Saturday: Various Lege Doings
While the chubbing continues, let's catch up
By Lee Nichols,
3:43PM, Sat. May 23, 2009
This is an update on the current state of various bills, many of which are threatened by the chubbing of voter ID in the House. A lot of piggybacking is going on:
• Sen. Kirk Watson rescued his bill for a study of property tax “circuit breakers” last week. His actual bill got nowhere, but he attached it intact as an amendment to Rep. Eddie Rodriguez’s HB 3983, which tweaks Rodriguez’s 2007 East Austin homestead preservation zones law and passed the Senate Friday. The idea behind the circuit breakers is to give people breaks on their property taxes based on their income.
• Some key environmental bills are having mixed success as the Lege winds down. On May 18, Sen. Troy Fraser’s SB 546, which would force utilities to double their investments in energy efficiency programs, achieved final passage in the House. But the Horseshoe Bay Republican’s SB 545, which would promote solar energy, is in danger of dying in the House because Democrats are currently chubbing (delaying debate) in hopes of killing SB 362 – the voter ID bill authored by, ironically, Troy Fraser. (Surely if Fraser really cares about these green efforts, he could have foreseen that forcing voter ID through to the House was going to end like this.) The same goes for Sen. Kip Averitt’s SB 16, an omnibus clean air bill. “We’ll choke on our own incompetence,” Averitt told the press corps table.
• The chubbing also threatens Watson’s SB 2015, which would make substantial changes to Capital Metro’s board of directors and give the transit authority more leeway to extend rail operations without requiring an election (See “What’s Wrong With Cap Metro and What’s Right”, April 24).
• Speaking of Capital Metro, HB 1959, which deals with several agencies up for Sunset Review, will also require Cap Met to also be scrutinized by the Sunset Commission. However, unlike the state agencies receiving such review, Cap Metro will not be subject to abolition if Sunset finds it lacking.
• Thankfully, the chubbing might kill off SB 1164, which would allow concealed handgun permit holders to carry their weapons into buildings on university campuses. The “guns on campus” bill, by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio/Austin, quickly got through the House’s Public Safety committee but has yet to get placed on the House Calendar. Wentworth could try the strategy of some of the above bills – piggybacking onto other Senate bills that have yet to be sent to the House – but in order to that, the bill seeking a ride must in some way be legitimately germane to the bill to which it attaches. "I don't see anything coming through here that I can attach it to," Wentworth just told me on the Senate floor. "If you see anything, let me know."