Day 30 of the 82nd Texas Legislature
After yesterday’s State of the State address left many unenthused, it’s back to business as usual today under the pink dome. The Senate State Affairs Committee members will take up the famed sonogram bill by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, this morning, which currently would require women to not only get a sonogram before an abortion but also listen to a doctor’s detailed description of the image and hear the fetal heartbeat. The Senate Finance Committee will continue taking testimony on how the severe budget shortfall will affect higher education. Eminent domain is on the Senate’s regular session agenda as well. House members are still eagerly awaiting Speaker Joe Straus’ committee assignments, which are rumored to come out today. Once those are released, brace yourselves, folks – it’s all work and no play from here on out.
1. Rick Perry vs. Reality
Is it just us, or was something missing from Gov. Rick Perry’s State of the State address yesterday? While chock-full of his usual cheerleading of Texas’ economy, his speech failed to acknowledge that services and school programs essential to so many Texans are in danger of disappearing. Though he suggested consolidating state agencies to save money, he conveniently left out the $27 billion shortfall we’re facing this session. And rather than offer significant policy solutions to balancing the budget, he repeated his now stale-sounding promises of no new taxes and no tapping of the Rainy Day Fund. [Austin American-Statesman]
2. Perry’s Plan
As Gov. Rick Perry was insisting everything in Texas is fine and dandy in his State of the State address yesterday, his own budget proposal didn’t even balance. The governor proposed a $73.6 billion budget—when the state only has $72.2 billion to spend. His version of the budget (which he’s required by the state Constitution to release but lawmakers aren’t required to adopt it) didn’t exactly paint the same picture as his State of the State. He kept about a 24-percent cut to health and human services and around 11 percent in cuts to education. Still, it wouldn’t be a Perry budget without his recommending $20 million for film incentives and $15 million for the Emerging Technology Fund. [Texas Observer]
3. Patrick’s Backpedal
Talk about a twist in the third act. Scheduled to be discussed at this morning’s Senate State Affairs Committee, Sen. Dan Patrick’s sonogram bill may have just gotten less severe. The Houston Republican said yesterday that he plans on releasing a modified version of his original bill, which would’ve required women to not only get a sonogram before an abortion but also listen to a doctor’s detailed description of the image and hear the fetal heartbeat. The new version, according to the Associated Press, will allow a woman to choose whether or not she hears the heartbeat or gets a verbal description of the sonogram. Gov. Rick Perry put the bill on the fast-track last month by declaring it an emergency item. [Houston Chronicle]
4. Financial Aid’s Future
Just like so many commissioners and state department heads have already, Higher Education Coordinating Board Commissioner Raymund Paredes made his case to the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday about why cuts to financial aid are simply not an option. He said universities would be willing to make funding reductions in other areas if the program might be saved. The Senate’s proposed budget cuts financial aid by about 40 percent, which would leave upwards of 60,000 college students without help. Still, it might not just be about finding financial aid funding but finding ways to make college less expensive, some senators argued yesterday. [Dallas Morning News] [BurkaBlog]
5. It’s finally happening!
Remember in middle school when you auditioned for a play and when the teacher posted the parts, everyone bee-lined for the wall to see which character they’d be playing that year? Well, the representatives might be experiencing that same feeling today, as their committee assignments are likely to be released either Wednesday or Thursday.