From Blackouts to Water Fights


Day 36 of the 82nd Texas Legislature

There’s no sleeping in for this session’s legislators. The House Appropriations Committee is meeting bright and early all week to take more public testimony on budget cuts, and several state agencies will take center stage at today’s Senate hearing addressing the rolling blackouts earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Medicaid’s still on the brain for certain members of the Senate Finance Committee, while everyone else is anxiously awaiting this week’s release of detailed Census Bureau data so redistricting dramas can begin. And House Hispanics are starting to feel partisan tension.


1. Behind the Blackouts

A Senate hearing addressing the rolling blackouts from Feb. 2 begins this morning as officials try to get to the bottom of what happened that frigid day. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas ordered the outages to keep the power grid from crashing, a move that has been intensely criticized, and now puts it, and state agencies like the Public Utility Commission and the Railroad Commission, on the witness stand starting at 8:30 a.m. Officials expect the hearing to last all day. [Austin American-Statesman]


2. Latino House Divided

State Rep. Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi, has accused the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of being “the Democratic Party’s media outlet for Hispanic issues” and says the newly formed Hispanic Republicans Conference will be “another voice in Austin that will represent the voice of millions.” Torres’ comments weren’t received well by MALC chairman Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer, D-San Antonio, who called the remarks “offensive” and reached out to party-switching state Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, via written letter, with suggestions on how to mitigate the situation. [San Antonio Express-News]


3. Berman the Birther

State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, can’t seem to hold back when it comes to anyone’s citizenship, particularly President Barack Obama’s. Berman, who has filed a slew of anti-immigration bills this session, filed a bill that would require presidential and vice presidential candidates to verify their citizenship with birth certificates. All the hype stems from conservatives still questioning where President Obama was born and whether he’s a United States citizen. Hasn’t it been three years already? [Politico]


4. More on Medicaid

Now that the whole Senate Finance Committee has heard painful public testimony on what health and human service cuts will do to programs, it’s time for the nitty gritty to begin. A subcommittee led by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, heard yesterday from doctors and Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs about what Medicaid cuts would do to the state in the long run—and it ain’t pretty. Nelson and her subcommittee members have three weeks to draft recommendations on how to reduce spending. [Dallas Morning-News]


5. Ag Department Angst

Sens. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, and Kirk Watson, D-Austin, have filed legislation that aims to protect Texas’ water supply, but some landowner and agriculture advocacy groups are worried it has other implications. Senate Bill 449 would give farmers a property tax exemption if they promote water quality and conservation. While lawmakers are touting it as a way to preserve Texas’ resources, a representative of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association said some are nervous that the bill could eliminate the current agriculture tax exemption farmers receive. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

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