Hot List: Day 7 of the Legislature

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

The Lead:

Lawmakers return to Austin today after a long weekend. The Lege is off to its usual slow start. Hell, the Senate met only two days last week (nice work if you can get it).

The House convenes at 10 a.m. and plans to debate rules for the 83rd session. The rules fight in the Lower Chamber promises to be much longer and far more entertaining than in the Senate, which passed rules without debate last week.

Tea party opponents of Speaker Joe Straus plan to propose dozens of changes to House rules to reduce the speaker’s power. We could be in for our first rollicking floor fight of the session. Welcome to week two.

Weekend Headlines:

1. In a speech to the Texas Public Policy Foundation conference on Friday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst not only endorsed arming more school employees, but having state funds pay for handgun training for school employees, as the Observer‘s Olivia Messer reports. Oh, and Newt Gingrich was there too.

2. Also at the TPPF conference, Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) gave a passionate defense of school vouchers during a policy panel, writes The Observer‘s Liz Farmer. “Since being named chair of education I have been hammered by about everyone who can throw a hammer at me because I dare to give students and parents a choice to choose a school and have the American dream,” Patrick said.

3. The Dallas Morning-News recaps the troubles of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, or CPRIT. The institute has been riddled with corruption allegations, including grants not being properly reviewed and money flowing to Rick Perry campaign contributors. Lawmakers are proposing a number of reforms. Good luck with that.

Line of the Day:

“I’m not going to pay for people to stay at home, sit on the couch, and do drugs.” —Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst describing his support for drug testing people applying for unemployment benefits during his Friday speech at the TPPF conference.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. Rules! We need your stinking rules. The House is scheduled to debate its rules today. David Simpson and other tea party members hope to reduce the power of the speaker’s office. The Stateman‘s Tim Eaton has more details. The proposed rule changes include limiting the speaker’s power to assign members to committees and instead base committee assignments more on seniority. Should be fun.

2. Our first look at Tommy Williams. Well, at least our first look at him as chair of Senate Finance anyway. Williams, Republican from The Woodlands, plans to meet with reporters—along with Dewhurst—after today’s Senate session to discuss the state budget. With a nearly $9 billion surplus, it ain’t a bad session to write a budget.

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.