Naked City

Lege Notes

Before the roof fell in and the Dems headed for the Red River on Mother's Day, the House managed to mulch a few more trees on Saturday for major and minor legislation -- and killed a few bills as well. The big casualty was HB 2, the "Death Star" government reorganization bill authored by Rep. David Swinford, R-Dumas. The 400-page monster went down on a point of order raised by Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, and is one of the bills now in limbo if the Dems hold out until Friday morning.

What promised to be another marathon amendment session was truncated by Davis' maneuver, but not before Swinford was forced to drop a section that would have given a one-time $800 "bonus" to schoolteachers -- while simultaneously slashing school-district budgets across the state to pay for it. Swinford aimed to require districts to rebate to the state any "above-average" administrative expenditures (including things like counselors and transportation). The so-called "wealthy districts" already howling over "Robin Hood" recapture would be hit hardest by such an exchange, and Swinford quickly retreated when reps from both parties saw how much the plan would cost local districts ($10 million from Austin ISD, $3 million from Eanes ISD, etc.).

Also likely defunct are two "home-rule" bills which would cut districts loose from the accountability standards the state has worked so hard over the last decade to put in place.

The author of one of those bills, Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Richardson, did manage to slip through HB 1172 to return full textbook-review authority to the State Board of Education -- as amended by Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, to allow the SBOE to adopt "general textbook content standards." If that bill survives, look for more censorship circuses at SBOE textbook time. -- Michael King

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority appears to have avoided being stung by the Killer D's -- HB 3588, the massive omnibus transportation bill by state Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, was adopted by the House last Friday (after being amended nearly 60 times) and sent off to the Senate. The bill cleans up the previous legal problems -- such as granting the RMA bonding authority and powers of eminent domain -- that had tied the Central Texas RMA's hands as it sought to build out U.S. 183-A through Cedar Park and other long-proposed turnpike projects. But oh, it does so much more, including officially enabling Gov. Rick Perry's Trans Texas Corridor über-highway project and giving the state the legal authority to build rail lines. The bill also redirects certain traffic fines and fees into the Texas Mobility Fund, created two years ago to allow the state (for the first time) to borrow money to build roads. Some of the new TMF revenues would come from massive new fines charged to repeat DWI and traffic offenders -- half of that money would also go to fund the state's rickety trauma-care network. This latter provision spawned numerous failed amendment attempts by soon-to-be Killer D's, who wanted more money to go to health care and less to concrete. -- M.C.M.

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