Rick Perry’s designation of items for emergency action seems right on the mark. As most readers know, the Texas Constitution prohibits the Legislature from debating legislation in the first sixty days of a regular session, except for items that the governor identifies as emergency legislation. The emergency items are: * Supplemental appropriations to state agencies for hurricane recovery and response * Assistance to private and public entities to help with the recovery * Reform of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and the Catastrophe Reinvestment Fund * Improvement of state schools * Provide the Texas Department of Criminal Justice with screening and detection devices for cell phones If Perry was tempted to play Republican primary politics with his power to declare legislative emergencies, he managed to resist it. A couple of points for discussion: –The governor proposes providing assistance for private and public entities. Article 16, Section 6(a) of the constitution provides, “No appropriation for private use or individual purpose shall be made, unless authorized by the Constitution.” [second sentence omitted] So I would like to know, what private entities are going to get state dollars? –On reforming the Windstorm insurance pool: The ’07 bill died in the Senate. It was a very onerous bill for the coast. It repealed a provision allowing insurance companies whose catastrophic loss exceeds $300 million to retain their insurance premium tax payments. It was loaded with assessments for coastal residents. And it required every windstorm insurance policy to carry a warning that policy holders who had paid their premiums in full might not collect the coverage they had purchased. The issue in windstorm insurance coverage is quite simple: How much of the burden should be borne by coastal property owners, and how much should be spread across the state? –The call for screening and detection devices for TDCJ is clearly a reaction to the discovery of the wholesale smuggling of cell phones and goodness knows what else at state correctional institutions. It seems to me that TDCJ has dropped the ball here, much as DPS did at the Governor’s Mansion fire. Did TDCJ not have screening equipment? Did the equipment not work? Is anybody trying to get to the bottom of this? Today marks the end of the third week of the session. Some folks believe (and I am one of them) that the House may not get committee assignments out until the end of next week (February 12 or so). It’s getting late.
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