Hot List: Day 122 of the Legislature

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Rep. Scott Turner (R-Frisco) with other voucher advocates
Patrick Michels
Representatives lining up at the back mic.

The Lead:

There are so many ways to kill a bill in the Texas Legislature, and many bills will meet their demise today: It’s deadline for the House chamber to pass House bills on second reading.

Monday was the last day for House committees to report House bills out favorably to the floor. A lot of bills did not make it, like Denton Republican Rep. Myra Crownover’s House Bill 400, which would have eliminated smoking in certain workplaces throughout the state. The committees’ jobs now are to work on Senate bills.

And today any House bill that hopes to pass this session must get through a second reading by midnight tonight. Then it still has to make it through a third reading and pass on to the Senate by the end of Friday.

There are ways to revive proposals, of course. Texas Tribune reporter Ross Ramsey told StateImpact Texas that late in the session, lawmakers start repeating a weird phrase: “I’m looking for a vehicle,” Ramsey says. It means they’re looking to revive their bill and attach it as an amendment to “a Senate bill or something else that is further along in the process and still alive.”

According to the Legislative Reference Library more than 4,000 House bills were filed this year, up a few hundred from 2011. So far 1,757 have been reported out of committee and the full House has approved 669 bills (last session, 797 House bills passed into law). The House will pass quite a few more before tonight’s deadline.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. San Antonio Democratic Rep. Mike Villarreal called a press conference yesterday to press for a House committee to pass a watered-down version of the Senate’s payday loan reform bill to the House floor as soon as possible. The Observer‘s Forrest Wilder reports Villarreal is so adamant to stop usury that, if the reform bill doesn’t pass, he promises to travel around the state helping cities draft ordinances to restrict payday loans.

2. The Quorum Report (subscribers only) reports that some Republicans are trying to defund the Public Integrity Unit, a section of the Travis County DA’s office that investigates criminal allegations against state lawmakers. They’re using Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg’s DWI arrest as an argument for moving the PIU from the Travis County District Attorney’s office to the Office of Attorney General Greg Abbott. Word is Republicans would rather be investigated by their own party.

3. A once almost unanimously supported bill to create a new super school and medical school in the Valley is stalling in the Senate after McAllen Sen. Chuy Hinojosa introduced an amendment that would move the school to his district in Hidalgo County, instead of waiting for an advisory board to decide on the location.

4. The Burnt Orange Report has the details on a bill passed out of the House yesterday to protect public schools’ right to call a dressed-up holiday pine tree a “Christmas Tree.”

Line of the Day:

“Either way, members of the House should vote to see if we should add more transparency to ourselves… Before we start to ask other elected officials, other agencies, to be more transparent, we should start with ourselves.” —Rep. Giovanni Capriglione on the demise of his transparency bill that would require lawmakers to disclose connections to businesses with government contracts.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The House deadline. We’ll have reporters on the House floor until adjournment probably somewhere around midnight. We’re looking at a few bills, including Dallas Republican Dan Branch’s HB 25, which would increase the percentage of performance-based funding that could be withheld from higher institutions. There’s also bills on public breastfeeding, student misconduct in public schools, groundwater conservation and taser and mace regulations.

2. President Obama will be visiting Manor and Austin today to talk about economic growth. Traffic should be fun.