When Gov. Rick Perry laid out his goals for the 83rd Legislature in his State of the State address, he called for tax cuts, more school choice, infrastructure investment, a pro-business climate, and a rejection of Medicaid expansion called for by the Affordable Care Act.
Important issues all. But just as important is what the governor left out of his biennial report to state lawmakers - any mention of sanctuary cities, Voter ID, or other legislative initiatives targeting Texas' growing Hispanic population.
The omission was welcome to lawmakers like me who fought hard in the last session against such measures.
When the 2011 session began, sanctuary cities and Voter ID were declared emergencies that required immediate attention. Both houses passed the Voter ID bill and, later, redistricting plans that ignored the population gains of Latinos across Texas. Sanctuary cities passed the Senate in a special session, but stumbled in the House.
The legislative victories of Voter ID and redistricting were short-lived, however. The courts rejected Voter ID as unconstitutional and ordered adjustments in the political boundaries that were used in the 2012 election.
Given the legislative majority's zeal to pass these measures two years ago, one might expect an aggressive attempt to reverse that 3-0 record in the current session. Fortunately, that doesn't appear to be the case. While these issues could still resurface, they are certainly not a priority.
With Texas' Hispanic population continuing to grow into a potent political force, it is not surprising that there is so little appetite this time for such divisive immigration proposals in the Legislature. Also, the 2012 election showed that minorities are already exerting their influence at the ballot box nationally, and polls indicate that most Americans are eager for immigration reform that's not just strict, but also fair and compassionate.
There is a growing realization that Hispanics in Texas are not going to listen to a wider Republican message that is tainted with the anti-immigrant attitude that pervaded the last legislative session.
Steve Munisteri, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, recently told The Dallas Morning News: "If somebody thinks you don't like them because of their race or ethnic background, it doesn't matter if they agree with you on 99 out of 100 issues. They're not going to vote for you. We have adopted a change in tone, hopefully, and a reexamination of how we were messaging, and we did that way before the election."
As chairman of the Senate Hispanic Caucus, I welcome that change of tone, even if it was spurred by nothing more than political necessity. It will make it easier for lawmakers of both parties to come together on a whole range of important issues as the session proceeds.
A good deal of the governor's State of the State address was great to hear, but when he didn't raise those issues that are so offensive to Hispanics, the silence was golden.