All eyes were on the Senate today as they brought up House Bill 1, the appropriations bill for the 2012-2013 biennium. HB 1 was originally brought up Tuesday afternoon but Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) did not have the 21 voted needed to pull the bill up for debate. According to Senate rules, Wednesdays are days when the Senate’s calendar starts with House bills so there is no “blocker” in front of House Bill 1 so only 16 votes are needed to bring the bill up for debate. The Senate passed HB 1 on a party line vote of 19-12. The Senate approved an amendment, with the same vote count, that swaps out the $3 billion in rainy day fund money that had been part of the Senate version on HB 1. A final reading and vote is expected to come later today.
Last Friday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 1811 which makes an additional $4 billion in funds to be used for the 2012-13 budget. These funds come from a variety of accounting maneuvers such as pushing a $2 billion payment to school districts into the next budget and speeding up certain tax collections. The House is scheduled to debate its version of this fiscal matters bill this week.
Yesterday, the Senate engaged in some heated debate over who should run the Alamo, one of the state’s top tourist attractions. The nonprofit group The Daughters of the Republic of Texas has run the museum since 1905. Under Senate Bill 1841, an Alamo Preservation Advisory Board would be created to oversee the operation and preservation of the Alamo. The new advisory panel could include representatives from the Texas Historical Commission, the land office, the Bexar County Historical Commission, the City of San Antonio’s historical preservation office and the Daughters. The General Land Office would be given authority to negotiate a management agreement with the Daughters.
As a reminder that there is life outside the Texas Capitol, here is a sad report from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Texas wildfires last month resulted in at least $20.4 million in agricultural losses. Damage to the ranching industry represented the largest portion. Fires have destroyed fences and buildings, burned grazing pastures and killed more than 500 livestock according to the Service.