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Hot List: Day 8 of the Legislature

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

The Lead:

The Senate released an overview of its draft budget yesterday. The good news: the figures are remarkably similar to the House’s budget proposal that is expected today. The not-so-good news (at least for those hoping for a restoration of public school cuts): With a few exceptions, the draft Senate plan would maintain the underfunded levels from the 2011 legislative session.

Meanwhile, the House adopted its rules yesterday and will meet today at 10 a.m. Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) will file House Bill 1, the House’s version of the budget, today. The draft budget bill appropriates about $89 billion in state spending, roughly the same amount as the proposed Senate budget.

Each chamber seems to be playing the game who-can-underspend the other. Both draft budgets include only small increases for public schools, which means the deep budget cuts from 2011 are largely maintained. Lawmakers in both chambers say their proposed budgets consider enrollment growth in public schools. But they do so at the greatly reduced per-pupil funding from 2011. In other words, lawmakers are paying for more kids by simply paying little for each student.

It’s still early in the budget process and a lot can change over the next four months. Tea party Republicans should be happy with these early proposals. Anyone favoring increased public school funding has to hope the final budget contains more money for schools than these drafts.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) proposed and got passed an amendment to the House rules that effectively makes it more difficult for House members to kill a bill, as the Observer’s Beth Cortez-Neavel and Emily Mathis report. Bad news for House Dems.

2. Linda Bridges, president of the American Federation of Teachers, says the Senate’s proposed budget will not adequately cover enrollment growth in public schools because it maintains the $500 per pupil cuts from 2011, as the Observer writes. “Texas can do better,” Bridges said. “The money is there. What’s needed is the will to make the needed investment in our schoolchildren and our state’s future.”

3. The Legislature is expected to wait on redistricting until the U.S. Supreme Court hears a case that could end the need for states like Texas with a history of discrimination to have maps approved by the U.S. Justice Department or the federal court, as the Dallas Morning News reports.

Line of the Day:

“We were short a toothbrush… Can you imagine John and I in the same cabin in prison?” —Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) during yesterday’s lengthy Senate celebration of Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston). Patrick delved into a story about his working friendship with Whitmire that took them to a Louisiana prison to do research for criminal justice legislation. The senators all shared their stories of Whitmire to honor his lengthy time at the Capitol.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The budget proposals will get rolling as Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) plans to file the House’s version today. If it’s similar to the Senate draft, HB 1 won’t contain much additional money for public schools.