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From Emergency Items to Trips in Washington

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Day 10 of the 82nd Texas Legislature

It’s Friday, and that means a quiet day under the pink dome. Lawmakers are probably resting. Between the unveiling of the draft budget in the House and the Senate’s debate over rules, it was quite a busy week. And they should be resting, given what’s coming their way Monday.

Gov. Rick Perry has declared two new “emergency items” for the legislature to address for the session. In addition to some sort of resolution that would propose a U.S. constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget, Perry named voter ID as another priority, allowing the legislature to fast track bills on the topics. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst ran with the announcement, calling for the Senate to start debating voter ID on Monday. The House is also scheduled to take up their rules on Monday.

 

1. 9-1-1

Along with eminent domain and abolishing so-called sanctuary cities, Gov. Rick Perry threw two more so-called emergency items into the mix Thursday afternoon—voter ID and a state resolution proposing a U.S. constitutional amendment that would require the federal government to balance its budget. Because they’re “emergencies,” lawmakers can begin debating these issues as early as they’d like, without having to wait 60 days. Perry’s definition of emergency, however, has some wondering whether he’s being political rather than sensible. [Texas Observer] [Off the Kuff]

 

2. ID Crisis 

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst wasted no time Thursday. After the governor put voter ID on the fast track for debate, Dewhurst sent a letter late yesterday evening to senators, alerting them that the state Senate would take up the contentious subject Monday. He tapped state Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, to preside over the discussion. Duncan oversaw the voter ID debate last session, and that’s not the only bit of deja vu. Just like this year, the bill was exempted from the Senate’s two-thirds rule last session, meaning the Democrats couldn’t block it. [San Antonio Express-News]

 

3. Rules of Engagement

Come Monday, it’s the House’s turn to debate their rules. Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, and Chris Grissel, the House parliamentarian, summarized the proposed changes in a memo to representatives. They’re hoping to add two new committees—the Economic and Small Business Development and Workforce Committee and the Government and Efficiency Reform Committee—and reform the ability to “chub” bills. “Chubbing,” a filibuster-like strategy used by Democrats last session to stall bills, would be more difficult in this new set of rules. According to the memo, bills on local, consent and resolution calendars must be considered in a single day’s time, and “bills or resolutions on these calendars which are not heard within the one calendar must roll over to the next local, consent and resolutions calendar in the order in which they were originally set with older items appearing first.” [Austin American-Statesman]

 

4. Those Houston Budget Blues

It’s been two days, and many are still digesting just exactly what this session’s proposed budget will mean and what can be done to fix things. Increasing fees is not off the table, and as the Houston Chronicle reports, Houston schools may have to consider raising property taxes or tapping into their own rainy day funds to handle the proposed cuts to public school funding. Still, no one is certain that revenue will make up for what will be lost. [Houston Chronicle]

 

5. Mr. Perry and Dewhurst go to Washington

Looking back at this week’s speeches and political moves by Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, it’s no wonder they both have most of us wondering what their next career moves will be. (It’s been speculated since last year that Perry may run for president, and Dewhurst has shown interest in taking U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat once she retires). They both deny they’re leaving for Washington just yet, but both were eager to criticize national issues in their inaugural speeches (which sounded more like dry campaign speeches). In accelerating the voter ID bill debate yesterday – Perry by declaring it an emergency and Dewhurst by instructing senators that it’s first on the agenda come Monday – they’re clearly trying to leave their political mark on this session. Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune analyzes what may come next. [Texas Tribune]