This Week in Texas: January 27, 2011

Posted January 27, 2011 in The Mignon Memo

The Senate has issued its own “base-line budget” as a starting point for budget negotiations. The two-year, $158.7 billion budget would cut current spending of state and federal funds by $28.8 billion, or more than 15 percent. Like the House version, the Senate’s draft budget assumes no new taxes and does not tap the “Rainy Day” fund. In its initial budget for 2012-13, the Senate estimated that Texas would receive $1 billion more in federal Medicaid funds than the House does. The Senate draft would also put more money into public education than the House but still falls $9.3 billion short of current school funding formulas that pay for items.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst names the members of the Senate Finance Committee Monday. The committee will remain mostly the same with Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) serving as Chair and Sen. Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen) serving as Vice-Chair. Other members include: Sens. Bob Deuell (R-Greenville), Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock), Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler), Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville), Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), Dan Patrick (R-Houston), Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), Florence Shapiro (R-Plano), Royce West (D-Dallas), John Whitmire (D-Houston), Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), and Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo). They will get to work next week.

The Senate has passed the first piece of legislation for the 82nd Session. Senate Bill 14, the “Voter ID bill” would require most residents to present photo identification before being allowed to vote. The bill now moves to the House.

The House adopted rules for the current session. The most significant change dealt with the procedures for handling routine and non controversial bills on the so-called “local and consent calendar.” Bills on a local and consent calendar that aren’t heard on one day will spill over to the next local and consent calendar while the House moves to the next regular calendar, or agenda. This change will prevent a repeat of last session when House Democrats used the local and consent calendar to stall debate on Voter ID legislation.

Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones announced that she will join the race for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Jones joins a crowded Republican field that currently includes former Secretary of State Roger Williams, Railroad Commission Chairman Michael Williams, and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst is also a likely candidate. Congressman Ron Paul is also said to be considering the race.