From Committee Assignments to Emergency Items

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Day 31 of the 82nd Texas Legislature 

Well, folks, the much anticipated House committee assignments have finally been posted, and now the House can start catching up to the Senate. The upper chamber has been busy. Senators passed eminent domain legislation, the second of the governor’s emergency items it has approved, and a third, pre-abortion sonograms, is on its way. Meanwhile, anti-immigration crusader, Debbie Riddle, is working on her own agenda. She filed yet another bill yesterday aimed at making it very hard to be an immigrant in Texas. And looking forward, census numbers are expected to be released next week, which has lawmakers daydreaming about redistricting. But for now, work continues in earnest. 

 

1. And the Committee Chair Goes to…

Oscar Wilde once said, “Always forgive your enemies—nothing annoys them so much.” And it looks like Speaker of the House Joe Straus let bygones be bygones as he appointed many of his political foes, like Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and Wayne Christian, R-Center, to key House committees. Committee appointments released yesterday were kinder than some may have expected. The Dems took a big hit when veteran state Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, was replaced by Kerrville Republican Harvey Hilderbran as chair of the Ways and Means Committee. [Texas Observer] [Texas Tribune]

 

2. Sonogram Bill: Coming to a Senate Near You

A third item off Rick Perry’s “emergency items” list is on its way to the Senate floor, requiring pre-abortion sonograms. Houston Republican Sen. Dan Patrick’s controversial bill, which would require physicians to perform a sonogram at least 24 hours before an abortion, was passed 7-2 out of the Senate State Affairs Committee. [Texas Observer] [Houston Chronicle]

 

3. Protecting the Farm

The Senate unanimously passed an eminent domain bill yesterday, making that two of Perry’s emergency items to go through the upper chamber. The bill provides a number of provisions to protect landowners from unlawful condemnations and limits the use of eminent domain for public-use projects only. Lest the news be too positive, critics fear that unclear wording in the bill will actually allow more non-governmental entities to abuse the eminent domain process. [Texas Observer] [Dallas Morning News]

 

4. Xenophobia-cha-cha-cha

And it looks like state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, of terror-babies fame, is at it again. Yesterday, Riddle filed perhaps her harshest anti-immigration bill yet. HB 1202 would make it a state jail felony to intentionally employ a person who is not an American citizen. If passed, the bill could send business owners convicted of using illegal labor to prison for up to two years. [Austin American-Statesman]

 

5. Numbers and Lines

Lawmakers are tying their bibs and sharpening their knives in anticipation of the redistricting feast. The U.S. Census Bureau announced that it will release population and demographic breakdown for Texas next week. Redistricting committees eagerly await the information so that they can begin the complex and politically charged process of redrawing district lines. [Texas Tribune]