Patrick Sees Gas Plants as Fix for Grid
Among Priorities Less Volatile than 2021

Capitol Inside
November 30, 2022

Governor Greg Abbott assured Texans this year that the state power grid was more reliable and resilient than ever after it collapsed in the peak of a record winter storm in early 2021. But Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick wasn't buying into the Pollyanna portrayal when he revealed on Wednesday that fixing the antiquated Texas electric grid for real would be a paramount priority in the regular session that kicks off in January.

“If you can’t turn the lights on, you don’t have a Texas miracle,” Patrick said at a press conference at the Capitol where he announced his 21 top priorities for 2023.

The Patrick program for the upcoming session was remarkably old-school and tame compared to the most conservative agenda in Texas history that the Legislature approved last year in an attempt to placate Donald Trump in the aftermath of his ouster from the White House, the baseless election challenge and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

The Republicans in the House and Senate marched in lockstep to the fallen president and an unforgiving base on the far right in 2021 with party line votes on a permitless carry gun bill and prohibitions on abortion, social media censorship, critical race theory, transgender participation in high school sports. GOP leaders and lawmakers adopted the nation's most restrictive voting bill in 2021 after tapping into paranoia that Trump fueled with lies about voter fraud in the squandered re-election bid the year before.

Patrick served as Trump's state campaign chairman in his first two races for the presidency. A former state senator from the Houston area, Patrick claimed a third term as the Texas Senate president in the general election this month when he defeated Democrat Mike Collier by more than 10 points with almost 54 percent of the vote. But Patrick took a pounding like he'd never experienced when Collier parlayed the failed power grid into a potent weapon in advertising that disparaged the incumbent's leadership and competence.

Patrick has wielded unrivaled clout as the state Senate president - setting the agenda with the GOP majority in the upper chamber united behind his priorities with Governor Greg Abbott as a rubber stamp and cheerleader and the House serving as a safety net, filter and burial ground for measures the lieutenant governor championed.

Patrick's list of most pressing concerns in 2023 features a few with the potential for fireworks including a college tenure reform plan, a measure that would give voters the power to recall district attorneys and judges and a proposal that appears to be a sugarcoated private school vouchers bill that Patrick said would "empower parents by giving them a voice in their children’s education."

Patrick's significant emphasis on electricity goes against the grain of Abbott's rhetoric that sought to create the appearance of a grid that had never been stronger. ERCOT took some shine off the rosy narrative on Tuesday when the grid operator's top official acknowledged that it could go down again if the weather is severe enough despite the optimistic conditions.

But Patrick sees the expansion of natural gas production as the key to electric grid survival with apparent state subsidies and incentives as the magnet. Patrick's priorities also include a plank that would "level the playing field between renewable energy and dispatchable energy to ensure reliability."

Patrick has property tax relief at the top of the priority list for 2023 with proposals to increase the homestead exemption while reducing taxes on business as well.

more to come ...







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