Will Texas Do Better?
Lege preview, Part 2 – the wonders and the horrors
Next month, beginning Jan. 8, the 83rd legislative circus comes to our town. It's still early – the first couple of months are largely devoted to committee meetings and other backstage business – but this week and last, we've offered a glimpse of what might be coming, based largely on the early prefiled bills of various legislators. Longtime Lege observers have noted that this December, the prefiling seems a little slower than usual – whether that's due to so many freshman lawmakers or some larger cultural malaise, nobody's quite sure.
In any case, our reporters have reviewed several categories of major legislation – budget, health care, criminal justice, environment, labor, education, and so on – to highlight a few good and bad bills (we wish we could say there were more of the former) and to spot any early trends. As is customary, the big battles are likely to be fought over the budget, and even though this session's revenues are anticipated to be much better than the last, Gov. Rick Perry and the Republican leadership have already declared their determination to govern by austerity – and if possible, to lock that approach directly into the Texas Constitution – thereby making it much more difficult for future Legislatures (no matter what the economic and social conditions at the time) to act responsibly and flexibly in addressing the state's needs. We hope that obstinate shortsightedness fails at birth, but few political bets have been won by underestimating the ability of the Texas Legislature to act from its worst instincts and willfully neglect the state's future.
At any rate, here's a taste of what's coming and some of what we'll be covering, for better and worse, at the Capitol over the next several months. There's plenty more where these came from; you can set up your own monitoring station at Texas Legislature Online (www.capitol.state.tx.us). I have a bit more to say about the Texas legislative prospects in this week's "Point Austin: Tools for Lege Watching."