In the days before air conditioning, legislators worked to wrap up session before the heat of summer. With Austin temperatures at almost 100 degrees this week, I can appreciate their desire to get out of town. Despite the climate control currently in the Texas Capitol, things heated up as the Legislature seeks to pass bills and finish the special session.
Five things that happened this week at your Texas Capitol are:
1) Governor Perry announced vetoes
Last Friday, Gov. Rick Perry announced his vetoes of bills from the 83rd Legislative Session. He rejected 26 bills. While the Legislature may in theory override a veto with a two-thirds vote, that vote is impossible if the Legislature is not in session. Because almost all legislation is finally passed in the last days of session, there are very few bills the Legislature could revive should the governor veto it. This makes the governor's veto a very powerful tool because it can completely shut down legislation despite its passage by the Legislature.
2) Senate passed transportation funding bill
Last week I shared with you that SJR 2, a transportation funding bill which I authored, had been heard in the Senate Finance Committee. I am very pleased to report that it was voted unanimously out of committee and late on Tuesday night was voted unanimously out of the Senate. It is now expected to be heard in the House in the next few days.
This resolution would ask voters to approve using part of the oil and gas severance tax for the state's highway fund. Because it's a constitutional amendment to be approved by voters, it must pass each chamber with a two-thirds majority. If successful, you will see it on the ballot this November.
3) School finance trial to be reopened in January
In February, state district court Judge John Dietz issued an oral ruling in which he found the school finance system unconstitutional, both because of inadequate school funding and because of the way the state distributes money to districts.
This week the judge announced there would be a new trial beginning in January to hear additional testimony in light of the significant education legislation passed this session. The legislature was actually able to restore $3.4 billion of education spending that was cut last session, as well as pass HB 5 to drastically reduce standardized testing. Both measures have now been signed by the governor.
The new trial is expected to last around six weeks and will greatly affect the way schools all over the State of Texas are funded. This is of special interest to Senate District 3 in which the majority of school districts are funded at below the state average.