Patrick Michels

Hot List: Day 133 of the Texas Legislature


The Lead:

Just one week left in the legislative session, and as usual lawmakers are cramming last-minute law-making like it’s the night before final exams.

The House has a long calendar of bills today, but the big one deals with ethics reform. Senate Bill 219 relates to the functions of the Texas Ethics Commission and concerns itself with transparency for political contributions, expenditures, advertising, and lobbying.

House members have pre-filed 34 amendments to the bill. As the Texas Tribune‘s Emily Ramshaw writes, some of the amendments could result in tough votes for lawmakers. That includes a proposal to require lawmakers to disclose contracts their family members hold with government agencies. One amendment would shift the Public Integrity Unit, which investigates allegations against state officials, from the Travis County DA to the Attorney General’s office. That’s a change some Republicans have long sought and an idea recently boosted by Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg’s DWI arrest. (Some Republicans would rather have a Republican AG investigating state officials rather than a Democratic DA).

Ethics debates are always fascinating. We’ll see how far House members are willing to go in regulating themselves.

Weekend Headlines:

1. A budget deal was reached late on Friday afternoon. Negotiators from House and Senate agreed on a water infrastructure fund of $2 billion, $3.4 billion to public education, and agreed to have public schools contribute $530 million toward Texas’ Teacher Retirement System, the Observer‘s Beth Cortez-Neavel reports. 

2. Speaking of ethics, the Tribune’s Jay Root examines the conflicts of interest that emerge when lawmakers legislate on issues that effect their businesses. He centers the story on Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) who oversees bills dealing with HOAs and runs one of the country’s largest HOA-management companies.

3. The AP reports on major proposed changes to the Texas Water Development Board that would accompany the $2 billion in spending on water projects. The number of board members would be cut in half, and the current board and executive director would be replaced.

Line of the Day:

“I never make summer plans.” —Rep. Todd Hunter, on Thursday regarding House plans to reach a budget. Maybe now he can rent that condo in Maui.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. Senate Joint Resolution 1 is on the floor today. It’s a spending vehicle authorizing funding for water projects, and would establish the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT).

2. A bill that would authorize certain educators to carry concealed handguns in schools is also on calendar. Senate Bill 17 has received plenty of praise from national gun groups.

3. We’re also keeping an eye on Senate Bill 791, which alters the kinds of low-level radioactive waste that Waste Control Specialists can accept at its West Texas dump. That bill, authored by Sen. Kel Seliger, is scheduled for debate on the House floor.