By\u00a0Ross Ramsey\r\nWe don\u2019t know yet who will be representing us in the Capitol, what positions or committee assignments they\u2019ll hold, what their elections will have been like, or what sort of mood they and the state will be in. But we are getting the first peek at what the Texas Legislature will be doing when it meets next year \u2014 a combination of serious work and Mickey Mouse politics.\r\nHouse Speaker\u00a0Dade Phelan\u00a0and Lt. Gov.\u00a0Dan Patrick\u00a0have made their \u201cinterim assignments\u201d \u2014 preparatory work for lawmakers during the break between the 2021 legislative sessions and what\u2019s coming in 2023.\r\nBoth study lists are full of serious issues, problems, and programs, like the state\u2019s ballooning border security operations, making the electric grid reliable and affordable, repairing the state\u2019s shambolic foster care system, blockchain currencies, property tax relief, tax breaks for business, election law, prison air conditioning, and human trafficking.\r\nIn Phelan\u2019s\u00a0list for the House, issued right after last month\u2019s primaries, he said he wanted extra attention on criminal justice and health care \u2014 a signal of his priorities.\r\nPatrick\u2019s announcement this week included\u00a084 things for senators to work on\u00a0\u2014 including major issues and a lot of issues that overlap the House list. He led with a headline issue, directing the Senate to investigate a surge in thefts of catalytic converters from cars and trucks, suggesting that the proposal be named for a sheriff\u2019s deputy killed by thieves in front of a grocery store.\r\nLawmakers are doing the work that turns into the first drafts of legislation and, for about 1 in 7 bills, into law \u2014 that is, unless they are cribbing from other states on matters large and small. The law derided by opponents as \u201cDon\u2019t say gay\u201d \u2014 held up as a model by the lieutenant governor this week \u2014 comes from Florida, which is how Mickey Mouse found his way into one of Dan Patrick\u2019s political emails.\r\nThere are other issues plucked from the headlines and the current political season: immigration, divesting Russian investments, eliminating or limiting tenure in state universities, state bans on teaching critical race theory, daylight saving time, regulation of school libraries and the books they offer, and weatherizing natural gas plants that fuel electric generators.\r\nThey\u2019re already legislating, though they are not in session.\r\nThey are also politicking. Primary runoffs are next month, and the back-and-forth between the two major parties is also well underway.\r\nCandidates and elected officials are raising money, trying to get the attention of voters and donors with issues and positions that attract support and that make the opposition look bad. The speaker and the lieutenant governor are on the ballot this year, as are the people they work with in both chambers.\r\nPatrick\u2019s shot at Disney \u2014 complete with a despondent Mickey \u2014 was the lieutenant governor\u2019s disapproval of that company\u2019s opposition to the new Florida law. It\u2019s a culture-war issue in this year\u2019s elections \u2014 and will soon be an issue in the Texas Legislature, assuming Patrick wins another term.\r\nThe political battles and the subjects of those debates have consequences. Ideas that work in elections \u2014 even the bad apples and the crazy bananas \u2014 reappear as proposed bills when lawmakers gather in Austin.\r\nIt\u2019s not all bad fruit. Serious work is hidden in these lists, and lawmakers aren\u2019t waiting until next year to figure out what they want to do.\r\nIf you wait until January to figure out what the Legislature is up to \u2014 to get to work on the things you want done and the things you want to stop \u2014you\u2019re too late. Lawmakers are starting now, and a lot of their deliberation will be behind them when they arrive in Austin.\r\nThat might sound like your mother telling you to get going on your homework, but she was right, wasn\u2019t she?\r\nThis story was originally published by the Texas Tribune.