According to the latest University of Texas/The Texas Tribune poll, at least two issues popular with a majority of Republican and Democratic voters—requiring businesses to offer paid sick leave and the implementation of “red flag” laws that would allow courts to order the seizure of guns from people who are deemed an imminent threat—are considered dead on arrival in the Capitol.
“It’s not uncommon that you see some level of popularity on an issue outside the [Capitol] and an opposite trajectory within the building,” said state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, who authored a red flag bill this session. “We shouldn’t dictate everything we do by a poll, but if we completely divorce ourselves from public perception, we’ll end up being more divisive than we need to be.”
Lawmakers will dole out a bevy of reasons to explain the dissonance between what legislators are doing versus what voters are asking for: lawmakers lagging behind culture, differences between statewide and regional polling, or simply a disagreement between lawmakers and pollsters on how to get the best pulse on what voters want.
Discussing red flag laws, which the poll said 72 percent of Texans support, state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, said almost everyone can agree the state does not want “people that have mental challenges” to have access to guns. But he said implementing such measures might infringe on Texans’ Second Amendment rights.
At the same time, leaders in both chambers are working to block municipal policies designed to ensure employers in certain cities be required to offer paid sick leave to their employees. According to the poll, 71 percent of Texas voters support policies requiring sick leave, including 56 percent of Republicans. But some Republicans take issue with the poll, saying they disagree with how voters were asked about the issue.
“The UT/TT poll never addressed the fundamental question: Should local politicians be telling small businesses how to run their day-to-day operations, creating a patchwork of regulatory costs across the state?” said Alice Claiborne, a spokeswoman for state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, who authored a bill this session to overturn local policies requiring sick leave.