AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The grassroots advisory board Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick set up as a sounding board for his tea party constituency is dissolving after a legislative session that left the leadership of that constituency dissatisfied.
“Chair JoAnn Fleming and I have mutually agreed to dissolve the grassroots advisory board and work together as we have for the last several years on a less formal basis,” Patrick said in a statement Friday.
The Texas tea party network is the nation’s strongest, with four dozen major conservative groups representing thousands of active members.
During the recent legislative session, the board of tea party activists that advised Patrick described a major bipartisan pre-K initiative championed by Gov. Greg Abbott as socialist and keeping children in a “Godless environment.” The initiative passed, including in the Texas Senate over which Patrick presides, and Abbott signed it into law.
Also late in the session, leading tea party activists signed a letter warning lawmakers that they were dissatisfied by the meager results the Legislature gave to the tea party agenda. It singled out Abbott, Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus, saying if these “liberty-advancing, government-restraining bills die, once again, we will get excuses rather than results.”
Among issues unresolved according to the letter: securing the Texas-Mexico border, stricter immigration policies, tougher anti-abortion restrictions and “school choice,” or voucher programs funneling public money to private schools.
Among other tea party initiatives that failed was a bill to exempt Texas from daylight saving time, which was sidelined amid concerns that refusing to roll back the clocks could leave Texans choosing between church services and watching Dallas Cowboys games on fall Sundays. Also dropped was a proposal banning the Alamo from falling under the control of the United Nations.
The backlash was greatest over lawmakers’ passage of the pre-K expansion and their failure to repeal Texas’ 2001 law offering in-state tuition to some college students in the country illegally and to pass school vouchers.
Many signing the letter were members of Patrick’s tea party citizen advisory board, including Fleming, a state tea party leader who heads Grassroots America - We the People.
“Several members of the grassroots advisory board have expressed a desire for greater independence,” Patrick said. Indeed, Fleming said in the joint statement that “maintaining our independence is necessary for the credibility of the growing Texas grassroots movement, and as we move into the next election cycle, we do not want our endorsements and positions to be viewed as anything other than our own independent decisions based on conservative, limited government principles.”
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