Sachse Bond Leaderboard

Agreement on state budget evades House, Senate

by | May 21, 2015 | Opinion

By Ed Sterling

June 1 is the last day of the 84th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature. From now until then is all the time that remains for the House and Senate to decide if they’re going to agree on a 2016-2017 state budget.

Both chambers could be ordered to meet around the clock until an agreed-upon budget is passed, if House Speaker Joe Straus and/or Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick deem it necessary or worthwhile. Any proposed agreement would originate in a House Bill 1 conference committee composed of five House members and five Senate members. House members are: Appropriations Committee Chair John Otto, R-Dayton and Vice Chair Sylvester Turner, D-Houston; Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin; Sarah Davis, R-Houston; and Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock. Senate members are: Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound; Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Joan Huffman, R-Houston; and Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham.

As reported repeatedly since March, the main obstacle toward agreement on a budget is the two bodies’ disagreement over how to cut state taxes. The Senate voted to cut ad valorem taxes while the House voted to cut the state sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5.95 percent. Both bodies want to cut the business franchise tax, which would please Gov. Greg Abbott, who made that task one several stated priorities for the Legislature to accomplish.

If the Legislature is unable to adopt budget in the regular session, the governor may call a special session.

Governor signs 29 bills

Even though the Legislature has not achieved its required, primary task — final passage of a state budget — one House bill and 28 Senate bills, as of May 15, had managed to survive the bicameral squeeze chute and earn the governor’s signature.

That lone House bill was HB 181 by primary author Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, and joint author Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth.  The bill, which took effect May 13, intends to reduce printing costs and the cost of correcting errors on individualized high school diplomas.

Here are three of this session’s 28 successful Senate bills, beginning with SB 125 by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and sponsored in the House by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston. The legislation, effective Sept. 1, amends the Family Code to require the Department of Family and Protective Services to conduct a developmentally appropriate assessment 45 days after a child enters conservatorship. The assessment must include a screening for trauma and interviews with individuals who have knowledge of the child’s needs.

SB 293 by Senate Finance Chair Nelson and sponsored in the House by Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs. The legislation, which took effect April 8, amends state statutes to expand the definition of “site selection organization” for purposes of selecting a site in Texas for certain events that are eligible to receive funding from the major events trust fund, to include ESPN or an affiliate, NASCAR and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

SB 835 by Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, addresses those who make fraudulent claims of military service. The legislation, effective Sept. 1, amends the Penal Code to increase the penalty for the offense of fraudulent or fictitious military record from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class B misdemeanor. A Class B misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of not more than $2,000, confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both.

School finance bill fizzles

Bill movement deadlines hit the Legislature last week. For example, during House floor debates on May 14, House Education Committee Chair Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, pulled down his school finance reform bill when it became clear that opposition to it would drag on long enough to prevent consideration of a mountain of other bills.

“Like many of you — I have other bills on this calendar — bills that are important. We could kill all day with this bill, easily,” Aycock said.

In its 24 pages, HB 1759 addresses a range of issues, with language amending laws governing equalization of wealth level of school districts, taxation and funding formulas, transportation allotments, academic acceptability standards and consequences, and more.

Deciding such high stakes issues defaults to the courts when the Legislature does not act on them. A case brought by some 600 Texas school districts alleging unfairness in the state’s law funding public education was decided in the school districts’ favor by a Travis County state district court last August. The State of Texas appealed the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court. The case is pending.

0 Comments

Related News

We’re global now

We’re global now

No matter how hard we try, we real­ly can’t avoid one another. We live in a world where what takes place some­where else on the globe has a very good chance of affecting us, along with many others. The pandemic, of course, is a useful – if sobering – ex­ample. A virus...

read more
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

The latest report on child maltreatment fatali­ties and near fatalities, compiled by the Texas Depart­ment of Family and Protective Services, indicates 251 children in Texas died in fiscal year 2020 due to abuse and neglect. That figure includes 28 children who died...

read more
Legislators can help prevent trafficking

Legislators can help prevent trafficking

The COVID-19 pan­demic has produced too many tragedies to tally, but here is one that does not get talked about enough: It has worsened conditions that leave children and youth especially vulnerable to com­mercial sexual exploitation, a human trafficking crime. Human...

read more
Texans urged to roll up their sleeves

Texans urged to roll up their sleeves

Gov. Greg Abbott and other Texas leaders are rolling up their sleeves to get the COVID-19 vaccine and to encourage the public to follow suit. “I will never ask any Texan to do something that I’m not willing to do myself,” Abbott said before getting vaccinated at a...

read more
Texas veterans need our help, especially during COVID-19

Texas veterans need our help, especially during COVID-19

Texas has the second-highest population of veterans in the country––nearly 1.5 million––and many of these veterans are poor or homeless. While groups around the state are tirelessly working on veterans’ behalf, there is always more to be done to ensure their civil...

read more
Accusations rock Attorney General’s office

Accusations rock Attorney General’s office

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is battling back against seven top aides who accuse him of bribery and abuse of office. The aides delivered the accu­sations in a letter to the agency’s human resources director. The Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV obtained and...

read more
School year brings an Apple for students, too

School year brings an Apple for students, too

Students across Texas returned to campuses last week as schools and universities scrambled to put into place new lesson plans that best accommodate a pandemic. For many school districts, this meant greatly expanding the technological resources of their students to...

read more
Texas tries nation’s first virtual criminal trial

Texas tries nation’s first virtual criminal trial

A Texan’s speeding ticket put her in the legal history books last week. To combat the backlog in criminal cases created by the pandemic, a Travis County justice of the peace conducted the nation’s first virtual criminal trial. The case was livestreamed on YouTube, and...

read more