Patricia Kilday Hart

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Articles by Patricia Kilday Hart

Squeezing a balloon

Mar 2, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

A giant billboard on MLK Blvd in Austin on the periphery of the University of Texas campus essentially offers students a job:  "Want to teach?  When can you start?"  Apparently the organization paying for the message hasn't heard about the drama unfolding a few blocks away at the State Capitol, where school superintendents have been warning that state budget cuts could force tens of thousands of teacher layoffs. Wednesday, bleary-eyed Senate budget writers got another dose of bad news: the cuts they are considering to education could force the Teacher Retirement System's healthcare plan, TRS-Care, into insolvency by the second year of the next biennium. With higher than average layoffs expected, TRS is expecting "a huge hit on the retiree health care fund," said TRS executive director Ronnie Jung. If state funding cuts force schools to trim payroll by 5 percent (a conservative figure), TRS will have to absorb health care costs now paid by school districts for at least 10,000 additional retirees. (Jung says he wouldn't be surprised if the real figure is 15,000 or 20,000.) And the introduced version of SB 1 funds only a half a percent state contribution to TRS-care, down from one percent.

Other Than Mexicans

Feb 21, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw testified before Senate Finance today, sharing his concern that crime in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio is very much connected to Mexican drug cartels, operating though the potent prison gangs Texas Syndicate and Texas Mafia. For most, that’s not particularly “new” news.

TMA opposes sonogram bill?

Feb 17, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Wendy Davis just read a letter from the Texas Medical Association opposing the sonogram bill as a violation of the patient-doctor relationship. Dan Patrick is claiming there is no patient- doctor relationship, based on the testimony of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee profiled by Texas Monthly.

Dewhurst’s Secret Budget Plan

Feb 16, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Today, House Appropriation’s overflow room was overflowing.  Concerned citizens were lining up, some  in wheelchairs, to testify about the pain that the proposed budget cuts would inflict. In January, when Chairman Jim Pitts laid out his draconian budget proposal, he called it “a starting point.” But as the days wear…

Is Republican Tax Collector an Oxymoron?

Feb 14, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Over the weekend, Gov. Rick Perry  essentially threw fellow Republican Susan Combs under the bus when he second-guessed her decision to try to collect sales taxes from Amazon, which has a big distribution center in Irving. In case you missed the story, here’s one version: Perry disagrees with Combs’ decision…

Howard Wins!

Feb 11, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

This just in from Will Hartnett’s office: Representative Will Hartnett, Master of Discovery for the Election Contest for Texas House District 48 releases the following statement: “After a thorough review of the numerous challenged ballots, I have concluded that Donna Howard won the House District 48 election by 4 votes.

Senate Finance Divided by Two

Feb 10, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Senate Finance chairman Steve Ogden announced today he was dividing his committee in two — at least for half a day — to tackle the budget’s biggest challenges: public education and health and human services. The two subcommittees will meet in public, with agendas posted in advance. Sen. Jane Nelson…

It’s Complicated

Feb 10, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Gov. Rick Perry may talk about the Texas budget picture with an Aggie yell leader’s positive gusto (all smiles and rah-rah, though we’re down 28 in the fourth quarter), but his appointee to the top position at the Health and Human Services Commission did not dispel the discouraging tone of…

Back to the Future

Feb 8, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

One of the most startling passages in Gov. Rick Perry’s State of the State address was his promise that Texas college students will be able to attain a bachelor’s degree for only $10,000…books included!  Right on! thought this parent of a Texas college student. With today’s tuition rates of approximately…

False economies

Feb 4, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

The challenge for Steve Ogden, Jim Pitts and their lieutenants this session is to produce a budget with real, not imagined, fiscal responsibility. Given the anti-government-spending fervor in the political landscape, it will be very tempting to zero out touchy-feely-sounding things like community mental health services and go home and…

Howard-Neil contest update

Feb 3, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

The outcome of Special Master Will Hartnett’s mini-recount (of about 250 votes) in the House District 48 election contest favored Donna Howard: it proved the original recount correctly removed  four votes from her vote total.  Attorneys for Dan Neil hoped to cast doubt on the four votes to further whittle…

A recount of the recount

Feb 2, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Questions over four paper ballots in the Dan Neil-Donna Howard squeaker prompted Special Master Will Hartnett to order a recount of about 250 paper ballots in the West Austin state representative race. An official recount in December put Democratic incumbent Howard 12 votes up over Neil, but testimony in a…

Well-timed CASA day at the Capitol

Feb 1, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

As Senate Finance members came to terms Tuesday with how the budget shortfall would effect abused and neglected children, it was CASA Day at the state Capitol. Regular Capitol visitors understand that hundreds of special interest and non-profit groups hold what are essentially lobby days to tell the story of…

An appeal to Texas business

Feb 1, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Can it get any more depressing than hearing the word “triage”  applied to foster children?  That’s what the  Senate Finance Committee is hearing this morning about the effects of  impending budget cuts on children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse. Yes, the same class of children who,…

Sam Kinch succumbs to pancreatic cancer

Feb 1, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Last night, Texas lost one of the most provocative and thoughtful journalists ever to walk the halls of the state Capitol. Sam Kinch, a veteran of the Dallas Morning News and founder of Texas Weekly, died last night after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. I met Sam when I was…

Pray for an oil boom

Jan 31, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Mid-way through a day of bleak testimony in Senate finance about impending cuts in the $10 billion range to public education, Sen. Florence Shapiro lamented that “the stars” are completely un-aligned with regards to Texas schools: state general revenue has dropped, property tax values have dropped — and the number…

Tax exemption review possible

Jan 26, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Senate Finance chair Steve Ogden says that Senate leaders are considering naming a subcommittee of Finance to review tax exemptions. “In order to get to 21 votes, I’ve got to look at everything —  including cuts, using the Rainy Day Fund and finding non-tax revenue,” he said today. “”Before it’s…

A 23-month budget

Jan 25, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Sen. Steve Ogden has been candid that the budget bill he proposed is not attractive: he says there’s no way he could get 21 votes to pass it. But the reaction to the Senate proposed budget  filed this week has been met with a lot less anxiety than the House…

Office Pool….

Jan 25, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Yesterday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he had an office pool going over how long the public testimony on Voter ID would last. I’d like to propose another pool: How many times will Voter ID sponsor Troy Frasier decline to answer his colleague’s questions and refer them to “expert witnesses”…

Scheduling conflicts in the Senate

Jan 24, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

The Voter ID debate will not happen today because (pick your favorite explanation): someone forgot that the Senate had already planned an hour-long ceremony honoring wounded warriors, there is a Democratic fundraiser tonight, or one side or the other couldn’t get their witnesses lined up, what with the short notice…

A Speaker’s Race in the East Wing

Jan 21, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

On Dec. 28, 2000, the Texas Senate elected one of its own to take Rick Perry’s place as lieutenant governor and Bill Ratliff was sworn in immediately. The brief ceremony, I wrote in the Febuary, 2001 issue of Texas Monthly, was the culmination of: “two years of intense, behind-the-scenes wrangling…

Selling School Finance Cuts

Jan 20, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Speaking today with school finance experts, it’s clear that the proposed education budget cuts will wreak havoc on the current finance mechanism — but they also create a seemingly unsolvable political problem for those who hoped to pass a new school finance law. As Burka noted in his earlier post…

House budget shocks and awes

Jan 19, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

If the purpose of the House budget bill was Shock-and-Awe, it achieved maximum success: House Democrats wasted no time identifying the many, many Doomsday scenarios that would result if state programs are cut to fit available revenue. No room for grandma at the nursing home. No financial aid for worthy…

Getting Serious About Open Government

Jan 14, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Sen. Kirk Watson’s proposal to add transparency to the budget process by laying out the conference committee report for five days has gotten some traction. Lots of ideas are floating around about how to achieve the same result without adopting different deadlines from the House, for instance, laying out the…

More sunlight on budget?

Jan 12, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

The Senate postponed its rules debate until next week over two issues: setting a special order for Voter ID and Kirk Watson’s proposal to require a 5- day layout of the conference committee report on the budget. Apparently, the Senate sees the wisdom of actually knowing what is in the…

Day One: A Tale of Two Styles

Jan 11, 2011 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Today’s Senate session cast in stark relief two different leadership styles: those of Governor Rick Perry and of Senator Steve Ogden, who was elected Senate president pro tempore today. Perry expressed his belief that the Legislature could produce a balanced budget with no additional revenues, noting that the public had…

Day One: A Tale of Two Styles

Jan 11, 2010 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Today’s Senate session cast in stark relief two different leadership styles: that of Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Steve Ogden, who was elected Senate president pro tempore. Perry expressed his belief that the Legislature could produce a balanced budget with no additional revenues, noting that the public had spoken loudly…

Sine Die treachery

Jun 4, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Lost in all the controversy over the Senate’s decision to adjourn Sine Die was the death of Sen. Judith Zaffirini’s SB 42.  The bill addresses whether “proportionality” should be used in determining state contribution to community college retirement plans. It’s the sort of issue that makes your eyes glaze over,…

Equal time for Hegar

May 31, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Today, State Senator Glenn Hegar issued the following statement: “I am extremely proud of the work of the conference committee on HB 300—the Texas Department of Transportation Sunset legislation—and I am very disappointed by the unfair attacks made by Senator Carona against the committee, the process that we employed to seek a…

Hinojosa responds to Carona

May 31, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

 Sen. John Carona’s statement earlier today questioned an amendment to the TxDOT sunset bill advocated by Sen. Juan Hinojosa. Hinojosa has released to the Senate (and public) a letter in response to Carona. “My amendment to HB 300 contains the entirety of SB 1572, a bill I authored in response…

Carona explains filibuster intentions

May 31, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Here is the statement his office released today: Why I Will Filibuster the TxDOT Sunset Bill, by Senator John Carona There is an old Italian saying:  Dai nemici mi guardo io, dagli amici mi guardi Iddio. It means "I can protect myself from my enemies; may God protect me from my friends!" It's no secret by now that the conference committee report contents were not what I was led to believe, and that the report was signed and filed before I was ever shown the decisions. What we have is a deal negotiated in bad faith. I can handle the personal and professional insult involved; after all, there is another Italian saying: Quando finisce la partita, i pedoni, le torri, i cavalli, i vescovi, i due re e le due regine tutti vanno nello stesso scatolo. When the chess game is over, the pawns, rooks, knights, bishops, kings, and queens all go back into the same box. We will recover and work together again, and the Senate will survive. Unfortunately, the practical effects of HB 300 for Texas transportation are negative and still must be addressed. For example, in the absence of the Local Option Transportation Act, other provisions included in either the House or Senate bill but discarded by conferees such as Local Participation take on new importance and should have been adopted. Had I known LOTA would be stripped, I would have pressed that point.

Time now the enemy of CHIP

May 31, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

The legislation that would allow families to buy in to CHIP has been tucked into the conference committee report on HB 2080, which was filed last night at 11:56 p.m.  Since the report must lay out for 24 hours before it can be adopted, time could easily run out before…

Carona considering filibuster

May 30, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

State Sen. John Carona, still smarting from the death of his local-option gas tax plan, is considering a filibuster of the adoption of the Texas Department of Transportation sunset bill. The local option tax was stripped by a conference committee report that was not shown to Transportation Chair Carona or…

McLeroy nomination fails

May 28, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

As expected, Senate Democrats — with Eddie Lucio present, not voting — blocked the confirmation of Bryan dentist Don McLeroy as chair of the State Board of Education. At least, everyone seemed to expect it but Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who announced after the vote that McLeroy was confirmed, until…

Who’s killing CHIP?

May 26, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

The CHIP bill sponsored by Rep. Garnet Coleman and Sen. Kip Averitt does not have to fall victim to the genocidal slaughter occurring in the Texas House. There are lots of ways it could be revived, including, of course, a vote by two-thirds of the House to take it up…

Smokeless tobacco users to pick up tab for tax cut

May 25, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Interesting play in Senate Finance this morning: The committee approved Sen. Juan Hinojosa’s bill which changes the method of taxing smokeless tobacco to a weight-based system. The new method raises $105 million biennially, which will fund  a program paying off student loans for doctors who work in  under-served areas.  Next…

Follow the money

May 21, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

At today’s post-Senate session press avail, Sen. Steve Ogden says the final budget document approved by conferees shapes public policy in several big ways, including: 1. “A dramatic shift in policy in how we serve mentally retarded Texans” represented by a $500 million increase in total funds for community services…

Resurrection Day

May 20, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

I declared on a recent Friday podcast that Don McLeroy’s confirmation as chairman of the State Board of Education was officially dead this session, but this afternoon Senate Nominations sent the controversial Bryan dentist’s confirmation to the Senate floor for a vote. So, to quote Billy Crystal’s character in “The…

House prevails on stem cells

May 19, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Sen. Steve Ogden just announced that his rider banning use of state funds for embryonic stem cell research will not appear in the new state budget. “We really couldn’t come to a consensus” so the bill will be silent on the stem cell issue, Ogden announced in this morning’s conference…

Ogden passes stem cell study bill

May 14, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Sen. Steve Ogden won Senate passage of a bill requiring all state agencies to file a public report detailing any research involving human embryonic stem cell research. There was little debate, thanks to an amendment by Sen. Kirk Watson.  Watson, who is on record saying he favors a public database…

Patrick’s new approach

May 13, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Yesterday’s Senate debate on Sen. Jeff Wentworth’s driver’s ed bill highlighted one of the remarkable stories of the session: Dan Patrick’s transformation into a real player who is having an impact on legislation. Wentworth’s bill would have required 18 to 25-year-olds to take a driver’s ed course before obtaining a…