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Hot List: Day 107 of the Legislature

by Published on
Texas State Capitol in Austin, Tex.
Patrick Michels

The Lead:

Two years after leaving the state’s rainy day fund untouched, despite a $27 billion deficit, the Senate voted yesterday to finally use the fund to restore money to public education, after cutting more than $5 billion last session. Better late than never. Senators passed a constitutional amendment that would allow money from the Economic Stabilization Fund—as it’s officially called—to also fund road and water infrastructure projects.

After spending a majority of the day negotiating behind closed doors, senators reached a deal and voted to take out $5.7 billion from the rainy day fund. The compromise would put $800 million toward schools, $2 billion toward water projects and $2.9 billion toward roads.

Education advocates have been asking legislators to tap the rainy day fund to augment Texas school budgets since the 2011 budget cut discussion began, to no avail.

The Texas Tribune reports that the Senate plans to allocate an extra $1.4 billion for public schools. Put together with the money from the rainy day fund, and the money in the Senate budget plan, and a total of $3.7 billion would get restored to public education. That’s the Senate version anyway.

The Observer’s Forrest Wilder reports that even with this added spending, the rainy day fund would have a balance of around $6 billion in 2015.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. The Senate passed Sen. Kel Seliger’s bill that would allow Waste Control Specialists to accept “hotter” radioactive waste at its dump site in West Texas, as the Observer’s Forrest Wilder writes.

2. House members pulled a surprise by first voting down, and then subsequently reviving the sunset bill for the Texas Lottery Commission, as the Houston Chronicle reports. Sunset bills allow agencies to continue operating. The Lottery supplies about $2 billion for public education.

3. The Dallas Morning News reports that 12 legislators fired off letters to three different gun manufacturers in Connecticut, inviting them to move to Texas and bring more jobs with them.

Line of the Day:

“Cutting people off, not allowing them to complete their three minutes of testimony, asserting that they hadn’t read the legislation and weren’t prepared to testify appropriately does discourage opposition, whether Sen. Patrick means it to or not. It kind of undermines the whole idea of a participatory government process.” —Kathy Miller, of the Texas Freedom Network, as quoted by the Observer’s Olivia Messer in a feature on Sen. Patrick’s polarizing tenure as chair of the Senate Education Committee.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The budget conference committee gets started today. Five state reps and five senators will hold their first meeting to begin final negotiations on state spending for 2014-2015.

2. Rep. Tom Craddick’s texting ban, HB 63, is the only bill up in Senate Transportation today. The bill passed last week after a show on the House floor, so we’re expecting some interesting feedback from the community.

3. House State Affairs will hear yet another bill aimed at limiting how and when abortions may be performed in Texas. This one is Rep. Matt Krause’s HB 3302.

4. Sen. Kel Seliger’s SB 15 has passed through the Senate and will be heard by the House Higher Education Committee today. The bill would limit the authority of any higher education governing boards, including Gov. Rick Perry’s allies on the University of Texas Board of Regents.