This Week in Texas: Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Posted June 29, 2011 in The Mignon Memo

The First Called Special Session of the 82nd Legislature concluded today after a somewhat dramatic turn of events on Tuesday. The House and the Senate had each passed several items on the Governor’s list of items to be addressed, including Senate Bill 2 (supplemental appropriations); House Bill 3 (windstorm insurance reform); Senate Bill 4 (Congressional redistricting); Senate Bill 6 (public school instructional materials); Senate Bill 7 (healthcare savings measures) and Senate Bill 8 (flexibility for school district trustees). Legislation on sanctuary cities was not finally passed so it will not become law. The Senate passed Senate Bill 1 (state fiscal matters) and adjourned late Tuesday afternoon. The House, unhappy with the Senate for leaving them with little choice regarding legislation to address the intrusive touching of airline passengers and with concerns regarding certain provisions of the fiscal matters bill, initially voted Senate Bill 1 down. Senate Bill 1 was a must pass bill for this special session since it provides a total of $7.2 billion in either budget savings or new money and is needed to pay for the reduced level of appropriations for public schools. After a short break, the House returned Tuesday evening and reconsidered their vote, this time passing Senate Bill 1 by a slim margin.

The House reconvened this morning and passed House Bill 79 (fiscal matters related to the judiciary). There was an attempt to pass Senate Bill 29 (relating to the intrusive touching of persons seeking access to public buildings and transportation) which had previously been approved by the Senate. However, the vote came up short so it did not pass. Despite his disappointment in the Legislature’s failure to pass legislation to address sanctuary cities, there is no indication at this point that Governor Perry will call another special session this summer.

Rep. Fred Brown (R-Bryan) announced that he will submit his resignation from his House seat tomorrow after the conclusion of session. Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) has previously announced his intent to run for the Texas Railroad Commission during the next election cycle. There may be more retirements as the summer progresses.

Former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams announced that he will be a candidate for the newly drawn 33rd Congressional district centered in Arlington. He joins former Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams in this race as both have abandoned their plans to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. The departure of Roger Williams and Michael Williams leaves Republican contenders Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, and former Solicitor General Ted Cruz still in the race. In addition, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has indicated he could enter the race.

Senate Democrats elected new leadership prior to the end of the special session. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) stepped down as Chair of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus today and was replaced by Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin).