First off, there is much reason to be proud of our contingent of new ‘fire-breathers’ that Collin, Denton, and Tarrant counties sent down to Austin this term.
Again, attempts were made to change the ‘way things are’ in Austin with the Speaker and his Committee Chairs controlling and wheeling-dealing everything to their personal ends. When it was obvious the votes were not there to unseat the Speaker, the fight went to the actual house rules involved to see if things like having 76 so-signers on a bill could get it to automatically get a floor vote, bypassing committee ‘gatekeeping’ (and favor-buying). The test vote before this item was taken up garnered only 25 votes: disappointing, but still an improvement in the 15 ‘rebels’ we had last time. So the number of those that want change keeps growing.
Kudos for Reps. like Giovanni Capriglione for his transparency legislation to publicly declare when legislators might have personal financial conflicts of interest: he was initially ridiculed for the effort, but has since worked hard to garner support for the main aspects of it.
SPECIAL kudos to Rep. Ron Simmons, who has perfect attendance at the Appropriation committee meetings- as a SPECTATOR (he is NOT on the committee), serving as a taxpayer watchdog!
Also, kudos for Jeff Leach, for his co-sponsorship and work on campus carry legislation. The campus carry/open carry legislation got favorable committee assignment and hearing and SHOULD come out of committee soon.
Special CONDEMNATION goes to State Sen. Jane Nelson, who is working overtime with special hospital interests to force Texas to take the Medicaid expansion, which would stick us with MASSIVE new bills after 3 years. With so-called ‘Republicans’ like this, who needs Democrats?
Other bad news is that all state-level immigration legislation has- once again- been dumped into Rep. Byron Cook’s do-nothing State Affairs committee, where legislation is sent to die, apparently. That includes even something as simple of E-Verify for state contracts, which you’d think would be a slam dunk to assure state tax money is not spent hiring illegal labor. We will see if this committee does any better, but it is doubtful.
The state budget is in far better shape because of major improvements in oil and gas revenues. Some of the education ‘cuts’ (much of which was really non-continuance of programs funded by the temporary stimulus) have been restored. The MACRO-budget will balance, leaving much of the Rainy Day fund alone, although some of that ‘balance’ is due to accounting sleights of hand of applying surpluses of dedicated funds to cover shortages in things NOT in the dedicated fund’s sphere. A continuing trend that should stop.
The big fight will be on Medicaid expansion. Democrats, big hospitals, and a handful of moderate Republicans- including Joe Straus want it. The moderate Republicans say they only want it as a state block grant that they can control without DC strings, On the surface, Washington my agree to it, but it would only be for show- DC NEVER releases control., And large number of people added under the program would become the STATE’s financial headache 3 years from now. (BTW: a number of studies show that Medicaid medical outcomes are generally worse than even UNINSURED outcomes; the worst healthcare money can buy.)