The Lege looks at campus guns, the Rainy Day Fund, and the West explosion
Legislature Looks West
The House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety held the first official inquiry into the April 17 explosion and fire at a fertilizer plant in West. On May 1, the committee received testimony from multiple state agencies, including the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Division of Emergency Management. Gov. Rick Perry has already taken a publicity tour, arguing that Texas' pro-business (i.e. lax to nonexistent) regulatory system was not to blame for letting the West Fertilizer Co. stockpile 270 tons of combustible ammonium nitrate fertilizer.
Guns in Cars on Campus
Proponents of concealed firearms on public university grounds had a minor victory on April 30 as the Senate passed Senate Bill 1907, allowing students with concealed hand gun permits to leave weapons in their vehicles if parked in a campus parking lot. Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, said this was simply leveling the playing field: In 2011, he successfully authored SB 321, which prevented employers from barring employees from leaving guns in their vehicles at work. If lecturers could bring their guns to school, he argued, why not students? However, he had to promise Democrats that this would not be rewritten as a broader campus-carry measure later in the legislative process.
Water Plan Dries Up
House efforts to pull $2 billion out of the Rainy Day Fund dribbled to nothing this week as an unlikely coalition of Democrats and conservative Republicans sank House Bill 11 by Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland. Dems were furious that the GOP is refusing to use the multibillion dollar slush fund to restore the 2011 cuts to public schools, while the right is pushing for the money to come out of general revenue. Finally on Monday, April 29, Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, killed the bill on a procedural motion. However, the taps may still be opened. Ritter has pointed to HB 19, a bipartisan measure languishing in the House Appropriations Committee, as a potential vehicle to resurrect the plan, which currently proposes splitting $3.7 billion from the fund between water and transportation. Then there's Senate Joint Resolution 1 by Senate Finance Committee chair Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands – the upper chamber's plan to split $5.7 billion in fund money three ways: $2 billion for water, $2.9 billion for roads, and $800 million for schools. Speaker Joe Straus has already promised that a solution will be found. Moreover, since this cash has become one of Perry's passion projects, a special session is not out of the question.