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 versus 5 against.
In the end, the drama in the House resulted from a complete lack of drama. Lawmakers had been gearing up for its initial fight of the session over HB 10, a $4.8 billion supplemental appropriation that would, among other things, cover a looming Medicaid shortfall in the current budget cycle. As one lawmaker commented as he moved briskly down the aisle after the House had been called to order, “Is today the first day of real work?”
Speaker Joe Straus and other Republicans went after last week’s proposed interim legislative maps on Monday, blasting the panel of three federal judges for overreaching and subverting what the legislature (and therefore the citizens of Texas) wanted. As usual, Michael Li of the Texas Redistricting blog has all of the reactions gathered in one place.
In the most enticing—and far more suspenseful—“will he or won’t he” scenario since Rick Perry’s presidential plans, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has opened a small window of possibility for the state’s desire to restore its legislative (and, it’s also expected, Congressional) maps.
If you’ve ever felt like the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio has become a single metropolitan area, you’ve got an ally in Texas Railroad Commisioner and state senate candidate Elizabeth Ames Jones.
Betting on the come, in gambling terms, means: You don’t have what you need but you’re betting that you will have it when you need it.
Texas House District 40, which is anchored by the Rio Grande Valley town of Edinburg, encompasses one of the poorest areas in the state, with 42 percent of its residents living below the poverty line. The population is 94.9 percent Hispanic. More than half of its adults never graduated from high school. Not surprising to anyone who follows Texas politics, the district is also solidly blue. It has never elected a Republican when a Democrat was on the ballot, and 2010 was no different.
(Editor’s note: Every week, for the remainder of the legislative session, BurkaBlog will be publishing an original column by R.G. Ratcliffe, who was the state political reporter for the Houston Chronicle for twenty years. During those two decades, I’ve known R.G., who resigned from the Chronicle in February to work on a book, to be one of the most trusted voices in the Capitol press corps. I’m thrilled to have him posting here.
How else to describe the pace of House debate? I can’t recall another session when the default option was for both parties to chub every bill. The debate over the unemployment insurance bill was particularly dilatory. Why is this bill even being debated? Rick Perry has drawn his line in the dirt. He is not going to have an epiphany and take the UI money. Either the bill will die in some legislative limbo, or he will veto it.
The House budget debate had a lot in common with the Cold War. The two sides came to the battlefield fully armed, but they engaged in frequent diplomacy that avoided a nuclear conflagration. Jessica Farrar, for the Democratic caucus, and various Republicans, Phil King among them, held a summit on reproductive issues–strategies to prevent abortion, for the R’s, and family planning funds, for the D’s, both of which were under attack from the other side–and agreed to total disarmament.