Wed April 1, 2015 8:44 am By Erica Grieder

At roughly six am this morning, after about 18 hours of debate on more than 300 amendments, the House voted on HB1, which the general appropriations bill for the 2016-17 biennium. Official passage, on third reading, will have to wait until this afternoon, but the preliminary vote makes a dispositive statement: 141 in favor. 5 against. 

That’s a degree of consensus normally reserved for whether Texas should remember the Alamo. It means the House budget won overwhelming support from Republicans, Democrats, and Tea Party alike. If we define “Tea Party” as the subset of Republicans who voted against Joe Straus for speaker at the beginning of the session, the budget passed with unanimous support among Republicans and Democrats, and with a huge majority in the Tea Party. Five of them—David Simpson, Matt Schaefer, Matt Rinaldi, Tony Tinderholt, and Molly White—voted against the budget. Fourteen of them voted for it, including Scott Turner, who ran as the conservative alternative to Straus.

R.G. and I will have more comments later in the day; I don’t know about him, but I’m ready to hit the hay. But in the meantime, the vote is the most important detail of the story. Prima facie, a 141-5 vote sends a message. And if after 18 hours of debate, a bill passes with the support of Jonathan Stickland and Celia Israel and everyone in between? The takeaway there, too, is pretty clear. And no, this isn’t an April Fools’ Day thing. Congratulations to John Otto, the Appropriations Committee, to Straus, and to the rest of the Texas House. 


Tue March 31, 2015 1:02 pm By R.G. Ratcliffe

Some of the oddest personality and political dynamics that have filled the Capitol’s melting pot in years are creating simmering frustrations and anxieties that started moving toward an angry boil as the House debated a $209.8 state budget proposal today.

Budget debates always are contentious because they involve bringing home the bacon, stealing someone else’s bacon or a flat-out refusal to slaughter the hog. Budget fights also are heated because the majority of the amendments – and there are more than 350 this year – have less to do with good governance than they do with creating record votes that the opposition can use in the next election.

This debate, however, also is setting the tone for a coming blow-up, not only in the House but also in the Senate, where a near meltdown was narrowly averted last week. There are three main factions this year: frustrated tea party Republicans, conservative Republicans and frustrated Democrats.

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Tue March 31, 2015 7:57 am By R.G. Ratcliffe

Evidence just keeps building that Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw is engaging in resume padding in hopes the Legislature will approve his request for 500 additional personnel to secure the Texas border with Mexico – well, that portion of the border in Hidalgo and Starr counties.

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Mon March 30, 2015 1:08 pm By R.G. Ratcliffe

With the House debate on the $209.8 billion state budget set to begin Tuesday, here are some essential documents to browse.

House Research Organization analysis

Legislative Budget Board Summary of Committee Substitute for House Bill 1

LBB Fiscal Size Up 2014-15

LBB Texas Fact Book 2014

Mon March 30, 2015 11:34 am By R.G. Ratcliffe

Dead Confederates roil the University of Texas. Confederate battle flags on state license plates argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. And, Great Ghost of John C. Calhoun, bills on nullification of federal laws are pending in the state Legislature. It’s hard to believe April 9 will mark the 150th Anniversary of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

Texas officially hung on until Major General Kirby Smith signed articles of surrender on June 2, 1865, in Galveston. But the spirit of that conflict lives on today in our politics and was evident on at least two fronts this past week.


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