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R)
HB 12 — Medicaid extension for new mothers to a year after delivery by Rep. Toni Rose (D)
HB 300 — Exempting baby and feminine hygiene supplies from state sales taxes by Rep. Donna Howard (D)

(Note: These are intentionally not in numerical order. More on that below.)

“As I have said before, it is essential that the Texas House makes meaningful progress this year on better supporting mothers and children in the state — and that starts with extending health coverage for new moms to a full year,” Phelan said. “Additionally, I am eager to see our chamber take on Big Tech, which for too long has taken advantage of the data and privacy of Texans and especially our children, who are vulnerable to predatory and addicting algorithms and advertisements on social media platforms. Putting Texans and Texas parents back in the driver’s seat on this issue is a priority for our chamber this session.”

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick laid out priorities such as property tax relief, strengthening criminal penalties for gun crimes, banning DEI and CRT, and addressing the Fentanyl crisis. See full coverage here.

From the hip: Phelan, perceived as the more moderate of the Big 3 state leaders, has clearly drawn a line in the sand here. By releasing these four bills he announced that he is going to follow his own “broader” course this session.

Observers should keep in mind that this is a scant list — divided evenly between Republican and Democrat authors and pertaining to two key subjects. Phelan’s future priorities will likely line up a little more closely with Abbott’s and Patrick’s, which have been more in sync with state GOP priorities and grassroots conservative concerns.


Out of step with the party this list may seem to be, there’s a strategy likely at play here. Children’s online safety and women’s health — the two main topics of Phelan’s first four bills — are certainly top priorities for young women voters. And that’s a demographic rapidly leaving the GOP.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, a Wall Street Journal poll in September predicted that abortion would be the single issue most likely to drive respondents to the polls. The poll was correct, as the once-inevitable “red wave” crashed at the shores of blue states. The poll said 52 percent of Caucasian suburban women would support Democrats, and an anemic 40 percent indicated they would vote Republican. According to exit polls in November, unmarried women broke for Congressional Democrats 68–31 percent, confirming that post-Roe shift.

Though unmarried women have always supported Democrats more strongly, the gap has widened. And while issues such as school curriculum content and gender modification regulations continue to draw women of all ages to the polls (we see you, mama bears), the GOP has a blind spot that Phelan, a longtime politico and capitol staffer (who, by the way, does not seem to be seeking any higher office at the moment), might very well see.

But this is also Texas. We’ll be very interested in seeing the rest of the House priority bills, and whether border security, school choice, and ballot integrity will make Phelan’s cut. If not, he may be spending most of his time guarding his right flank:



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