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From Budget Cut Victims to Hispanic Republicans

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Day 24 of the 82nd Texas Legislature

The freezing temperatures this week haven’t stopped the flow of visitors to the Capitol pleading for their social-service programs not to be cut, and it likely won’t keep them away today either. This week, the Senate Finance Committee has been hearing testimony from health and human service departments and the public about what proposed budget cuts will do to Texas. Yesterday the committee listened to more than 150 patients, providers and advocates and will continue to do so today as they hold their final hearing on health and human services. They’ll start on education Monday. Meanwhile, the House is still waiting for Speaker Joe Straus to assign committees, likely to be announced next week, since word on the street is that House Appropriations Committee chair Jim Pitts has scheduled the first appropriations meeting for next Thursday. A slew of Senate bills have been referred to committees, which should begin holding their meetings next week as well. 

 

1. Begging and Pleading

With more than 150 witnesses at the Senate Finance Committee yesterday begging for their health and social service programs not to be cut, the consequences of the proposed budget bill are coming into focus for senators. Service recipients, providers and advocates got the chance yesterday to make their cases in front of the committee, which is charged with the austere task of passing a budget with a $27 billion shortfall. Witnesses came from all over the state—some with their children and some in their wheelchairs—to share their stories with senators. The committee will continue to hear public testimony today. [Houston Chronicle][Texas Observer]  

 

2. E-verify Awaits

Once committees have been assigned, one of the first issues House members are likely to tackle is keeping undocumented immigrants from getting jobs in Texas. Lawmakers have filed a ton of bills that would require the use of a federal electronic employment verification system—E-verify—to check someone’s immigration status before hiring them. But as the Texas Tribune reports, the system hasn’t exactly been error-free, and critics say the system would throw Texas into a constitutional battle. [Texas Tribune]

 

3. An Immigration See-Saw

The newly formed Hispanic Republicans Conference and its leader state Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, have some tough legislation to chew on this session. As Republicans, they’re expected to take a hard stance on immigration issues, but those like Peña, who represents a mostly Latino district on the border, find the filed legislation to be too severe. Though they’re walking a fine line with their constituents and fellow Republicans, Peña told the Austin American-Statesman that the group plans to support legislation that two-thirds of its members agree on. [Austin American-Statesman]

 

4. U.S. Senate Mishmash

Talk about a gaggle of candidates competing for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat. The list of contenders, which includes a used car salesman, a former CIA agent and a businessman who likes bowties, isn’t exactly typical, and while some have speculated that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (the former CIA agent) is the frontrunner, he hasn’t officially thrown his hat into the ring. [Texas Observer

 

5. Redistricting Worries

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst made his committee announcements last week and absent from the popular redistricting committee is a single face from Tarrant County. The lack of representation has officials and lawmakers from the third-largest county in the state worried they’ll be left out of the tedious process of remapping districts. Dewhurst told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he’s aware of their concerns but that there’s a limit to the number of members for each committee. “Almost everybody in the Senate wanted to be on redistricting,” he said. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram