This week began with the biennial revenue estimate. According to Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, Texas will collect $77.3 billion in general revenue during the next two-year budget cycle. The comptroller estimated the Rainy Day Fund will have $9.4 billion in it at the end of the 2012-2013 biennium and that the size of the current deficit is $4.3 billion. This leaves lawmakers with a net of $72.2 billion to spend. This official announcement of the biennial revenue estimate kicks off the budget negotiations for the upcoming legislative session.
The 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature is underway. After a favorable Republican Caucus vote on Monday, Speaker Joe Straus was reelected on Tuesday by a vote of 132 to 15 with one member absent and two present not voting. Over in the Texas Senate, Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) was elected President Pro Tempore, a largely ceremonial position.
In his remarks to the Texas House and Senate on opening day, Governor Rick Perry designated two emergency issues for legislators to take up immediately: eminent domain and the abolishment of sanctuary cities. The term sanctuary city is used to refer to areas where local law enforcement authorities are generally not allowed to inquire about a person’s immigration status.
Speaker Joe Straus has appointed a Select Committee on Election Contests to hear the election contest involving Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) and Republican Dan Neil. Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) will chair the committees and members include Representatives Craig Eiland (D-Galveston); Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton); Helen Giddings (D-Dallas); Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City); Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham); Tyron Lewis (R-Odessa); Jerry Madden (R-Plano) and Wayne Smith (R-Baytown).
At this point, a little over 900 bills and joint resolutions (constitutional amendments) have been filed. Members have until March 11th to raise that total. During the last session in 2009, over 7400 bills and resolutions were filed. If you are interested in statistics from past sessions, follow this link to the Texas Legislative Reference Library: http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/sessions/billStatistics.cfm