Hot List: Day 94 of the Legislature


The Lead:

The rainy day fund was once untouchable. Two years ago, the Legislature cut $5.4 billion from public schools rather than tap the fund, even though, as many lawmakers pointed out, it was the rainiest of days.

But when the Senate Finance Committee meets this morning, Chair Tommy Williams will lay out a plan to spend $6 billion from the rainy day fund on water and transportation projects, reports the Associated Press. The plan calls for $2.5 billion on projects from the state water plan and $3.5 billion for road projects. The spending would account for about half the available money in the rainy day fund or as it’s technically called, Economic Stabilization Fund.

No one would argue that water and road projects aren’t key needs for the state. But some Democrats might wonder if Texas should really spend $3.5 billion on roads when the Senate version of the budget increases school funding by just $1.5 billion—restoring less than a third of what was cut in 2011.

Yesterday’s Headline:

1. There were several abortion debates yesterday, including a hearing on the controversial fetal pain bill. Rep. Jodie Laubenberg’s HB 2364 would ban most abortions after 20 weeks. The Observer‘s Beth Cortez-Neavel has the details.

2. In the same hearing, the House State Affairs Committee heard Rep. Sarah Davis’ (R-Houston) bill that would remove language linking breast cancer to abortion in mandated state materials given to abortion facilities, a “link” that is not only unfounded, but which recent scientific research has actually disproven, as the Observer‘s Emily Mathis reports.

3. The controversial SB 11 passed the Senate yesterday morning. Sen. Jane Nelson’s measure is the first of seven related to drug screening and testing of welfare applicants to be heard in either chamber. It was one of the more controversial bills this session, but the watered-down version passed the Senate unanimously.

4. Rep. Rene Oliveira’s (D-Brownsville) bill, which tackles pipeline companies’ eminent domain power, was discussed in the House Business and Industry Committee on Tuesday night.

Line of the Day:

“I’ve always thought the senate was the sensible chamber. This is a huge disappointment.” Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, told the Houston Chronicle of Nelson’s drug testing welfare applicants bill.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The Senate Finance Committee will debate tapping into the rainy day fund to pay for infrastructure projects.

2. The House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee will hear a bill with this caption: “Relating to peace officers commissioned by the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.” Apparently vets need protecting.